Have you ever wondered who led the digital transformation in a given company in the past? The most probable answer would have been the CEO or the CTO. But ask again now and the answer would most probably be Covid-19. Indeed, according to McKinsey, recent data shows that changes that occurred in consumer and business digital adoption in a period of around 8 weeks, would have otherwise occurred in five years if it weren’t for the coronavirus. In fact, what was often postponed in the past was now prioritised and executed and as a result technology brought employees and customers closer than before and allowed them to connect in a more meaningful and purposeful way.
This rapid movement towards digital technologies driven by the pandemic will continue into the recovery and despite the immense challenges CEOs are facing today, now is the time to act. According to McKinsey, data in the recessions of 2007–08 showed companies that move early and decisively in a crisis do best, demonstrating the importance of acting with a through-cycle mindset. And that means moving away from just active experimentation towards an active scale up and continuous improvement.
So what can you do to ensure you succeed in your digital transformation initiatives?
1. Reassess your roadmap. During the crisis many businesses came up with quick solutions and created digital channels to communicate with their customers and their workforce (think social media or remote tools for working from home). But now is the time to take a step back and create a coordinated and detailed plan for what needs to be done, by whom and when, from the leadership level down to the front line. Consider how an accelerated timetable will enable a strategy that must be extremely flexible and adaptive to an unclear future. Our suggestion is to create such a roadmap even if it has flaws. You will complete it along the way.
2. Focus on business building. Many businesses can only match the pace of both the crisis and the change in customer behaviour by building something outside of the core company. This may seem like hard to do, but what this crisis has shown us is that people can move with astonishing speed to build something new. One European retailer, for example, was able to launch a new e-commerce business in just 13 weeks. In order to do so, we suggest you tap into the collective intelligence of your team and ask them to participate in this ideation and business building process.
3. Be agile. Agile balances the need for speed with the expectation of adjustment. Teams are now required, more than ever, to act quickly amidst uncertainty, make decisions with limited oversight, and react to fast-changing situations. With many organisations having shifted to remote-working models almost overnight, now is the time to focus on keeping what has worked well, not revert back to legacy ways of working, and foster a culture of experimentation, learning, and iterating. A first step would be feeling comfortable being uncomfortable since change is the only constant nowadays.
4. Focus on developing new skills. Digital transformation may require your employees to acquire new skills. Develop an approach to build their skills and identify potential gaps that can be upgraded through training. And if you are wondering how, online education can surely play a role. Through the necessity of working from home, many people became accustomed to tools and processes that are core to distance learning. Our input is to start by sharing with your team platforms with free content that will help them develop new skills.
But what’s the secret sauce that will perfectly bring all of the above together? Empathy and a human-centric approach. In other words, giving people a sense of importance. What made businesses succeed during this time when it came to digital adoption was always putting employees and customers at the center of the business, understanding what they value, and designing new experiences based on those insights.
Although we don’t know when the crisis will end, the changes it will have brought will be visible in different degrees across corporations. Digital transformation will surely be one of them. Think cloud, modernising operational software, improving customer experience, and creating a more dynamic and flexible working environment. Now is the time to act.
Where do you stand in the digital transformation maturity curve? Contact us to take our free digital maturity assessment and find out!