Don’t Let Your Business Starve: Ways to Overcome Digital Disruption

One day, I found myself spending tremendous hours researching tech-related books in the hopes of understanding how organizations thrive in their businesses amidst the emergence of a rapidly changing digital world. Then I ended up purchasing and reading a book by Tony Saldhana entitled, “Why Digital Transformations Fail”. The book provides an insightful road map on how to survive in the current digital industrial revolution. It aided my understanding of this topic, and I am sharing it with you.

Whether you are a seasoned leader or novice if you are determined to not only take off but stay ahead in this industrial revolution, then keep reading.

Definition of Digital Disruption

First things first. Let’s define what digital disruption is before heading to the main game. After all, how can you move towards a change if you don’t understand what the problem is, right?

Digital Disruption is a change brought by increasingly pervasive new technologies that affect the existing industry’s services and goods.

The elements of change force businesses to reassess their current market on services and goods which calls for adjustments and transformations.

Examples of Digital Disruption

  • The shift from horses and carriages to cars.

    In 1914, there existed 4,600 carriage companies in the U.S., and 150 years later it plummeted to only 150. It was during the Second Industrial Revolution that the transportation industry became a turbulent era. Many carriage companies filed for bankruptcy.

  • Netflix’s disruption from store-based rentals with mail-in DVDs and then streaming videos and creating their films and series, and now working on its fourth which is leveraging its International presence.

  • Printed books are consistently being forced out by e-books. Amazon announced that sales of e-books are almost twice as high as the realization of printed books in hardcover.

How to thrive in a Digital Disruption

Digital transformation poses a critical challenge for most organizations. To be able to keep up with the competition, drive performance and provide unbeatable customer service, organizations need to effectively execute digital transformations.

Companies either transform or die. Unfortunately, records show that 70% of digital transformations fail. And the surprising answer is because of a lack of discipline in both defining and executing the right methods for digital transformations to take off and stay ahead.

The battle to thrive in this digital revolution is not going to be easy but is truly possible.

To get going, let us elaborate on the ways in achieving successful transformation with your starving business.

Leader’s committed ownership

Digital technologies are fast evolving, which means that special attention from sponsors of digital transformation is required.

Driving the business goals into digital transformation strategies is the key role in a viable business, thus, this cannot be just delegated.

The most vital role of these leaders is destroying the barriers during the execution of digital transformations.

A good case study to demonstrate the influence of fully committed leaders in successful transformation is Singapore’s “Smart digitization efforts. Singapore’s current Prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, a computer science graduate, with this advantage plays a highly visible role in leading the digitization efforts of his government. He even shares on Facebook the codes he has written to solve Sudoku puzzles.

As a result of his consistent commitment and ownership, Singapore’s growth in digitization does not come as a surprise anymore.

But for this level of ownership to remain on top at true, there is an implied level of digital literacy required for all leaders. Learning from internal and external technical experts is a valid solution, but delegating strategy and barriers will pose threats.

Lack of support from CEOs, CIOs or other leadership roles carries the transformational effort on a weak footing.

Iterative Execution

In the execution of a digital transformation, the bigger they are, the harder you fall. De-risking digital transformation efforts, by dissecting the work into smaller iterative deliveries while constantly in the process of learning, is a major contributor in avoiding failures. Meaning, don’t go all-in right away.

Start with specific areas of need, and then expand then iterate from there. This iterative approach allows businesses to test the waters with their tactics with a conservative risk.

Another major benefit of iterative execution is that it delivers speed. Since you successfully chunk the big transformation into many small executions, the time, money and risks involved in each execution are significantly smaller.

Speed plays a very big role in transformation success. It generates enthusiasm and momentum. Speed and iteration work hand in hand to dramatically reduce the risk of failure in digital transformations.

Employee Empowerment

A lot of companies fail to transform digitally because they forget to listen to their employees. They miss key insights and ideas from these employees that would make it better.

Research finds that when employees generate their idea about where digitization might support the business goals, success is likely to occur 1.4 times.

Giving workers the freedom and space allows them to showcase their potential and make relevant differences in the organization.

Another way of empowering employees for a successful digital transformation is rewarding those who do well. This does not mean merely giving them money, but giving them a platform that lets them shine is a valid approach. Recognize talents and push them.

Stay up to date with technology

In the volatile digital world that exists today, with the emergence of automation, artificial intelligence, robotics and so on, staying current with new technologies may sound like an impossible task. Some people think it is, but actually, it’s not. You can integrate it into the day-to-day routine of leaders.

Some of the activities you can incorporate into your enterprise are:

  • Partnership with Venture Capitalists

Venture Capitalists can connect the company with startups working in that domain, and the subsequent dialogue produced very useful insights and business relationships.

This ecosystem works in a way that VC/startups need feedback from users and enterprises to need the latest thinking from them.

  • Opening up your data to others via API

This is achievable by inviting software developers and other technology experts to access relevant data within your company to either solve a specific problem or develop new and creative ideas based on it. Access to data can be possible through secure APIs.

Companies like AT&T and FedEx have created such API-based developer networks.

  • Involving tech-savvy users to train others

Expert users outside the IT organization can be an effective extension of your digital powerhouse. Allowing them to train the members of the organization can quickly scale up operations using valuable experts.

Agile Culture

A highly responsive organization with the capability to quickly innovate and respond to an existing constant state of reinvention will always be one step closer to a win in digital transformation.

A perpetual digital transformation includes two major disciplines:

  • Customer-centric innovation

  • Establishing a shared common purpose

Let’s tackle each discipline for a clearer picture.

Customer Focus

A good example of how this discipline enabled a company to stay ahead is the company, Zappos. Zappos is best known for its customer-centric culture. Tony Hsieh, its CEO, often shares this interesting story. After a bar-hopping night with his clients, he and the clients found themselves back in the hotel room when one client happened to mention buying pizza, however, the hotel restaurant was already closed for the night. Tony then asked his clients to call Zappos. Following him, the client called Zappos and requested pizza. The customer service agent answered the call, though confused by the request, he checked open pizza restaurants nearby the hotel where the client is staying and helped place a delivery order for the pizza.

What Zappos realized is that a culture that puts clients first will always be more receptive to changes needed to maintain customer service.

Shared common purpose

To drive a successful digital transformation, your whole organization- from leadership function to customer service reps- should be moving in the same direction with a shared common purpose and unifying sense of urgency.

While young talent used to target big brands companies for work, younger generations now look for employers that fit with their principles and values.

An example of how sharing a common purpose drives an agile culture is SpaceX. They hire people with an appetite for exploration. Even though the company endured many public failures in space exploration in history, they still keep trying because, for them, passion is greater than pragmatism.

Continuous Measurement of Risks

Business process, technology, data and security risks, are of course, present in the attempt to transform your businesses digitally. That is why early warning signs must not be ignored.

Early warning signs from industry trends, customer feedback, business model, and company performance, all are areas to look at during strategic planning.

Early awareness of potential problems means that the right people can intervene to mitigate a problem before it becomes too severe. This results in a smoother, more efficient and more cost-effective way of implementing your digital transformation. Not identifying threats or opportunities for achieving business objectives can lead to missed opportunities. This can result in a loss of market share which is your worst nightmare.

Last thoughts

The real key to a successful digital transformation is discipline.

Technology is here and change models exist. The right discipline comes from leadership functions, as has always been proven in cases throughout history.

Organizations that are agile, and empowered with a common purpose stand to better pivot when the opportunity presents itself. Thriving in this fast-changing digital world is possible. If done right, the transformation eventually reduces operational costs.