We recently published a list of top digital transformation influencers to follow on Twitter. Given the popularity of the post, we reached out to four of the influencers on the list – Kirk Borne, Michael Krigsman, Dion Hinchcliffe and Ronald van Loon – to gain actionable insights into the process of digitally transforming businesses and organizations.
Specifically, we asked them:
What advice would you give to companies and individuals who are interested in pursuing digital transformation, but don’t know where to start?
Here is what they told us.
Three steps to self disruption
Digital transformation is a comfortable way of describing the 4th Industrial Revolution, which corresponds to the current emergent fusion of cyber, physical, and human systems. Any revolution is disruptive. So, think about digital disruption if you are planning to start on this path.
First, you must realize that the pursuit of digital transformation requires changes in mindset, in culture, in strategy, and in your talent model. It doesn’t necessarily require a change in your business goals — after all, your unique contribution in the marketplace should be enhanced and transformed, not necessarily tossed out entirely, unless you are starting an entirely new line of data-informed services and digital products. Digital transformation therefore represents a new (transformative) way of doing things, not simply a new thing to do.
Second, after this realization that you are attempting to surf the wave of a new revolution, then comes the assessment of what are your sources and types of digital signals (data emanating from your customers, your suppliers, your employees, your services, and your products)? Those digital assets are the fuel to bring about your digital transformation. So, what are these digital assets fueling?
They are the fuel for your third step in the digital transformation journey, which is to achieve the business goals that are powered by your digital assets and data products. So, ask yourself what are you focusing on: discovery (e.g., customer segments, emerging trends, fraud, new markets), prediction (predictive analytics), optimization (prescriptive analytics), and/or (my favorite) generating new questions and identifying new context to inform the next best action for your business (cognitive analytics)? Considering that you are seeking to play a part in a major revolution, you should buckle up for some rapid accelerations, re-directions, and new opportunities to enrich your digital transformation journey.
Dr. Kirk Borne
Principal Data Scientist and Executive Adviser, Booz Allen Hamilton
Don’t try to boil the ocean
Digital transformation is a simple and convenient buzzword that often masks the broad, organizational reach associated with genuine evolution and change. The transformation journey must begin with a clear understanding of why we need to change.
Consider questions such as:
- Is our business model durable?
- What’s happening in the competitive environment?
- Have our customers’ expectations of us evolved over time?
- Is our technology up to date?
- Do we have the skills necessary to compete in the future?
- Has our supply chain adapted to the changing environment?
These questions quickly shed light on how far-reaching are the implications of digital transformation. It’s not just about making our website better or becoming more proficient on social media. Genuine digital transformation looks at fundamental questions of business model, revenue streams, and our relationship to customers.
So, consider these questions and conduct an impartial evaluation of where your organization stands in relation to all these core issues. Don’t try to boil the ocean and undertake massive change all at once. Instead, form a team to look at one part of the business and start there.
Consider, for example, how technology can improve customer relationships across your organization or in one division or even department. Then, examine how you can become more responsive to customer needs and implement a pilot project. As with any change, start small and seek quick wins. As leadership develops the strategy, be sure to gain buy-in from everyone involved.
It’s not always easy but it is necessary, and the results will pay off over time as you become more competitive and customers sing your praises and become brand advocates!
Digital transformation is a team sport
When starting out on the journey of digital transformation, there’s often a worry about determining the best place to start. Certainly, there are some things that are foundational, such as having a master plan for data management and opening up existing systems better so they can be remixed and integrated into new digital experiences.
But the good news is that digital transformation is a team sport, and so everyone must be enabled to help make the changes required to modernize and rethink the business in digital terms. By tapping into change agents within the organization, leaders can unleash a scalable force for transformation that will create change locally, and if coordinated well, that also fits into the overall strategy.
In this way, organizations can insource the objective of finding good starting points, and better meet the challenge of digital change in terms of assembling the necessary breadth and depth of minds, talent, and resources.
VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research Inc.
Move toward data-driven decisions
Businesses need to be able to make live, data-driven decisions through the development of a real-time, modern data and analytics environment. By updating systems and technologies, you can use analytics to better understand your business’s data and share information between teams and departments.
Businesses that want to pursue digital transformation need to get rid of silos that hinder collaboration and effective sharing of data based insights. They must implement digital capabilities within their organization and adapt their infrastructure to effectively accommodate digital transformation. You have to work towards digital maturity, moving from an information foundation to automated, cognitive interaction.
Organizations should start by improving one important customer journey with two to three data sources. Split data collection and application, and start implementing an agile, multi-disciplinary team with the right processes and technologies to create an organizational foundation that supports a digital core. You need a modern infrastructure that’s able to collect data, manage data security, governance, quality, processes, and storage. This gives you the ability to gain insights to look back at historical data, predict in real-time, and define actions live, moving step by step from Descriptive Analytics to Cognitive Analytics.
Ronald Van Loon