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5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Digital Transformation Initiative

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Digital Transformation Initiative

Digital transformation is everywhere.  It enables organisations to compete more effectively in the ever-changing digital economy, yet it instills fear and misapprehension in many as some view it as responsible for heralding in an era of skill shortages and job losses.

I like to see it for the opportunity it brings. I’ve seen digital transformation enable a company with a long-standing tradition of one service transform into an organisation with an entirely different business. I worked with a well-known British utility that was moving from a product supplier orientation to a residential services company that will provide services that manage the home, including white goods such as fridges and washing machines, allowing the customer to monitor all the devices in their home remotely. Such a move means an entirely different services portfolio, thereby changing not only the way they market but also the profile of the service people they recruit – they now need after-care skills and customer service skills. To accomplish this transformation, they began identifying the training required for upskilling, not a Herculean task, but one that demands plenty of planning and organisation.

This utility company is but one example of what digital transformation looks like today. As with any organisational change, either proactively or reactively, it is essential to understand just how digital transformation can work for you.

Start by asking these five questions:

#1 Is your digital plan increasing your business or technology agility?

Digital can make your organisation more agile. It is why so many banks set up a FinTech arm to maintain their competitive edge, and fight off new competition because existing banking infrastructures did not allow them.

#2 Do you believe that you have enough technology and digital-literate executives to achieve your digital goals?

Most organisations have a gap between the IT department where there are pockets of deep understanding of how to use big data, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and predictive analytics to drive innovation and the talent necessary to carry out all the functions. Often there is a lack of understanding and a fear of these types of technologies, particularly by those in management or executive positions, and an inability to understand how they can operationalise them to drive business innovation. However, since it is the management who hold the purse strings, it is in your interest to educate leadership on these technology opportunities, to get them familiar with and appreciate just how technology can help realise their ambitions.

#3 Is technology helping you win against the competition?

And not just from competitors you see today, but those in the future from unexpected sources. Who could have foreseen that Airbnb, one of the leading companies in the Hotel/Travel industry, would not even own a hotel?

#4 Do you have the right technology skills to deliver the technology innovation you need for growth?

Quite often barriers to markets are a result of the limitations of your technology portfolio. If this is the case, you need to ascertain what new technology skills are required to enter these new markets.

#5 What skills do you need most to meet your digital transformation agenda?

Start with the brainstorm, the vision statement, then identify the needs and create a new business model. Organisations must find a way to empower employees, engage customers, optimise operations and business processes and transform products or services.

Who should lead the changes that must happen?

It’s a combination of people. The first point of call – do you have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO)? If yes, they will lead the way. If you don’t, look at functions that are related. One of the closely coupled roles is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), another is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Marketing is often at the forefront of re-branding and will design and implement a promotional plan for a new business model and communicate news of new products/services to customers. In certain circumstances the head of sales, under pressure to create new incremental revenues, can assist.  Finally, there’s the CEO.  CEO’s are very aware of the disruption brought by digital transformation. In one study, 81 percent said they expect it to be very disruptive while 76 percent report thinking that changes in core technologies of production or service provision (artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain) will be either very or somewhat disruptive to their business over the next five years.

Are there industries where Digital Transformation is necessary for survival?

In truth most, if not all. However, we’ve seen a big push in consumer, automotive, logistics, telecommunications, aviation, and oil and gas areas.

As a former Chief Digital Officer (CDO), I know from experience the top three concerns that keep CDOs up at night:

  • Product Innovation: How can I help this company innovate and create new products and services that it can take to market?
  • Product launch: How do I set up a new social and digital marketing campaign/channel to launch this service?
  • Required technologies: What are the technologies that I need to put in place to underpin these new initiatives?

In short, how can they mould and support their organisation in the way necessary for the digital transformation?

With Skillsoft’s Digital Transformation collection, organisations now have access to the full portfolio of video-based courses designed to ready their workforces to tackle the challenges of digital business head on.


Steve Wainwright is the Managing Director for Skillsoft EMEA.

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