As a quick Google search can show you, many companies tackling digital transformation processes are doomed to fail. Recent research by BCG speaks of 70% of them failing to achieve their digital transformation objectives, a huge figure in such a vital undertaking. Comparing that to the 80% of businesses that failed in digital transformation some 5 years ago, it becomes clear that companies still need to learn how to overcome the hurdles in the process.
It’s funny that such a high failure rate doesn’t discriminate between industries. A digital transformation process can fail whether you’re a manufacturing company, a healthcare provider, or a Java development services company. That’s even more true today when digital transformation gave way to digital acceleration processes: a faster tech implementation with a different approach to digitalization.
The breakneck speed at which businesses have to adopt technology in the days since the pandemic hit presents even more challenges to an already complex process. But that shouldn’t deter you from embarking on your own digital acceleration journey, especially because a successful one can provide you with an unbeatable competitive advantage.
Of course, you need to pay special attention to certain aspects of that journey for that to happen. Here are the 5 most crucial ones.
1. Leadership commitment
With so many statistics and surveys pointing out the benefits of digital acceleration, it’s highly likely that the C-level executives in your company are already buying into the idea of going through the process. However, it takes more than the suits “being convinced” to get a true digital acceleration process going.
You need commitment from the entire leadership spectrum in your company, which includes middle management. This may seem fairly evident, but you’d be surprised as to how many people think that they can impose a digital acceleration process from the top down. While it’s obvious that executives will make the decision to undertake digital acceleration, they need middle managers to buy into the idea. That’s because middle management is key to articulating the process.
Middle managers are often protective of how they do things, so they need to be convinced that digital acceleration and all the changes it brings will mean a significant boost to how they work. To do so, you need to explain your adoption plan thoroughly, describe the benefits in a concrete and straightforward manner, and illustrate how you’ll deal with the unavoidable changes to the team the process will imply.
Tasks to do:
- Involve middle management in the definition of the strategy surrounding digital acceleration
- Devise new career paths for people that might be displaced or in need of upskilling/reskilling
- Explain your goals and how you’ll measure them, underscoring the benefits for all teams
2. Integrated Strategy
Once you have the support of the entire management team, it’ll be time to sit down and define the roadmap for the digital acceleration process, including everyone’s input. Strategizing is always the first step towards success, so you need to take it as seriously as possible, aiming for a comprehensive plan that provides a vision and objectives for everyone to align themselves behind them.
It isn’t enough to define that vision and those objectives, though. If a strategy only describes generic or broad actions, then it’s doomed to fail. That’s why you need to take the time to transform that vision into actionable steps that take your entire business into account, including the people, the technology, and the overall corporate structure.
That’s naturally easier to do when you have all of your managers and leaders at the design table. They can bring their observations and suggestions and can point out specific processes and tasks you might be overlooking and that could be improved through digital acceleration.
Tasks to do:
- Define a unique purpose for the process for people to align behind it
- Create a thorough roadmap with specific actions for all the areas involved
- Aim for concrete business uses of the technologies you want to adopt
3. Clear, measurable goals
Any process worth tackling should always have clear and measurable goals for you to define whether it was worth it or not. Yet, a lot of companies going through digital acceleration processes fail to articulate them. Sure, you obviously want the benefits of digital acceleration, such as boosted productivity, increased agility, and streamlined processes but if you define them that broadly, you won’t be able to identify all of those things in real life.
So, you need to come up with a series of metrics that will measure the level of success of each step you take. This can take any form that fits your vision, from the number of invoices processed by the accounting team to the number of deliveries made by the supply management team. It doesn’t matter what kind of metrics you define, as long as they are specific to the process ahead and are linked to your overall strategy.
You’ll also need to define how you’ll monitor those metrics once the process is ongoing. Determining the data you’ll collect and how you’ll collect it is key, as you’ll need to be in total control of the digital acceleration process to see whether it’s going as planned or if you need to course-correct at any given time.
Tasks to do:
- Create specific metrics for all the tasks you’ll impact with the process
- Define the monitoring process to measure those metrics as you move forward
- Build an accountability plan that pinpoints people in charge of progress and roadblocks
4. Top Talent
A digital acceleration process is such a vast and complex endeavor that it’s highly likely that you don’t have all the skills you need for it in-house. Those skills go beyond the technical scope and into the soft skills terrain, mainly because a process that seeks to transform how you work from the ground up needs not just the ability to integrate tech tools but also to define processes, train people, and overcome unexpected obstacles.
In that way, it won’t be enough for you to partner with a software development company or a consulting firm with technical expertise. You need digital-first thinkers that can bring creativity, critical thinking, learning agility, resilience, and collaboration skills to the table. When you start to consider all this, you might see why it’s probable that you don’t have that kind of talent in-house (or, at least, not an entire team of professionals with those skills ready to lead your digital acceleration process).
What’s more – the team in charge of digital acceleration has to be led by outstanding leaders that not only have those skills but also a keen business sense that allows them to align all the process’ efforts with the strategic aspect of it all. It’s a hard mix to come by but not an impossible one in the current talent landscape.
Tasks to do:
- Assess your in-house skills and identify skill gaps
- Build digital acceleration teams to lead the process.
- Bring outside help if necessary to cover your gaps or strengthen your group
- Actively manage the digital acceleration team, rotating roles or changing experts as needed
5. Custom and scalable tech platforms
You might argue that digital acceleration is all about implementing technology and, while that certainly is the case, putting it that broadly might have you missing an important part of it: a true digital acceleration process is about implementing custom and scalable technologies. It isn’t the same, especially because you can only get the flexibility and resilience you need for today’s business world from customized and scalable solutions.
In other words, the transformation process should aim to replace your current processes (manual, semi-digital, or digital) with technology that leverages business-aligned principles like modularity, flexibility, and scalability. Basically, you need platforms that fit the way in which you (and your employees and industry) do things and not the other way around. What’s more, you need them to be plastic enough to grow with you.
Failing to aim for these types of solutions will surely render all your efforts useless, as implementing rigid or generic tech platforms will only provide short-lived benefits without tackling the deeper issue. Thus, your focus should be on digital solutions that can be constantly expanded and improved as per your needs – and even as the digital acceleration process itself moves forward.
Tasks to do:
- Consider the best development practices to come up with customized and scalable solutions
- Aim for a software architecture that allows your infrastructure to grow quickly
- Develop solutions that can be updated as frequently as needed
- Think of your tech solutions as fitting your business needs and not the other way around
Calibrating for success
Considering the 5 factors above and acting consequently can pave the way for a successful digital acceleration. Of course, tackling each and every one of these implies more than what I’ve gone through here. Each of these aspects needs thorough consideration on your part to clearly define the actionable steps you’ll need to take to tackle them.
It might seem like the whole digital acceleration process is asking a lot of your time and resources to get it right (and that’s precisely what happens). But if you commit yourself and your team to these factors and put the work in, you’ll be a part of that 30% that’s already seeing the benefits of digitally accelerating their businesses.