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Throughout the world, organizations are seeking ways to streamline their processes and improve customer experiences. One way that is presenting itself as the ultimate panacea to enhancing the customer journey is digital transformation.

Apparently, only a small number of companies have truly made the shift to become digitally driven, with the majority of those who claim to be embracing a digital mindset still having so much analogue going on.

Oftent, these are companies using a handful of digital technologies to touch up a few of their processes. They’ll often have a CRM system, ERP, and probably some other individual system in place, and claim to be digital. They’re not!

Digital transformation is not simply about integrating digital technology into the various areas of your business. It’s also about overhauling the organization’s culture, entirely changing the way teams collaborate throughout the organization.

You could have all the individual digital technologies in place, but when your company still subscribes to the traditional top-down hierarchical structures, you just can’t fully deliver value to your customers. And as such, employee engagement, internal operations and ultimately; customer experience, are likely to remain unchanged.

If you’re one of these organizations implementing some aspects of tech in your business and considering yourself digitally transformed, the fact is that you have your feet in both camps; analogue and digital, where you cannot reap the full benefit of digital transformation.

Away from the disjointed transformation mindset

The general method for dealing with disruption in the recent past involved developing pockets of innovation inside a company. The problem with this approach comes when you now want to pull that innovative thinking into the wider organization from within the so-called test beds where they have been developed.

So, companies are now shifting away from that kind of mindset in favor of a more holistic approach. The latter involves considering the impact that every change is going to have on the entire organization, and not just specific functions or departments.

The reason behind this approach is to attain a digital transformation that is embedded in the very culture of the organization; is aligned with the organization’s purpose, and embraced equally by every single employee– not just enforced upon members by the managers.

Such a shift means that the organization holds employees and leaders across each department accountable for their roles in the success of the business. An organization that takes a disjointed approach to implement technology only risks having a section of its employees lacking the skills needed to keep up with today’s fast-paced, disruptive and dynamic business environment.

Everyone is a potential leader of digital transformation in the new thinking

For a true digital transformation journey to take place, there should first be a complete dismantling of the traditional top-down hierarchies from the organization’s culture. Digital transformation initiatives should not just be channeled from the top through line managers. That restrictive approach is one of the things that kill innovation.

Everyone is a potential champion of transformation in a digital minded enterprise. Employees in such a progressive-minded company are free to leverage digital tools to achieve organizational agility. The culture is one that not only allows but also encourages and supports experimentation without fear of failure.

Regardless of where the change comes from within the organization, it is received and adopted into the wider organizational culture as long as it’s in line with the business goals.

It comes as no surprise that employees in supportive environment often turn out to be effective and valuable transformation leaders. Why? Because compared to the C suite and other company executives, employees are usually more hands-on in interacting with customer demands.

When digital leaders create an all inclusive environment where employees feel how important their efforts drive change, digital transformation occurs naturally faster and effectively.

Notice that because employees are usually the immediate point of contact with the customer, they easily detect changes in customer expectations before anyone else in the business. As such, employees are better placed to know how the business should respond best to such changes.

However, in a traditional command-and-control setup where employees are supposed to receive directions from the top and not suggest solutions, a lot of issues can remain unaddressed for much longer.

Though it’s still quite pervasive, that kind of organizational culture stifles digital transformation.

The ABC’s of this holistic mindset

Now, it turns out that the enterprises that implement pockets of innovation as a way to deal with the disruptive pressure to become digital companies are simply throwing these various technologies at the issue.

Yes, technologies are the individual cogs that help drive any digital change, but the organization’s culture remains the engine of any transformation. So, unless widespread adoption of these technologies is built into the core of the organization, the business cannot reap real value.

The digital enterprise must be able to institutionalize the new approaches, completely getting rid of silo-based thinking and organization fragmentation. The management has to take a much more personal approach, injecting innovative thinking into each process and leading from the front so that employees can start to see that there are different ways of handling the otherwise standard business practices – other than just telling them what needs to be done.

Inclusivity is essential in this regard. While considering every process that will be involved in the change, don’t forget that it all starts with the people, the members of that enterprise. Unless you can have everyone onboard with every change from the get-go, that change is as good as headed to its deathbed.

It’s important for every single employee to understand why the proposed change is absolutely necessary, rather than being pushed to adopt it blindly. What are the security concerns? How will they help in circumventing the risks?

Such questions will bring everyone on board with the changes the organization is trying to implement. Encourage transparency from the get-go, look to standardize core processes and operations efficiency introduced by the digital technologies you’re considering.

Further, while you could measure the success of your digital transformation journey through customer feedback, what’s more reliable and proactive is to introduce analytics-driven thinking instead. You save yourself a lot of trouble when you base your most important managerial decisions on accurate data and analytics rather than pure intuition.

This is not to say that everything is going to be a walk in the park, no! Being open to change is something that is easier done by startups that are still nimble. More prominent organizations with established processes generally find it much difficult to change those processes in favor of new methods. Adopting a beginner’s mindset, and looking at the business from a fresh perspective is often a tough call. However, embracing such change of mindset is key if you have to jump aboard the digital bandwagon.

Make the change cumulative

A truly holistic approach to digital transformation is technologically agnostic. Strictly speaking, just like any other form of organizational change, digital transformation demands cautious motion. It’s important to implement small shifts in processes and company culture, test and learn as you go.

While at it, be sure to identify specific transformation targets and give each of them their timelines (such as implementing a cloud-based CRM within the next 2-3 months). Then complete one within its timeline before proceeding to the next.

It’s a good idea to start with implementing a simple digital solution before progressively moving on to target increasingly complex systems, all the while using a holistic approach and collaboration across the organization.

Bottom Line

There are no shortcuts to achieving digital transformation. Already, companies that have successfully transformed from analogue to digital are experiencing better customer engagement at every touch point, and have more efficient and resilient businesses. Even though a significant number of companies are still struggling to keep up with the disruptive pressure shaking up the business world, if they embrace the kind of holistic mindset discussed in this write-up, nothing will stand on their way to becoming truly digital enterprises.


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