I recently attended an event with more than 1,300 delegates from mostly asset-intensive industries and when they were asked how many were involved in digital transformation projects, more than 80% of the room raised their hands. Digital transformation is a key strategic initiative for many organizations, as this Gartner survey highlights. Executives at these organizations realize that digitalization is not an option, but the way to survive and thrive in the years to come. The same Gartner survey explains, "CIOs across most industries are struggling to move from experimentation to scaling their digital business initiatives." I often find that business leaders I talk to are confused about the difference between digitizing and transforming business and processes.
There may have been a time when an organization's automation strategy was defined primarily by siloed, ad hoc, and task-based workflows. Now, however, the most effective and impactful initiatives require business leaders to ask bigger, more challenging questions beyond simply what tasks can be automated and the ROI on cost reduction. Here is how to question everything you know about your business processes. Successful digital transformation in today's landscape necessitates leaders having a better picture of how things are working interconnectedly and how users are truly operating within the process boundaries to be enhanced and improved universally to improve customer outcomes. True digital transformation does not simply digitize analog processes.
Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Kate Leggett blogged the emergence of what she calls "digital-first customer service solutions." These types of solutions are characterized as delivering automated interactions over digital channels. She contrasts these with what she calls traditional customer service solutions that offer workflow-based inquiries, case management, and guidance for customer service agents. Diverse sales models and the changing needs of both customers and the business means most companies will find themselves adopting a mix of both. And while these solutions might seem different, they share a key similarity: a dependence on workflow and automation, some of the fundamental building blocks in digital transformation.
With its swift and dramatic impact on the global economy and the workforce that fuels it, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent an unequivocal message to enterprises around the world: Digital transformation is no longer a goal; it's an imperative. Fortunately, digital transformation already is underway at many corporations. In fact, a 2018 survey by Tech Pro Research revealed that 70% of companies either have already put a digital transformation strategy in place or are in the process of doing so. Organizations' appetite for digital transformation is evident at the highest echelons: As of 2019, 21% of the world's largest 2,500 public companies had designated a chief digital officer (CDO) or equivalent, according to PwC Strategy&. But the word "transformation" is illusory.
One question comes up fairly often, when executives discuss their business transformation: "What is the key to success for a digital transformation strategy?" When I discussed this with senior leaders to start with defining a vision on why a transformation is a great starting point. It's mandatory to have a clear perspective on why a transformation is needed. It might vary from optimizing costs to driving new innovations. People need to understand, why a company is starting with a change.