Decades ago, businesses that were willing to entertain themselves with novel digital capabilities often managed to build an edge over other businesses. By embracing new and relevant technologies – it meant that their processes became more cost effective and user friendly than their competitors’. But the diffusion of technologies and the diffusion of applications was incremental. Markets took exponentially longer time to adjust since non digitised companies – that had not adopted the same technologies – took years to observe that they were actually falling behind.
Digital transformation was a long and costly process that often took years to achieve due to the high technical and operational difficulties involved. Moreover, it was psychologically repelled by employees who were often feeling threatened by it. Today, the opportunity and capability for change can be made in a matter of months. Also, many aspects of business are changing along with consumers’ behaviour. The pandemic has pushed forward digital transformation to a new level and smart leaders across all industries have realised that they cannot afford to be left behind.
The whole world is now swiftly moving into a novel technological era that capitalises on efficiency and a new digital nomad working ethos. Digital transformation effectively means incorporating digital technology into all possible processes. Complex processes that used to take hours can now be automated and made possible in minutes. This fundamentally changes how a business is operated and how value is created. It is now a matter of existential capability to embrace digital transformation or be left to gradually die out of irrelevance. Consequently, we need to define what Digital Transformation is and how companies can purposefully progress to accomplish:
- Redundancy: The pandemic taught us that operations can be disrupted at any time. Lockdowns for example can force an immediate shutdown of work spaces so there must be a virtual system in place to effortlessly carry on operations.
- Efficiency: Mundane and time consuming manual processes are not cost or quality effective. Digitized processes reduce operational and quality risks and increase efficiency and scalability.
- Value Added: An accelerated digitalised system can help increase productivity, save costs and inspire higher value added. When operations become more efficient, personnel has more time to better serve clients by increasing the quality of communication and service.
- Sustainability: Europe is setting a net zero by 2050 and Digitalization plays a key role in this process. Research confirms that deploying digital technologies in hard-to-abate sectors could reduce emissions by as much as 20% by 2050.
- Adaptability: For growth, fluid mind-sets and flexible operational structures are more able to adapt or capitalise on new opportunities. Challenging the canons embedded in a business process can be critical to its performance horizon and capabilities.
Of course, change is always difficult and factors such as finding the right technology, adjusting company culture or slow feedback can hinder the transformation process. An effective way to march through these challenges is to maintain an open mind set, communicate the goal effectively, identify the right partners, protect talent and map milestones. The ultimate motive as to why digital transformation must be embraced is that a company must be able to adapt to changes, or struggle with being irrelevant while competitors carve away its market share. Organisations must learn to challenge themselves, experiment and adapt to relevant technologies or else risk dying out.