Digital technologies have proliferated rapidly in the last couple of years, altering the relationships between a business and its customers. And while this opens up new opportunities, the almost constant demands of mobile, social and cloud computing can tax even the most productive IT departments.
It's all about ambidexterity. CIOs have to be facile enough to manage current operations, while keeping the strategic goals of the company in mind. They also need to interact with other areas of the company in order to fully appreciate where it is headed, and implement more strategic initiatives that will support the digital transformation of the business as it grows.
The Digital Transformation Challenge
Quite simply, digital transformation is how you will position your company to take full advantage of digital technology. What’s not so simple is developing the transformation strategy to get you there. Partly because many C-level execs don’t fully understand the commitment involved and partly because there is no end state for this type of transformation. It will always evolve which is both fantastic and challenging, especially if you’re also managing current operations.
Strategy is Critical
What needs to happen for any successful digital transformation is the development of a strategy that incorporates business goals, opportunities, industry trends and technology developments. In essence, the CIO must understand the business scope and be able to support both short-term needs and critical strategic initiatives.
It’s not about the Technology
This may sound like strange advice to share with IT professionals, but a digital transformation strategy isn’t about the technology. It’s about business needs. Technology and digital initiatives should function in support of what will help the business meet new challenges and proactively plan for the future.
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Create a Vision Statement
Planning and anticipating the integration of new technologies into a business can be exciting for everyone involved. Digital advancements are amazing, especially for those in IT who appreciate the art and science involved to bring about new ways of communicating. However, when developing a vision statement for a digital transformation plan, please refrain from introducing the technology just yet. You’re still at the point of envisioning the future of the business, not digital advances.
Defining the Customer Journey Map
How will prospects and customers engage more effectively with your business? What is the current customer journey map, and how will gaps be bridged? Everything you do—inside and outside your digital transformation strategy—has to be customer centric. How will you meet customers? Will you be everywhere they want you to be? Will you be able to communicate with them in the ways they prefer? What is their typical journey when engaging with your business? How can new digital tactics improve upon their experiences? Will a digital tool strengthen or weaken a customer relationship? Take all these questions into account when defining the customer engagement part of your transformation strategy.
Prioritizing Digital Initiatives
As the business objectives of the digital transformation strategy begin to gel, it will be easier for you to formulate some preliminary digital initiatives. You and your teams can start identifying key projects and the related technologies that will be necessary for short and long-term deliverables. When considering the possibilities, always keep in mind that you’ll be building out solutions that are designed to enhance the experience of the user, whether that’s customers, employees or other stakeholders. When evaluating a digital solution, always ask yourself whether it will advance the business objectives and how it will improve touchpoints in the digital experience.
Talent Retention and Acquisition
Once the visionary components of a digital transformation strategy are in place, it’s time to get down to some substantive issues, such as what type of skill sets and attributes will be required of IT employees moving forward. Who do you have on your team right now who will be able to advance the initiatives that support the digital transformation? Will new training be required? As with all other elements of a digital transformation strategy, think from a bird view, and as far out into the future as practically possible.
Technology Investment Scope
Obviously, technology is an ongoing investment in any organization today, as CIOs are faced with the challenge of maintaining the necessary operations. One of the challenges faced is transitioning C-level execs from a short-term technology investment mindset to one that incorporates future allocations as well. When investments can be tied back to business objectives, the case is stronger and most business heads will do the right thing for the future of the enterprise. They simply may need more guidance and advice to reach that place, so that important technology investments aren’t delayed.
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The idea of digital transformation and what it can mean for a business is very exciting, but it’s critical not to put the cart before the horse when it comes to execution. Always start with a solid definition of corporate objectives for the long-term and work a digital strategy in support of those. The results will be smart, actionable and healthy for the business today and tomorrow.
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