Digital transformation can be much more than just moving paperwork business process management paperwork to computer screens. So, there must be compelling reasons to change the way the world does business. Otherwise, it could easily just be an exercise in swapping deckchairs on the Titanic.

Promises of digital transformation can be massive. So, it should really be nothing like deckchair swapping. In fact, it’s a new phenomenon in its infancy and quickly evolving (AI and machine learning are just getting traction). Above all, it’s no longer just a ‘nice to have’. It’s a critical change for all business process operations in the world. In short, to ignore them is to condemn oneself to the dustbin of history.

More than a Buzzword

Digital transformation is young, but fast moving. But, whilst some have an idea of what it’s about, few implement it well. Furthermore, even fewer have any idea how far it will go. Importantly, many don’t realise that adoption is key to survival, and the opportunity to flourish.

The phrase Digital Transformation gets thrown around a lot. And, like confetti at a wedding, the claim gets applied to many things. However, like E = mc2, most know the phrase, but few understand the larger implications. For some, it’s lightweight applications like e-readers. But, for others, it promises giant leaps in business process operations, way beyond the present conditions.

Why Transform

Deep digital transformation can completely change an organisation. For example, the complete transformation of online mobile-based retail engagement in China. The Boston Consulting Group report this is anticipated to lead to 74% of total e-commerce sales were via mobile in China by 2020. In short, that’s a 68% growth since 2012. Ponder that.

As is often the case, the tools themselves are not on their own, transformative. It is the way we use them. However, at present most digital transformations fail to deliver, with Forbes putting the figure as high as a worrying 84%. The fact is, Digital Transformation is hard. However, the value in successful transformation is abundant. Clearly, the challenge lies in implementation.

Much is written about digital transformation. From good advice on why failures happen at i-Scoop and others, to great deployment strategies such as Altimeter, among many others. Importantly, the deep understanding of the challenges and methods to achieve already exist. For the sake of brevity, we bypass some of that often impenetrable (but valuable) detail in this article to just bullet point a few elements we found critical to transforming successfully.

The Age of Discovery

Many journeys come undone when launched just because of the promise of great things. However, before you begin the journey, you need to understand where you are going, and how to get there successfully. In short, do the research, discover what is possible. Create a roadmap and understand how you are going to get there. Lastly, identify obstacles and challenges along the way, and plan how to get around them. Good planning will ensure success and smooth the journey for your organisation.

Commitment Starts at the Top

Delivering real transformation requires commitment at all levels within the organisation. From the top through to the coalface of day to day operations. Importantly, it needs to be championed and supported from the top. It almost goes without saying, without that top-down commitment, in leadership, financing, and engagement, it risks failure. It can’t be half baked; else the whole may fail. Similarly, as a caterpillar that needs metamorphosis to become a beautiful butterfly, businesses need to fully transform to realise the value it can deliver.

Cultural Shock

All organisations that survive have a culture. Usually, the larger and older the organisation, the deeper the culture. For many, change is more challenging. Importantly, undertaking something like digital transformation, which done fully will touch the working lives of most in that organisation. To succeed, they need to bring its people on each step of that journey. Also, if the road to change is sensitive to staff impacts, and demonstrably shares the benefits of the change, the outcomes for all have a much higher chance of success. And critically, if you don’t bring your people along, you risk passive resistance to change, and that’s one of the hardest problems to address.

Do it Well

If you achieve that Midas zone of top-down commitment and your people are on-board and motivated, the implementation you undertake needs to be done very well. Otherwise, all will amount to nil. To succeed, you have to plan well through discovery, solution research, planning, build, strategic roll-outs, testing, and iteration. Large legacy systems can hold back your organisations Above all, a forward-thinking organisation will discover that the emerging tools of the future will not cost the earth, will not lock you into the technology of the time, and will continuously improve. In short, don’t let the limitations of the past become the trap of the future.

The New World

In conclusion, if you manage to successfully digital transform your organisation, you will be future proofed. Importantly, the very real benefits to your organisation will become be self-evident. Firstly, cost, efficiency, and productivity gains will be delivered. Secondly, there will also be immense benefits delivered at every level of the organisation. Staff will be utilising the new tools and methods to reduce the historical repetitive tasks. Likewise, smart systems will help reduce laborious mind-numbing repetitive tasks and free people up for meaningful, engaging work. At the same time, productivity and meaningful outcomes will be much easier to deliver. In conclusion, everybody wins, and the organisation will have a pathway to the future.