It’s easy to see why, in a competitive environment, it’s imperative all businesses implement digital-focused initiatives. John Chambers, Executive Chairman of Cisco Systems, sums it up nicely: “At least 40 percent of all businesses will die in the next 10 years…if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.”
However change doesn’t come easy – missteps on the digital transformation journey can be costly and damaging.
Here is a series of rules to follow to ensure digital transformation investment returns genuine value.
Rule #1: Change needs to come from the top down
Digital transformation will result in organisational change. As such, leadership from the top is essential, whether this starts at board level or is driven by the CEO. Being up front and open about the reasons for change will signal that this is an initiative that matters. Similarly, effective communication will drive and determine the outcomes.
It has to be positioned, and ‘pitched’ as something that is more than just an ICT project. Delegation to the right people to guide the transformation will eventually come, but not before the CEO has set the agenda and reasons for the undertaking.
The internal change management team should include respected individuals; a combination of executives with a strong understanding of the mechanics of the business as well as people who inspire and embody the key values of a digital culture: customer-centricity, a collaborative mind-set, and a tolerance for risk.
A project manager, ideally someone with experience in digital transformations, should lead the charge.
Rule # 2: Find the right partner
Finding the right agency to guide you on your digital transformation journey is crucial. Take a strategic approach to the selection process to find someone who can deliver real value.
The shotgun approach doesn’t work. Don’t email an RFP to 10 or 15 agencies then sit back and watch the responses roll in. It’s lazy and no way to find a long-term partner who will play a crucial role in your company’s future success.
Obtain agency recommendations from businesses you admire, do your own research and create a shortlist of three to five agencies with strong experience and credentials.
Before preparing any project specific information, meet with these agencies face-to-face. Take time to get to know them, their people and their previous work. Narrow the list down to the two or three agencies which inspire the most confidence.
Only now prepare an RFP to send to them. Highlight current environment and the business objectives. Provide a budget. Provide access to answer any questions, give the agencies adequate time (two to three weeks) to prepare a strong response and have these presented in person. Make sure context is given as to the thinking behind the RFP.
This process will put you in a position to find the best agency partner for your particular needs, budget and objectives.
Rule # 3: Put your partner in a position to be successful
Once you find the right partner, put them in a position to be successful.
The sad truth is that not all clients are created equal. There is an enormous difference between the quality of work achievable for a good client versus a bad client. Be a good client and see a much better return on investment (and have more fun along the way).
With an agency engaged, put your trust in them. They are hired them for a reason, so give them the freedom to guide your business from a digital perspective. Interrogate their thinking and encourage them to interrogate yours. Challenge them to do better and allow them to challenge you too. Leverage their strengths but understand that you bring strengths to the table too. Work with them in an honest and collaborative partnership. Creative tension is healthy and drives good work, so don’t be afraid to say ‘no’, but look to trust their judgement and try to find reasons to say yes. It’s the easiest thing in the world to pick apart creative ideas; it’s much harder and braver to give them your backing.
Most importantly, give your agency the benefit of a tight brief. Clearly communicate your objectives and set the parameters for the engagement early on. If you enjoy working with your agency, they’ll enjoy working with you.
Rule # 4: It’s never finished
The term ‘digital transformation’ is probably a little misleading. It suggests that you start as one thing, go through a process, and finish as something else. That’s the crux of transformation. The problem with digital transformation is that you don’t end in your newly transformed place – you just skip off that stepping stone to the next one, and then the next, and then the next after that.
Digital technology doesn’t and won’t ever stand still. Change is the only constant, and so digital transformation is really the new norm. It’s an always-on process of evolution, keeping your eye on the current and future technological landscape and endlessly making decisions about the most important priorities for your business.
That can be difficult to accept – after all we’re all innately attracted to the concept of stability and familiarity. Creating a culture that not only accepts, but actively pursues change, can reap huge benefits and should be seen as a mandatory for any business that wants to thrive in a digitally-powered future.
Rule # 5: Don’t forget the customer
As digital disrupts every facet of the business landscape, it’s easy to be distracted by shiny new things and fall into the trap of thinking that it’s the technology that matters. But it’s important to remember that technology is not the end goal, it’s the means to your unchanging end goal. That is to attract more than your fair share of customers.
It’s crucial that your customer remains the single-minded focus of your efforts. This means taking a user-centric approach to the way you build digital platforms, services and products.
Every digital innovation should be underpinned by an understanding of what problems you’re’re looking to solve and for whom. That understanding can only be generated by spending time with your customers, observing how they live their lives, exploring the value that you can deliver and then validating your hypotheses in collaboration with them.
We recommend including your customers in your creative and strategic decision-making to keep their voice at the table throughout your transformation journey.
Mark Hurley has 15 years’ experience in the creative and technology sectors as a founder, director, investor and enthusiast. An Entrepreneur of the Year finalist for 2017, Hurley has made the Deloitte Fast 50 2015, Deloitte Fast 500 Technology 2015 and Deloitte Fast 500 Technology 2016 lists. He is the founder and CEO of Little Giant, a creative and innovation agency.