• Chris Bevan

If the answer is digital, what is the question ?

Over the past three to five years the business world has been full of articles, presentations and statements of intent from business leaders on digital transformation.

The past three months has shown that there has been a lot of smoke crashing into shinny mirrors where the reality has not supported the bluster. There are some very notable exceptions though. I never would have thought that I would hold up HMRC as an exemplar, but their digital transformation conducted over the past few years has been the foundation of the Government’s ability to deliver the business support, especially to the self-employed. It may not be perfect, but it does not need to be.

Those food retailers that have been able to quickly ramp up the scale of their online delivery is testament to the real investment in technology. There have also been a host of smaller, local business, unencumbered by the treacle of corporate decision making, that have pivoted to the on-line world quickly just to survive. These businesses have not had the challenge of scale as the national players have, but relative to their size and resources, they are showing the big boys the way and evolved different channels that will enhance their business future.

I would propose therefore, that if the answer is “digital,” the question is “what should our key investment be?”

As we transition through this crisis there are quite a few things to consider, here are a few:

  • The rise in unemployment will get higher for the foreseeable future

  • “Normal” levels of staffing especially for hospitality, retail and tourism will not return

  • Air travel after 9/11 took 3 years to recover

  • There will be a high level of younger people coming into the job market

  • Reluctance for a number of employees to return to pre lockdown “normal.”

Consumers have come to expect a different level of service, we have all been part of a real-life experiment on a global scale. An experiment that most business leaders would have loved to embark on but did not have the nerve to consider.

The workforce has found ways to make things happen despite the inflexible and bureaucratic corporate policies. Operating models have been bent out of shape to ensure businesses survive.

Now though, these tactical measures must be “formalised” and built on.

Technology provides the vehicle to adapt businesses and operating models to take advantage of the lessons learnt through this crisis and enable companies to transition into what ever future they need to make.

All good words, but where to start?

Outvie, in conjunction with our Partner, Footdown suggest that there are three critical areas to consider that will make the digital transformation successful.

These are:

FRAMING. How is our digital transformation being framed? Ask yourself if you really understand where digital technology fits within the fabric of your organisation.

STRATEGY: Do you have clarity on how the future sustainable performance is aligned with embracing and embedding digital technologies?

ORGANISATIONAL: To what extent is our operating model and current flow of work set up to maximise the benefits of digital technologies?

LEADERSHIP: What is the level of digital literacy within in our leadership? To what degree do our leaders encourage and inspire our people to embrace digital technologies?

ENABLING. Do we understand what an enabling environment looks like?

CULTURE: To what extent are digital technologies an embedded part of our organisational identity

PEOPLE: How will digital technologies liberate and empower our people to achieve organisational and personal goals

CHANGE: Is “change” a company capability? Do we embrace opportunities to change and enable us to exploit the full potential of digital technologies?

DELIVERING. Do we understand what it will take to deliver the transformative outcomes?

SYSTEMS: How will we realise the effectiveness and efficiency of our systems and processes through the use of digital technologies?

TECHNOLOGIES: What evidence do we have of sustainable technology policies & practices throughout our organisation?

EXECUTION: Can we demonstrate coherent links between digital technologies, customer needs, effective operation and outcomes?

You should not expect to have all the answers. Trust your workforce, management and leaders to contribute to assessing your current capability. Engage them from the beginning, after all, these are the people who have kept your business going through the lockdown.

Getting the understanding of where you stand in these three areas will provide you with a start of the digital transformation roadmap. Gaining an understanding does not take months.

Deploying the Digital Pathway platform from Footdown & Outvie you can engage your whole workforce and get the results in days.

Digital is not an option; it is an imperative. Time is running out; false starts will cripple your business.

Help is on hand.

Chris Bevan is a co-founder of Outvie Consulting who support organisations through complex transformations. He is also a NED and Advisor

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