insights

Achieving Successful Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

Companies that succeed at digital transformation are ultimately the ones that are able to deal with change better.

Joel Koh

02 May 2019

Over the last few years, digital transformation has become one of the most widely-recognised topics in business with companies racing to acquire digital capabilities to drive their business forward. Referring to the adoption of digital technology used to improve fundamental business practices, digital transformation has been a necessary disruption that continues to affect every industry. With an increasing number of companies stepping forward to report record-breaking figures from new digital agendas, going digital has proven to be an essential success factor for businesses today.

However, despite the growing literature and support available on this issue, digitalisation at scale is far from trivial. For every success story published, comes many other case studies of failed attempts at digital transformation. A few of such cases are noted in this 2018 Harvard Business Review article which cites the high-profile failures of companies such as GE, Nike, and P&G in their digital transformation journey. With many other such powerful organisations struggling to make sense of this undertaking despite their abundant resources, attaining successful digital transformation seems more elusive than ever.

Fortunately, by examining the actions of today’s digital leaders, we are able to gain new insights on the secrets behind successful digital transformation strategies. After all, there are a few indicators that many successfully transformed companies have in common which may serve as worthwhile lessons to companies still finding success.

Leadership

Digital transformation starts from the top and commitment by the company’s key management is vital to the success of any digital transformation strategy. Organisations must understand that digital transformation is a long term commitment and not simply a technology upgrade. Shareholders need to be aware of the costs of digital transformation and be committed to stick with the change for the long-haul even if it means making capital losses in the beginning. Management buy-in is crucial in ensuring that budget and other resources are rightfully allocated to support change initiatives that drive transformation. Management also needs to be open to suggestions from the ground up while avoiding being change-resistant so as to foster open innovation and transformation success.

At its heart, digital transformation is more about cultural and organisational change than technology change. It requires a change in company culture and cultural changes cannot happen without leadership. Managers responsible for digital transformation need to actively steer the organisation towards a corporate culture that embraces digital paradigms. Reinventing an organisation’s culture at the enterprise level is an enormous undertaking and requires a concerted effort from its leaders. To effectively influence corporate culture, management must work in unison to communicate the vision of a digitally transformed workplace.

Successful digital transformation ultimately requires a transformational approach. Leaders who are dedicated, open to change, and are able to inspire cultural reinvention across the organisation will be more likely to find success in their digital transformation strategy.

Collaboration

While leadership serves as the fuse that sparks digital transformation, collaboration is the catalyst that ignites its success. Digital transformation requires an end-to-end change across the entire organisation and empowering workers to contribute is crucial in ensuring the success of a lasting digital transformation strategy.

Organisational change can create a sense of confusion for employees who are kept in the dark of new initiatives. Every member of the organisation needs to be involved in achieving a shared vision of a successful digital transformation. Managers can do so by promoting greater transparency and engaging employees in key matters of change. On the ground, operational changes need to be clearly communicated to workers to avoid misaligned priorities and bottlenecks. Managers need to align team members with change efforts and build trust by working together on issues that may arise from change.

Digital transformation is about changing the way teams work together and not just about the tools at use. Employees should be empowered to make decisions and given opportunities to contribute ideas. Empowering people is the key to achieving profound and inclusive digital transformation that drives sustainable growth.

Process

For success to take place, digital transformation must be viewed as a continuum. Organisations must acknowledge that digital transformation is not a one-off project but rather a continuous improvement across people, processes, and technology. By embracing digital transformation as a journey rather than a destination, managers can shift focus from merely pursuing technical upgrades to ensuring holistic change throughout the organisation.

Digital transformation is a process to establish change as a competency in itself. A successful digital transformation is consequently dependent on how integrated change is woven into an organisation’s core capabilities. With technology constantly evolving, companies that view digital transformation as an ongoing process are better positioned to adapt and succeed.

Final word

When you look beyond the buzz surrounding the topic of digital transformation and its related technical concepts, you may notice that digital transformation is more about how organisations deal with change rather than the tools they use. Companies that succeed at digital transformation are ultimately the ones that are able to deal with change better. In finding success, managers approaching the issue of digital transformation should continue to explore and adopt technologies while bearing change management principles at heart. Enterprises that succeed in adapting to today’s digital landscape will be ones who stand to gain the most in the exciting times ahead.


Joel Koh

Joel Koh is the director of One X Tech's Technology Management & Digital Solutions practice. He leads the firm's Asia Pacific office efforts in continually evolving and growing new capabilities to serve clients in technology-led transformations.

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