Digital Transformation

No one route to success: Mapping your digital transformation journey


“Begin with the end in mind” – this popular saying is also apt in the context of your digital transformation journey. However, your company’s future may seem amorphous given the rapid changes in the operating environment. For instance, inflation is being felt on a global scale as a result of post-pandemic pressures and the war in Ukraine. If your company is to be well equipped to face the challenges that the future holds, it needs to consider the business’s requirements and the juncture it presently occupies in terms of digital transformation.  Today, digital transformation has become synonymous with being far-sighted and future ready.

Gartner mentions that digital transformation could “refer to anything from IT modernization (for example, cloud computing), to digital optimization, to the invention of new digital business models”. This overarching definition is useful in understanding the diverse stages of the digital transformation journey. You could be merely automating your financial processes and still be on the road to digital transformation.

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, “digital transformation is better thought of as continual adaptation to a constantly changing environment.” This too is a useful way of looking at digital transformation – one that doesn’t point to a final destination but a journey that can be embarked on in a multiplicity of ways taking into consideration the external climate and the ever-changing requirements of your company.

Where’s your company headed?

Here are a few aspects that your company may need to consider when planning its digital transformation journey,

  • Customers, markets and products
  • Business strategy and objectives
  • Enterprise architecture and technology
  • Business processes and operations
  • People, ethos and culture
  • Data and security

Tracing your route

Today, Digitalization is used synonymously with eCommerce, but it is so much more than that. You could digitize your invoices by sending them electronically. Or digitalizing communications with a supplier by using a collaborative vendor platform.  Digital transformation is an overarching approach that covers multiple dimensions, challenging the broader business strategy to fully capitalize on digital advantage.

1. Fragmented digital solutions
This stage usually involves the adoption of basic tools and processes to optimize existing business processes and to improve efficiency. In this stage, most companies digitize manual processes, implement basic digital tools, and integrate digital systems into existing workflows.

If your company occupies this stage of digital transformation, it may have experimented and implemented the following,

  • Automated data entry and document processing.
  • Introduced online collaboration tools.
  • Developed basic digital skills and literacy among employees to enable them to work more effectively with digital tools and technology.

2. Integrated systems
You have gone through the process of digitizing certain aspects of your company and are now looking to have a system that ties the disparate threads together to ensure all departments are working cohesively and are communicating effectively.

Occupying this stage of digital transformation could mean,

  • Automating the entire value chain.
  • Implementing an ERP to ensure cohesion and avoid working in silos.
  • Ability to access data on a single platform.

3. Beyond digitization
This stage involves a deeper integration of digital technologies into your company’s strategy, culture, and operations. It also means that digital technologies are being utilized to create new business models, products, and services.

At this stage your company maybe experimenting with the following,

  • Implementing advanced analytics and data-driven decision making to optimize business processes and improve customer experience.
  • Building a culture of innovation and experimentation.
  • Developing partnerships and collaborations with tech startups and other organizations to leverage emerging technologies.
  • Creating new digital products that leverage emerging technologies.

Your digital transformation journey need not necessarily be fast-tracked – your company doesn’t need to implement the greatest number of digital solutions in a short time span. Moreover, the stages indicated above do not necessarily indicate how successful your company is. It simply could indicate your current position and point to a route that your company can take. For instance, if your company has a legacy system, it may need to gracefully go through the first stage and gradually work on putting in place the necessary resources while ensuring a culture of change is nurtured.

Who’s in the driving seat?

Getting  buy-in from the C-suite for digital transformation is crucial for the success of any organization’s efforts to evolve digitally.  C-suite executives set the tone and direction for an organization. If they are not fully on board with digital transformation, it can be difficult to create a sense of urgency and get the rest of the organization to embrace the changes.

Moreover, any stage of digital transformation requires significant investment in technology, processes, and people. Without buy-in from the C-suite, it can be challenging to secure the necessary funding to make these changes. Digital transformation also often requires a cultural shift within an organization. It is not just about adopting new technology, but also about changing the way people work and think. The agreement of the leadership team is essential to create a culture that is receptive to these changes.

The road ahead

Digital transformation is not a highway. Instead, your company may need to take many detours to ensure that it has chosen the best route for itself – one that takes into account the requirements of the company and that of the external environment. However, the journey towards digital transformation is necessary given the pace at which technology changes along with the needs of consumers.

So, take a few detours if you must, but trace your own route to digital transformation.