The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, according to the Tao Te Ching. But old Chinese proverbs are not much comfort when you are facing a blank whiteboard and trying to plan your company’s digital transformation journey. For everyone in that position (and there are a lot, according to a recent Accenture survey), here are three practical tips for getting the process underway.
Tip 1: Create a common vision
Digital transformation must be guided by a clear vision statement. The vision statement must outline an organization’s objectives, from shedding analog processes to creating more efficient workflows to shifting human resources to higher-value activities.
The vision statement must be expansive and tied to core business goals. Projects, such as creating a bimodal technology architecture, must be part of a broader plan for using intelligence to transform an organization’s culture.
“Being competitive in the future is about applying intelligence to everything we do,” says Justin Somaini, head of SAP Global Security. “This process can be a little unnerving. But we must change and evolve to be successful.”
A vision statement enables leaders to communicate how digitalization contributes to revenues and profitability. It explains why these investments are not only necessary but desirable.
Tip 2: Err on the side of action
Digital transformation requires a complete digital backbone with analytics, Big Data, blockchain, intelligent cloud, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and enterprise mobility. Assembling these technologies is a vast and complex commitment, which means that some decision-makers may want to adopt a go-slow approach.
Michael Ruiz, a partner in the Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young LLP, says leaders must overcome any deep-felt apprehensions and unify support for digital transformation.
“We cannot let some of these ideas scare us into inaction,” Ruiz says “Many times, companies err on the side of inaction when they don’t understand something. My advice is be bold.”
Part of that boldness can include introducing a culture that is more risk-tolerant. Risk is part of digital transformation. Successful organizations allow workers to pursue new ways of applying intelligent technologies even when project outcomes are uncertain.
Tip 3: Apply intelligence to everything you do
Digital transformation is about being able to take new products and services from concept to critical mass in weeks, not months or years. Organizations that want to thrive in such a marketplace have to become more agile and flexible.
Ben Zimmerman, a principal in the Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young LLP, says organizations must adopt an agile approach and lean into innovation.
To innovate, leaders must push for enterprise-wide digital transformation. Going wide and deep requires building a digital backbone and then using it to layer automation into key processes. The end results are solutions that are intelligent enough to continuously monitor internal and external conditions and even act to protect the organization’s interests without human intervention.
Zimmerman says companies can capture the upside of risk and the potential gains by focusing on digital transformation. Committing now to apply the resources this process requires is the key to creating agility and competing in a marketplace where every organization is using intelligence to win.
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