This article is the fourth and final part of a series on the technological challenges business owners face in 2018. In past articles, we’ve looked at cybersecurity measures, getting ahead of the technology skills shortage, and building agility into processes. Today we’ll look at how businesses can incorporate smart processes with technological solutions, or to put it simply: digital transformation.
In order to improve operations and deliver more value to customers, businesses need to effectively integrate the right technologies. All too often, company leaders are lulled into thinking they can maintain the status quo and continue to perform well. But recent history is full of examples of companies that fell into this mindset; by the time they finally responded, it was too late.
Times have changed. The age of digital transformation rewards early adopters (and a few super-fast followers), leaving others to play catch-up and struggle to survive.
A recent cautionary tale
For an example of how digital transformation affects businesses, let’s look at the retail industry. Years ago, local family-owned retail stores dominated most of the market. Then Walmart came along; their “just in time” inventory system facilitated lower prices and an ever-growing network of stores. They looked unstoppable… but along came Amazon. Though at first it seemed like just an online bookstore, Amazon had ambitions of expansion and a well-thought-out digital transformation plan.
As a result, the once-dominant Walmart has been significantly impacted, and has closed stores across the country. In this instance, Walmart has been relegated to the role of “superfast follower.” In an effort to compete, Walmart purchased online retail startup Jet.com and revamped their leadership team to fast-track their plans to catch up to Amazon.
Amazon’s digital transformation has changed the way the retail industry works, and they’ve left big-box retail stores struggling to stay above water. All it takes is a look around the empty shopping malls and shuttered outlet malls to see the impact of digital transformation on the retail industry as a whole.
How to stay ahead
Which role will your business play: the digital transformation early adopter, or the straggler? What should you do now to make sure you are in the right market position?
The following recommendations should help you get on the right track:
Identify and acquire the required resources
To win the digital transformation game, you need to have the right tools and team for success. Assess your ability to execute your digital plan with the resources you currently have. Typically, the technological solutions that brought you to this point won’t be the same ones that will drive your future success.
You also need to determine whether your current internal resources can continue to run the day-to-day aspects of the business while effectively driving your digital transformation. Engage a seasoned advisor who can provide an unbiased review of your current systems, identify opportunities, and drive timely execution. Digital transformation is a new concept for most people, and many companies struggle to figure it out on their own. The right advisor can help your company avoid missteps on the road to a timely and successful outcome.
The Right Plan
Some companies mistakenly think that implementing a new ERP, CRM, or financial system is the extent of digital transformation. While those tools may be a piece of the overall plan, they’re far from the full potential a digital transformation can offer. True transformation involves internal processes, customer experience, delivery of services and products— essentially the full continuum of your business. Make sure your digital transformation leaders understand the difference and are prepared to serve as change catalysts. That means challenging traditional thinking and identifying needs, gaps, and opportunities.
Act and execute like your future is counting on it… because it is. Amazon didn’t gain their advantage in the retail industry by merely crafting a great plan; they also executed the plan in a more timely and more effective manner than their competitors. Innovation and business opportunities have a window of opportunity. Take action now, start fast, and execute to win this race.