Becoming CEO for a global technology company during a worldwide pandemic has come with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
At the start of this year, I looked out on the same uncertain business environment as our enterprise clients whose businesses we aim to help digitalize. From the impact that COVID-19 has had on businesses to changes in customer demand, current conditions can make it difficult for companies to plan for growth. But the past year has made it clear (to me) that there is no time left to consider whether a company should prioritize digitalizing its business. The time is now.
The real question moves from “whether or not” to “how” do we do it. For many enterprises, the pandemic meant accelerating digital transformation efforts to adapt to rapidly changing consumer behavior and preferences. For some enterprises, it was trying new business models to stay afloat. Whether you are jumping in with both feet or have initiated digital business initiatives in prior years, it quickly becomes clear that digital transformation can be expensive and disruptive to an existing business, however, this does not need to be the case. Ultimately, many of those efforts were abandoned or only partially implemented. Too many enterprises have learned that digital business enablement can create tumult in their operations resulting in coming up short on business goals. You can enable digital business without disrupting your existing business quickly and inexpensively.
Indeed, today’s speed of business dictates that a company cannot afford any stumbles while enabling digital initiatives. Those who act quickly and efficiently will create a competitive advantage. Those who wait or don’t follow the right playbook will be left behind. Understanding the requisite components of successful digital business adoption will greatly improve outcomes.
Using this framework, companies can learn quickly from real-time data to ensure innovation without jeopardizing the existing business. Businesses become more adept at responding to unplanned market conditions or failing fast yet stay on track. There are three reasons why
Consumer behavior and preferences have permanently changed, and so should you
There is no denying that the cycle for business change has been squeezed by both the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent remote work realities. There is also no going back for the majority of consumers who have changed their behaviors to how they buy products or use services. The rise of curbside pickup, same-day grocery delivery, and digital banking meant companies had to adapt quickly, especially with respect to technology.
In much the same way, many will not go back to working full-time or at all in a corporate office. Whether it’s a fully remote or a hybrid work experience, the way we work has likely changed for good. This new normal is here to stay, and companies must innovate quickly. An expensive, big-bang approach typical of digital transformation isn’t going to cut it. And it cannot come at the expense of disturbing existing business operations. With an intense focus on what you’re solving for and quick, achievable wins, you can unlock new revenue and achieve transformation without disruption.
Emboldened technology leaders and practitioners fuel efforts
The traditional CIO or CTO carries a natural risk aversion to implementing new technology. This is because this role has long been focused on caring for and feeding a company’s technology infrastructure, uptime, security, compliance, and auditing. These mundane but very necessary and critical tasks have mostly migrated to the cloud, and it’s no longer necessary to fret over uptime if you’ve implemented high-availability architecture and leveraged cloud for scale/security. Now, there is room to experiment and focus on building a culture of digital business. Now there is an opportunity to answer the question, “What else can we do to enable the digital business?”
The answer lies with practitioners who are deeply experienced in a holistic approach to business transformation. Technology specialization is not as important as transformation specialization. Successful enablement of digital business requires an end-to-end approach and practitioners who have experience working with agile teams and business partners to collaborate and create solutions. These practitioners add value because they can step back and evaluate the bigger picture, understand customer pain points, and solve for them incrementally and iteratively.
Your approach to data must include developing a single source of truth
Many companies don’t have the luxury of cash flow or space for excess inventory right now. They need near real-time visibility into their business and there is no time to wait for each department to submit a monthly report. It’s not a matter of just getting by, but rather a way to grow, be more competitive, and build towards the future.
Companies that successfully enable digital business are basing their data strategy on business outcomes rather than a technology initiative around collecting data, storing it, and disseminating it. We all can remember the introduction of data pools, data marts, or even data lakes. All that is going away, and that’s largely thanks to technology. Real-time data insights are the underpinning for making faster, more impactful decisions.
New tools have evolved to the point that it’s easy for an executive to get a quick idea of what’s happening in their business in real-time. This kind of visibility, coupled with more manageable and distinguishable data, provides trends in real-time that can be applied to what a team is solving for. A single source of truth will permeate across all business functions, which, in turn, are using and making choices based on the same data.
This contrasts with the traditional big-bang process of connecting back to the data warehouse, adding amenities, and so on, a process that could take a year to complete. With such a focus on cash flow, there must be a single source of truth drawn from different business functions. By streaming data in real-time in manageable amounts, leaders can quickly spot trends and act on them.
Few could have predicted how our business environment could have changed so quickly in the past year. However, we can control our mindset and set a course for growth. With proper focus on enabling digital business with the power of real-time data, visibility, and digital business enablement, we can face uncertainty with greater confidence, agility, and success.