The Future of Digital Transformation: What Does it Look Like & How to Plan For It?

Digital transformation has been on the agenda of organizations for years and 2018-2020 is predicted to be a crucial time for leaders to plan for and implement it across industries.

Amongst senior executives, there’s widespread recognition that the role of digital technology is shifting - from driving marginal efficiency to being a catalyst of innovation and disruption. This means that in the coming years, a number of decisions must be made to avoid or risk falling prey to competitors and disruptors.

When it comes to a timeframe, 85% of key decision makers feel they have only 2 years to get to grips with digital transformation. So, while the past few years have seen some movement in digital transformation, there’s now an urgency, and considering that 59% of business leaders worry that it’s already too late for them to adapt, time is of the essence.

So, what does the future hold for digital transformation and what do leaders need to take into consideration in order to plan for its development and implementation?

It’s not just about technology

It’s not just about technology

According to Information Age, digital transformation will dominate business strategy in 2018, and CEOs will look to their CIOs to act as strategic partners in to guide them through a series of significant changes.

Tech spending is on the rise exceeding (for the first time ever) - $3 trillion globally, and $1.5 trillion in the US. Emerging technologies are starting to yield real value and in order to get the most out of them, organizations need to ensure they a range of elements in place.

In an age dominated by the consumer, implementing technology that can track, measure and respond to key shifts in consumer behavior could well make or break a business. Automation and AI are supplementing the workforce to provide greater levels of efficiency an insight and customer obsession is the foundation of organizational success in 2018. This shift enables the role of the CMO to take charge of growth or relinquish influence to another C-suite member, such as a chief growth officer.

"This brings it to the fore with boards, CEOs, and executive teams looking for technical and digital leadership. Leaders will put further distance between themselves and the laggards by leveraging new technologies and developing capabilities that enable them to predict customer needs and continuously stay ahead of changing customer desires." - Forrester

To succeed in 2018 and long into the future, it is critical that digital leaders prioritize optimizing their customers’ experience and enhance business outcomes across multiple channels, connecting crucial dots between people, information and systems.

However, while technology is central to the shift to digital, that's not all that's involved. Senior executives will need to nurture the right culture and mix of talent to transform into a functional digital business. In addition, building an executive structure that works for the organization is also essential.

1) Clarify who’s in charge

"Companies that get confused, that think their goal is revenue or stock price or something. You have to focus on the things that lead to those." - Tim Cooke, CEO of Apple

43% of organizations with a mature digital strategy see internal departments competing to own digital as the most significant barrier to digital transformation. If everyone understands their role, this confusion can be avoided. To ensure your digital transformation strategy is successful, sustainable and makes maximum impact, clarifying who is in charge of each process is essential.

Every business is slightly different regarding service, product, structure, model and culture, but when it comes to migrating to digital, appointing the right person, or people, for the job is critical. While many experts are saying the evolution of the CIO role in terms of both technology and service, will make the CDO role obsolete - this outlook is somewhat linear.

By taking a collaborative approach the CDO and CMO should work with the CIO to help accelerate the digital transformation process, using a collective mix data analytics, technological insights and innovative consumer marketing techniques to help the business thrive in the age of the customer.

Often, strong leadership involves collaboration, and as long as everyone is clear on their aims, goals and responsibilities from the start, your business will be able to digitally transform, seamlessly.

2) Address the digital skills shortage

Address the digital skills shortage

With consumer behavior in constant flux, it's vital organizations have the capabilities to predict patterns, spot trends and react to new situations. By 2019, to help make businesses smarter, savvier and more equipped to evolve with emerging trends and technology, 40% of all digital transformation initiatives – and 100% of all effective IoT efforts – will be supported by cognitive or AI capabilities.

The problem is acquiring the talent to use this cognitive technology to its full potential. According to a recent study, 65% of CIOs state that a skills shortage is holding them back with more than half feeling that developing or acquiring new skills is a priority. That said, to thrive in the modern business world and continue to connect with your customer base on a valuable, meaningful level, today’s business leaders must foster a culture of continuous learning.

By creating open forums in which team members can openly discuss the new technologies being leveraged by the business and how it affects their roles, as well as exchange skills, data and information, the organization can move forward as a cohesive unit. Also, by upskilling your staff with relevant digital courses and giving them the tools, time as well as resources to keep building upon their talents, you will ensure that digital transformation remains at the core of your business strategy.

There is a shortage of digital skills globally, but by taking the initiative to spot weaknesses within the organization, you will be able to close it, and put processes in place to ensure that with new trends come new learning programs.

3) Prepare for big changes

AI and IoT will continue to drive transformation

According to Forrester's 2018 predictions report, the evolution of digital and its impact on businesses the world over will be the core concern for companies looking to cement their place in the future.

Already huge disruptors, AI and ML technology will continue to be a colossal force in the business world, meaning that members of the C-suite must commit to new operating models that actually add value to the organization.

Predictions suggest that while blockchain will not disrupt any industry, those companies that understand its power and potential will continue to invest. What's more, tech leaders will begin to experiment with quantum computing, following in the footsteps of industry leaders like Microsoft, Google and IBM.

In addition, disruptive companies will morph their traditional business models into business platforms that can connect with customers directly or through intermediaries and partners. This shift in approach will see questions in the boardroom revolve around platform-based models, new partnership ecosystems, and innovative ways of organizing the business for success. 

By preparing for these changes, business leaders will be able to remain one step ahead of the consumer, retaining the capabilities to form long-lasting relationships that stand the test of time.

By 2020, 50% of the Global 2000 will see most of their business depend on their ability to create products, services, and experiences that are digitally-enhanced.

As a leader in the throes of digital transformation, it's essential that you remain transparent and open about every measure you're taking the enhance the future of the business. By granting access to a host of technologies and knowledge and showing others how it can support major business shifts, you stand an increased chance of success.

The time to strike is now. Acquire the knowledge you need on emerging digital technologies understand how your plan will affect the business as well as the end user, leverage data to your advantage, inspire others to move in the right direction, and you will avoid being left behind.

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