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Improving the Odds of a Successful Digital Transformation

Digital transformation

Frequent communication with stakeholders can help energize the organization.

March 24, 2021 - It probably goes without saying that this past year has forced a lot of firms to speed up their embrace of all things digital. At the same time, many businesses struggle to succeed when attempting a digital transformation.

A 2018 study done by the consulting firm McKinsey found that fewer than 30 percent achieve their goals this area. According to McKinsey, only 16 percent of respondents said their organizations’ digital transformations successfully improved performance and equipped them to sustain changes in the long term.

What can be done to improve the odds? Here are a few ideas based on our own observations in this area:

Engage company leaders to support the transformation

It probably goes without saying but gaining support from the leadership of your firm is paramount. The leadership will (hopefully) provide resources in the form of money and personnel. They can also make sure that the digital transformation fits within the firm’s overall growth strategy.

One helpful way to get leaders on board: provide return on investment figures. Even those who are most removed from the digital transformation project will be interested to know what the firm will receive in exchange for the investment and effort.

Review your employee competencies

Do you have the right staff members in place to tackle a digital transformation? Here’s one way to find out: build a digital transformation skills matrix. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal last year, chief information officers can see if they have the right mix of skills on staff by plotting technical capacities on an X-axis and then cultural capacity along the Y-axis and plotting members of the staff on the graph. The piece defined ‘cultural capacity’ as an employee’s ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative.

Those employees who fall in the upper right quadrant (strong cultural and technical skills) are the most valuable. Those with more cultural capacity should be used in customer-facing or project management roles while those with more technical prowess should be building new technology platforms and reviewing requirements. Those in the lower left quadrant may not be valuable enough to keep on staff, the article noted.

With the matrix in place, you can review the staff’s competencies to see what important skills might be missing while thinking about where to assign your existing staff when the digital transformation begins.

Tackle privacy and security concerns up front

A 2018 Dell Technologies report listed privacy and security concerns as the largest barrier to implementing a digital transformation. Therefore, it makes sense to address those concerns on the front-end rather than waiting until things have moved further along and decisions are made that may have a detrimental effect on privacy or security.

Be sure to ask vendors about data privacy as well as their approach to cyber security. It may also help to create a document outlining your firm’s vision for how privacy and security will be handled and what will happen if, for instance, there is a breach of your network by a malicious actor.

Upgrade your employees day-to-day tools

The 2018 study from McKinsey noted the strong correlation between upgrading a firm’s day-to-day tools and successful digital transformations.

The first type of upgrade typically involves exposing more data to the staff so that they can measure their efforts. A second type of upgrade came in the form of providing self service tools to employees, partners or both to use for improving processes. Lastly, these firms’ operations personnel revamped standard operating procedures to include the use of digital tools in their day-to-day efforts.

Provide timely updates to the company

Frequent and timely updates to the entire company will help keep everyone engaged. As a bonus, it will apprise everyone of the progress being made on the firm’s digital transformation. Also, use the communications to set expectations for when parts of the digital transformation project will be completed.

With more tools and more data available, employees become excited about the potential growth made possible by the digital changes.

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