How to Get Ahead of Digital Disruption

digital disruption

Digital disruption makes businesses more competitive for many reasons, some of which include a reduction in the need for physical assets and materials and increased efficiency and agility. For example, Nest eliminated the need to have both an HVAC and security monitoring system, smart phones took the place of calculators, alarm clocks and cameras. These innovations disrupt entire industries because they are the obvious convenient choice for consumers. They also provide agility through scalable platforms that make it easy for companies to add and offer new services.

Another example is Airbnb, which started as a short-term home rental company, providing an alternative to hotels. The company now offers sub-leasing and booking for dinner parties. With the agile and easy-to-use platform the company devised, they can easily expand their service offering using the same platform and processes. By the time regulators catch up with disruptive products/services like Uber and Airbnb, they are often too popular to supplant, which is why older companies stuck in their ways must evolve to keep up, lest they may go the way of the dodo. Many companies fail in their initial attempts to force digital transformation. Here are some reasons why and what your company can do about it.

Put People First

According to CIO, digital transformations fail because companies start with a “tech-first approach” without really thinking about the goals behind transformation. They try to incorporate technology into a legacy structure, which often doesn’t work. Rather than chasing down the latest tools and platforms, the key to successful transformation is putting people first – employees and customers.

Interview Customers and Employees

Encourage all teams in your organization to think about what customers might want or need in terms of convenience. Organize focus groups that consist of some of your most valued customers – new and long-term – to understand their needs and pain points. Likewise, encourage employees to share inefficiencies and pain points in their departments. What is needed to make things more efficient or to increase quality? The initial discussion should not involve technological details, only clear statements about problems and possible solutions.

Problem: “Customers say they don’t have enough time to bring their cars to our shops. If they did, they would come more frequently.”

Answer: “What if we could go to them?”

Only after your organization understands common needs and pain points should they move forward with finding the right tools and technologies to implement the solutions.

Get Buy-In

Another part of putting people first is getting their buy-in. There have been attempts at digital transformation where the c-suite wasn’t looped in until the middle of a project. Likewise, there are top-down attempts at change without involving staff. Both scenarios are problematic. If the c-suite doesn’t buy into an idea, funding could be cut mid-project. Lack of enthusiasm from leadership can also discourage employees. Likewise, if employees aren’t part of planning for major changes, they are less likely to embrace it. People are most resistant to change when they don’t understand the why behind it. If they are part of the solution from the beginning, they are more likely to participate.

Identify the Innovators

After a plan for digital transformation is agreed upon and buy-in is obtained around the organization, there will still be those who are resistant to change. However, once the plan is adopted, you must push forward without hesitation. Early adopters will emerge in the organization, and they will serve as a catalyst to change. Encourage their enthusiasm by having them lead projects and promote their ideas on company communication channels. As those who are resistant begin to see things working, they will also get behind it. Learn more about the five stages of consumer technology adoption, which are easily relatable to an organization’s digital transformation.

Re-Structure and Train Teams

Some older companies fail at innovation and digital transformation because their teams don’t have the right skills and because teams are not structured to promote speed and innovation. According to CIO, shipping technology giant Pitney Bowes made it a point several years ago to train their entire technology and innovation staff of 1200 people in key areas of emerging technologies: mobile, data analytics, machine learning, APIs, SaaS and UX. They organized curriculums in each area and required staff to select at least one of these key areas and commit to learning it for one year. The organization saw many benefits to the proactive training, including increased cross-communication. In addition to training, teams can be re-structured to include a project manager and an expert from each department needed to complete the project such as a UX designer, marketer, front end and back end engineer, rather than being siloed by departments.

Set Short-Term Goals

To prevent efforts from lagging or worse, dropping off, set short-term goals in addition to long-term goals that are specific and measurable. Seeing positive metrics every couple of months will motivate teams to push ahead, while negative metrics allow teams to adjust as needed to help ensure the transformation’s long-term success.

Learn how a hybrid infrastructure strategy can be helpful to companies in the midst of digital transformation.