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Digital Transformation: a Strategy or just a Brand Plan Side-Kick?

You probably work for a company that’s undergoing some kind of Digital Transformation. You know the topic is important because you’ve heard it from your boss, your boss’ boss, and all the way up to the top management – everyone’s talking about it.

But, hey! You know the topic is important, but… is this a priority for your company as well? To get this answer, rather than asking your colleagues, you simply need to look at your company’s strategy.

Richard Rumelt, the author of the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, explains that “doing strategy is figuring out how to advance the organization’s interests.”

From this concise, yet all-encompassing statement, we find the basis to tell apart companies that take Digital Transformation as part of its strategy versus those who simply consider it a “nice to have” only.

The differentiator is: Yes, everyone’s talking about Digital Transformation! But… does your company prioritize finding how to make it happen?

Digital Transformation: A Fluid Definition

Salesforce defines Digital Transformation as “the process of using digital technologies to create new – or modify existing – business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”

While this definition sounds straightforward, it’s not quite as simple as that. The fact is, Digital Transformation isn’t always the same everywhere you go.

Even though virtually every company seems to be highly active in pursuing their digitalization goals – or at least their LinkedIn page says so – Digital Transformation actually means different things to different organizations. With distinctive depths and objectives towards ‘going digital’, Digital Transformation’s underlying meaning might fluctuate from (A) deploying technology to improve internal communication processes to (Z) deploying technology to serve a non-existing customer need by creating the market for it.

This is why the real definition rests within each organization, and it might even vary within its different levels and units. So once again, to understand whether Digital Transformation is a priority, look at at your company’s strategy – does it include the how to drive digital? Or is this agenda just a side-kick of the company’s brands’ goals? Moreover, assess whether the mindset promoted by the management teams actually aligns with it – or whether the buzz words are just there to embellish.

There’s More Than Just Optimizing Processes. It Means Business Transformation.

Company leaders who take Digital Transformation as a part of their strategy go beyond just optimizing business processes for the sake of achieving their brand goals. They’ll endeavor in one of the following:

Business Model Transformation, which involves transforming the fundamental building blocks of how a company delivers value to its customers. A few examples include Uber’s reshaping of the taxi industry and Netflix’s reinvention of video distribution. Pursuing a business model transformation allows companies to succeed right from its core of operations.

Business Domain Transformation, which looks at entering brand new spaces by blurring industry boundaries through new technologies. A great example of this is Amazon’s entering into a new market domain with Amazon Web Services (AWS) – now the biggest cloud computing service in the world; or the current not-anymore-silent competition driving pharmaceutical companies into the health-tech and med-tech fields. The front-runners of this race will be the ones who take brand-agnostic strategies and show agility in delivering value for patients, physicians, payors and insurers alike.

Without Agility, Digital Strategies Are Just Long Unproven Hypotheses

A strategy is a hypothesis. A strategy is also a learning process. And the best way to continuously learn and kick false hypotheses out of the picture is by working agile.

Agile organizations choose dynamic strategies. In driving digital, they take Digital Transformation through agile experimentation. This means they trust the process. They are willing to fail. They are ready to respond to change. And above all, they always keep their customers at the forefront of their strategic development and not just as advisors for the planning. Agile Strategists involve core stakeholders as an integral part of the whole process – including them in every iteration towards continuous optimization.

Contrary to traditional ‘waterfall’ methods where you strategize with a big plan at the start and execute the plan in a linear fashion hoping there won’t be any changes to it, using agile in strategizing will allow you to create value right from the start. Why dedicate so much effort to a hypothesis that might be proven wrong at the very end… if you can fail, learn and grow from the very start?

The Win comes when Everyone’s On Board

Finally, I have to say one thing: beyond all the comments given above, the golden key to a successful digital transformation strategy is a transparent, harmonized and consistent communication of the strategy.

In the end, strategies will only go as far as the people executing it. The success will ultimately depend on getting your entire organization on board.

In a nutshell: The nirvana of Digital Transformation happens when you reinvent business value by strategizing agile, communicating constantly and getting your crew all aboard!


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