By: A Staff Writer
Updated on: May 25, 2023
Leapfrogging digitally, rather than playing digital catch-up is the only way for legacy corporations to keep pace with digital natives.
Say Goodbye to Conventional Digital Transformation
Digital Transformation represents a radical rethinking of how an organization fundamentally uses technology, people, and processes to change business performance. It isn’t merely about modernizing technology stacks or moving operations to the cloud. Instead, it’s about harnessing the power of digital tools to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing market and business requirements.
Digital transformation extends beyond the traditional boundaries of IT, impacting the entirety of a business. It involves a fresh look at strategic aspects such as business models, workforce strategies, customer and user experiences, and organizational structures.
Legacy corporations must consider leapfrogging digitally rather than just catching up to digital natives.
Legacy corporations have achieved tremendous success through proven business models, strategies, and operations. However, in the digital age, where innovation and change have dramatically increased, these corporations find that their legacy approaches might not serve them as effectively.
In this context, digital transformation becomes critical for these organizations to remain competitive and relevant. It helps legacy corporations to unlock new efficiencies, foster innovation, improve customer experiences, and potentially find new sources of revenue. In addition, it allows them to be more agile and responsive to market changes and customer demands.
Moreover, digital transformation is becoming a business imperative due to changing customer expectations. Customers today demand seamless, on-demand, personalized experiences that can only be delivered through smart digital technologies.
Despite understanding the importance of digital transformation, many legacy corporations face significant challenges when implementing it.
First, there’s a significant gap in digital skills. Legacy corporations often struggle to attract and retain the digital talent necessary to drive such initiatives as they compete with digital-native companies that can often seem more appealing to digital talent.
Second, the complexity of legacy systems can be a barrier. These complex systems, built over decades, can be hard and costly to overhaul. The risk of disrupting business operations during the transition can also be a significant concern.
Third, organizational resistance to change is a common obstacle. Digital transformation often requires significant cultural change, which can be difficult in established corporations where traditional ways of working are deeply entrenched.
Fourth, many companies struggle with developing a clear digital strategy and roadmap, often due to a lack of understanding of digital technologies and their potential impact.
These challenges, among others, often result in digital transformation efforts falling short of their intended objectives. However, with a well-thought-out strategy and execution plan, companies can navigate these challenges successfully.
Failed digital transformation efforts often share commonalities. Understanding these factors can help organizations avoid similar pitfalls in their journeys.
One of the significant reasons digital transformations fail is a lack of clear vision or strategy. Without a defined direction, initiatives often become disjointed, and teams can work on disparate projects without understanding how they align with the overall business goals.
Another common cause of failure is underestimating the scale of change required. Digital transformation is not just a technological shift; it necessitates a complete cultural change, encompassing new ways of thinking, behaving, and working. Failure to appreciate this leads to resistance, misunderstanding, and, ultimately, unsuccessful transformations.
Additionally, companies that fail often focus too much on technology and not enough on people. Implementing new technology is only part of the solution; ensuring that people can effectively use the technology and understand its benefits is equally, if not more, important.
Given these challenges, a two-pronged strategy can enhance the odds of a successful digital transformation. This approach simultaneously focuses on developing new digital products and rethinking traditional business models.
The first prong involves the creation of new digital products, such as embedded software in core business offerings or independent digital services. This can lead to new revenue streams and market expansion.
The second prong involves re-engineering existing business processes and models with digital technologies. This can drive efficiencies, improve customer experiences, and provide a competitive edge in an increasingly digital marketplace.
The two-pronged strategy offers several benefits over a singularly focused approach.
First, it allows companies to exploit the advantages of digital technologies on multiple fronts. As a result, companies can gain a competitive advantage and drive growth by creating new products while enhancing existing operations.
Second, this strategy mitigates risk by not putting all the focus on one aspect of the business. If one prong faces challenges, progress made on the other can help maintain momentum and morale.
Third, the two-pronged approach encourages a culture of innovation. Organizations foster an environment that values creativity, experimentation, and learning by constantly seeking new product opportunities while refining existing processes.
Ultimately, the two-pronged approach to digital transformation enables a more holistic and potentially successful transformation, helping legacy corporations to thrive in the digital age.
Digital products are critical in revenue growth in today’s digital economy. They provide an avenue to create new customer value, generate additional revenue streams, and diversify the business. Whether it’s a software solution streamlining a client’s workflow or a mobile app enhancing customer engagement, digital products can open new markets and opportunities.
Embedding digital products into your core business requires strategic planning. For example, it might involve creating digital enhancements for existing products or services or developing new digital offerings that complement your existing portfolio.
The first step is to understand your customer’s needs, challenges, and behavior in the digital realm. Then, develop digital solutions that add value to your customers’ experience. Whether it’s an e-commerce platform for easier purchasing, a customer service chatbot for round-the-clock support, or a mobile app to provide on-demand service, ensure the digital product aligns with your customers’ needs and your business objectives.
Some corporations prefer creating a separate entity focused solely on digital product development. This allows the new entity to operate with agility, free from the constraints of the legacy business. It can adopt a startup-like culture, attract digital talent, and iterate quickly. However, it’s crucial to maintain a clear link to the parent corporation and ensure alignment with its strategic goals.
Acquiring startups is another approach to fast-track digital product development. Startups often bring innovative ideas, digital expertise, and a culture of agility. However, there are risks involved. Cultural integration can be challenging, and there’s always a risk that the acquired startup’s innovation capacity may be stifled by corporate bureaucracy. Ensuring a smooth transition and keeping the innovative spirit alive are crucial for this strategy’s success.
White labeling, branding, and using a third-party’s digital product can be viable solution for companies aiming for rapid market entry. This approach saves development time and allows companies to leverage the expertise of established digital product developers. But a key consideration is that you will not have complete control over the product, and customization may have limitations.
Consider the example of Disney. They invested in developing their own streaming platform, Disney+, which has been a huge success and created a substantial new revenue stream.
Another example is Domino’s Pizza, which transformed its business model by focusing heavily on digital ordering platforms, including a highly successful mobile app. This digital focus has significantly increased their sales and given them a competitive edge in the fast-food market.
These examples show digital products’ potential to revolutionize business and drive growth.
Traditional business models, while having served companies well in the past, often fall short in the digital era. These models emphasize stability and incremental growth, which can hinder agility and rapid innovation – critical requisites in the fast-paced digital landscape. Moreover, they focus on physical products and services, neglecting digital products’ vast opportunities.
Several digital technologies can streamline business processes, improving efficiency and effectiveness. Cloud computing, for instance, provides a scalable infrastructure that can adapt quickly to changing business needs. Data analytics offers insights to drive decision-making and optimize operations. Automation technologies can increase productivity by taking over repetitive tasks, while Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can drive efficiencies through intelligent algorithms and predictive capabilities.
Business model innovation involves rethinking how your organization creates, delivers, and captures value. Start by identifying the needs of your digital customers and exploring how digital technologies can meet these needs. Next, consider leveraging digital platforms to create network effects and build digital ecosystems.
Innovation doesn’t always mean creating something entirely new. Sometimes, it means adopting and adapting proven digital business models to your context. Subscription, freemium, and platform-based models are examples of digital business models that have seen widespread success.
Re-engineering business processes is about making them faster, simpler, and more customer-centric. This could involve simplifying the customer journey, reducing the number of steps to purchase, or using AI to provide personalized recommendations. The goal is to create a frictionless user experience that delights customers at every touchpoint, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Microsoft provides a compelling example of a successful business model transformation. Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft shifted from a licensing-based model to a cloud-based subscription model, capitalizing on cloud services’ recurring revenue and scalability. The introduction of Office 365 and the enhancement of Azure have been pivotal in this successful transformation.
Another notable example is Adobe’s shift from selling packaged software to offering cloud-based subscriptions for its Creative Suite. This shift allowed Adobe to generate steady revenue, provide customers with constant updates, and lower the barrier to entry for new users.
These examples highlight the potential of business model transformation to drive growth and maintain competitiveness in the digital era.
Successfully integrating the development of new digital products with the rethinking of business models can create significant synergies.
For instance, a new digital product can open up opportunities for innovative business models. For example, consider a traditional manufacturing company that develops an IoT-enabled product. Not only does this new product offer increased value to customers, but it also provides the opportunity to shift towards a service-oriented business model, where the company offers predictive maintenance services based on the data collected by the IoT device.
On the other hand, a reimagined business model can open new avenues for digital product development. For example, a company that shifts to a platform-based model might develop an app to facilitate transactions on the platform, thereby creating a new digital product.
Integrating the development of digital products with the rethinking of business models is not without challenges.
One major challenge is aligning the two strategies. This requires clear communication, collaboration, and a shared understanding of the overarching digital transformation goals across all levels of the organization. Regular meetings and progress updates can help ensure alignment.
Another challenge is managing the complexity of the transformation process. However, this can be mitigated by breaking down the transformation into manageable stages, maintaining a flexible approach, and continuously learning and adapting.
Resistance to change is also a common hurdle. However, this can be overcome by cultivating a culture that embraces change, providing training and support, and clearly communicating the benefits of the transformation.
Measuring the success of a digital transformation strategy is crucial to ensure it delivers the desired results. Therefore, key performance indicators (KPIs) should be defined at the start of the transformation process. These could be related to financial performance, operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement.
For instance, the successful launch of a new digital product could be measured by its adoption rate, user satisfaction scores, or its contribution to revenue. Likewise, the success of a rethought business model could be gauged by increased customer retention, improved profit margins, or growth in new markets.
Remember, these metrics should be continuously monitored, and the strategy adapted as necessary to ensure ongoing success.
Leadership plays a vital role in driving digital transformation. Leaders set the vision for the transformation, provide direction, and motivate the workforce to embrace change. They must champion the digital cause, demonstrating their commitment through actions and decisions.
Leaders must also communicate effectively, ensuring everyone understands the reasons for the transformation, its benefits, and their role in making it happen. Moreover, leaders should foster an environment where risk-taking is encouraged, mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and innovation is rewarded.
Cultivating a digital-first mindset across the organization is critical for successful digital transformation. A digital-first mindset embraces technology as a fundamental part of business operations and customer interactions.
Employees at all levels should be encouraged to consider how digital tools can improve their work and enhance customer experiences. This might involve training programs, workshops, and regular communication about digital trends and their impact on the business. The goal is to create an environment where digital thinking becomes second nature.
In the fast-paced digital world, continuous learning and adaptation are essential. Technologies evolve, customer expectations change, and competitive landscapes shift. Organizations must therefore be able to learn quickly and adapt their strategies and tactics accordingly.
Continuous learning should be encouraged at both the individual and organizational levels. This can involve formal training programs, learning resources, knowledge-sharing sessions, and cultivating a mindset of curiosity and exploration.
Innovation is the lifeblood of digital transformation. Organizations should therefore foster a culture that encourages innovation and rewards creative thinking.
This can be achieved by providing employees with the time and resources to experiment with new ideas, establishing platforms for idea sharing and collaboration, and recognizing and rewarding innovative efforts. It could also involve setting up innovation labs or running hackathons to stimulate creative problem-solving.
A culture that values innovation will drive digital transformation and make the organization more resilient and adaptable to future changes.
As we look to the future of digital transformation, specific trends, and technologies promise to shape its trajectory significantly.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) continue to evolve, offering unprecedented capabilities in data analysis, predictive modeling, and automation. While primarily associated with cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology presents wide-ranging applications for secure, transparent transactions and data management.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding, with devices and sensors creating a hyperconnected world, generating vast volumes of actionable data. In addition, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are gaining momentum, offering innovative ways to interact with customers and enhancing experiences in fields from retail to training.
Edge computing, where data processing occurs closer to the data source (like IoT devices), is becoming more critical with the data explosion, ensuring faster response times and less network congestion.
Organizations must stay abreast of these emerging technologies and trends to prepare for the next wave of digital transformation. In addition, they should invest in ongoing learning and development to equip their teams with the skills needed to leverage these technologies effectively.
Planning for the future also requires flexibility. Therefore, digital strategies should be revisited regularly to incorporate new technologies and approaches.
It’s also important to foster strong relationships with technology partners and service providers. They can offer valuable insights into emerging trends, help you understand their implications for your business, and provide the tools and support you need to capitalize on them.
Sustaining digital transformation efforts over the long term requires a commitment to continuous improvement. Therefore, regularly review your transformation goals, measure progress, and adjust your strategy.
Building a culture that embraces change is also crucial. Encourage innovation, support risk-taking, and recognize and reward those who contribute to the transformation efforts.
Digital transformation is not a one-time project but a long-term journey. With a clear vision, a robust strategy, and a culture of innovation and continuous learning, your organization can successfully navigate this journey and realize the immense opportunities the digital future holds.
Digital transformation is imperative for legacy corporations, providing a path to increased competitiveness and growth in the digital era. However, successful digital transformation requires more than just implementing new technologies. Instead, it necessitates a two-pronged strategy: developing new digital products and rethinking traditional business models.
Leadership is critical in this transformation, driving the vision, fostering a digital-first mindset, and cultivating a continuous learning and innovation culture. As technology and customer expectations evolve, businesses must be prepared to adapt and innovate continuously.
C-Suite leaders should start by profoundly understanding digital technologies and their potential impact on their businesses. This might involve consulting with digital experts, attending industry events, or participating in executive education programs.
Next, leaders should articulate a clear vision for digital transformation and communicate this vision to all levels of the organization. Finally, this vision should guide the development of a comprehensive digital transformation strategy, encompassing new digital product development, business model innovation, and cultural change.
Finally, leaders should champion the digital transformation journey, providing the necessary resources, removing barriers, and celebrating successes.
Digital transformation can be a daunting journey, filled with uncertainties and challenges. But it is also a journey filled with immense opportunities. With a clear vision, a robust strategy, and a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation, legacy corporations can successfully navigate this journey and thrive in the digital era.
Remember, digital transformation is not just about technology. It’s about using technology to create customer value, streamline operations, and drive growth. It’s about reimagining what’s possible, taking bold steps, and shaping the future of your business.
So embrace the journey, celebrate each milestone, learn from every setback, and keep moving forward. The digital future is bright and waiting for you to seize it.
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