How to successfully digitally transform your business

Business leaders need to forget about tech trends and focus on company requirements to make digital transformation a success, writes Benjamin Talin of MoreThanDigital.

We live in a digital world full of buzzwords. It’s all artificial intelligence (AI) here and blockchain there, and business leaders fail to see the risk in buying into the hype of the latest technology trends. Companies are so busy embracing the latest technology, rather than determining whether they actually need it and identifying the issues it solves that are relevant to them.

In fact, this is the reason that 70pc to 80pc of digital transformation projects fail. These projects are failing not because the solution isn’t up to standard, but because the purpose of the organisation has not been defined. In other words, businesses are buying into the hype and it is backfiring.

“Digital transformation is so much more than just technological solutions; it is a widespread shift in how the business operates”

Organisations really need to educate themselves, change their approach and identify how they can enable digital transformation for themselves in a simpler way – because self-service analytics, quantum computing and serverless architecture aren’t for everyone.

Here are three things business leaders need to know if they are to be successful in their digital transformation journeys…

Digital Transformation is not the same as digitalisation

A common misconception is that the processes of digital transformation and digitalisation are one in the same. This is not the case.

Digitalisation refers to taking what is offline and putting it into digital format, while digital transformation is, I would say, 5pc about the digital or technical aspect and 95pc about transformation. It is more about embracing change and involves a shift in strategy and culture (which may or may not involve new technological solutions).

Often, companies start their digital transformation journey by looking at the technology, before they actually look at the problems they need to solve, which is a big mistake. First, they should look at what they need to do and then develop or identify the most suitable solutions.

Furthermore, digital transformation involves numerous different elements. Companies must also build business models around their new approach, put strategies in place and train people to support this. Digital transformation is so much more than just technological solutions; it is a widespread shift in how the business operates.

The human element is more important than the solution itself

Whilst technology is certainly an enabler, there is so much more to consider than devices. People need to learn how to use those devices, ensure that these systems are working effectively and identify where such solutions can prove useful. Without humans, machines wouldn’t get anywhere.

The roles of people are also evolving and how we work is changing, in keeping with the rapid progression of technology. For example, it is predicted that the number of freelance workers will overtake the number of non-freelance workers in the US. Moreover, each department now has its own specialisms with dedicated roles. What was once a team of digital marketers has become multi-faceted with Facebook analysts, Instagram ad managers and LinkedIn specialists as well.

Every organisation is different, with its own different priorities and capabilities, but at the heart of each business is the human factor which needs to be considered by those making the decisions and should not be overlooked in favour of the latest products. As Patricia Fripp once said: “Technology does not run an enterprise, relationships do.”

A ‘value-first’ approach is vital

Theodore Levitt said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” This is how organisations should approach change management. The goal is not implementing AI or having the latest new technology, it is the outcome or value that AI delivers – in other words, how AI can help the company, staff or customers to achieve their goals.

For instance, I doubt Facebook started with the technology. It is more likely that they discovered that their users wanted to be able to share their stories, therefore they determined the technology that facilitates this. After all, the end user doesn’t care about the technology, but they do care about whether or not it enables them to do what they want to do.

By thinking about the value that such technologies can bring and focusing on the problem to be solved as a first step, businesses can decide exactly what technologies they need and increase the chances of digital transformation project success. Hence why organisations should always be asking “what are our goals and how does a particular technology enable us to our meet these?”

If organisations are going to be successful in their digital transformation journeys, they must first look at what they want to achieve, all the while keeping the human factor as a focus. By doing so, they can lay the building blocks upon which their company can succeed, innovate and thrive – enabled by technology solutions, not dictated by the latest technology trends.

Bearded man giving a lecture.

This piece was written by Benjamin Talin – CEO of MoreThanDigital, a leading digital initiative in central Europe, and keynote speaker at events including Comtrade Digital Services′ Quest for Quality conference.