For more than a decade, companies have been urged to “digitize” or risk being left behind. While many accept this as a reality, we contend that the precept is confusing at best and unclear at worst for those who wish to act.
Too often, information about the ‘digital revolution’ and its impact on businesses comes from analysts, design offices and the media, but little is heard in the workplace, from business leaders grappling with it. the new realities brought about by digital technology on a daily basis. based. It is to discover their truths that we launched a study to examine the digital reality in today’s world of work. Our goal was to understand the implication of digital technologies for companies, how they fit into organizations, what managers and their boards expect from digital and how it really changes the way business is done.
The conclusions, published in the report The real impact of digital – Seen from the “Virtual Coalface”, were surprising and challenged our own perceptions.
“Digital” no longer has a universal meaning today
Of the 1,160 people surveyed – managers, executives and board members from a wide range of organizations, sectors, functions and regions – all were engaged in digital initiatives.
However, we were amazed at how much the digital sense differed between organizations. It’s not without a challenge that we’ve grouped their digital initiatives into 20 categories. We have concluded that the number of business issues addressed by digital is both vast and varied.
The most cited reasons for engaging in digital initiatives were to improve customer engagement and increase efficiency; other initiatives mainly affected marketing, sales and business processes. The complexity of the engagement was also vast. While some companies were indeed “defining industry 4.0”, others were still focused on “trying to get all their staff to send emails”.
A grassroots approach
The commitment of companies to digital is often driven, not by an overarching digital strategy, but by a multiplicity of business needs and aspirations that are both external and internal to the company. In the majority of cases, these initiatives are born at a local level where digital is applied to achieve specific business goals, some of which are not achievable until innovation in digital technologies.
Digital initiatives are typically initiated and managed by functional areas within a company. While they can sometimes cut across different functions, digital initiatives are rarely company-wide or top-commissioned. In fact, in many cases, senior management or board members were unaware that initiatives were underway.
Digital success is not primarily about technology
While more than a third of those surveyed said their top digital initiative had met or exceeded expectations, up to 60% said it was too early to tell.
Surprisingly, of those who said they were successful, few (just 12%) attributed it to the right technology. It seems that while digital is often positioned as a technology, it is overall the combination of right vision, effective leadership and a supportive culture that makes the difference between success and success. ‘failure. Successful digital initiatives typically start with understanding how digital is changing the business environment and then continue by defining how the organization, its products and services, as well as its business model, can take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital.
Digital is a journey without a clear destination
For the majority of the organizations we interviewed, digital is a journey of discovery with no clear destination. Companies seem to be finding their own digital path, navigating through their individual challenges and distinct opportunities. The question to ask is therefore not “How can I digitally transform my business?” but rather “How can I gain a competitive advantage in a digital world and how can emerging technologies in this world help me be successful?” “
No one-size-fits-all approach
There is no “one size fits all” or right way to go digital, and no enterprise digital solution has emerged to compare. This then raises the fundamental question of knowing whether a unique form will indeed emerge around which organizations are grouped, or, at the other extreme, whether digital creates the opportunity for a real personalization of the offer, of the model. economic and process of a business, potentially in as many digital forms as there are organizations.
Ten recommendations to guide management in the digital world
The results formed the basis of ten recommendations for managers, executives and board members seeking to effectively manage digital within their organization.
# 1. Clarify what you mean by digital in the context of your business and business goals, and challenge the way media and experts promote digital.
# 2. Take ownership of your digital journey and gain competitive advantage by properly defining how digital technology should be used to shape your organization and personalize your products and services.
# 3. Make digital everyone’s business by ensuring digital understanding across the organization, from the board members down.
# 4. Explore in depth the opportunities offered by digital technology before defining and committing to a given digital solution or strategy.
# 5. Beware of “expert advice” in the digital space, as it usually comes with expert biases.
# 6. Engage the board in digital, especially in the case of digital transformation and the business model, as these initiatives will impact the entire organization and are inextricably linked to the success of the organization.
# 7. Make people, management and culture the main drivers of digital technology.
# 8. Measure the impact of digital and the role it plays in achieving your business objectives.
# 9. Don’t feel the need to create an overarching digital strategy – you might not need it.
#ten. Manage the impact of digital initiatives across the organization, as even basic adjustments may require large-scale changes.
Digital technology is evolving rapidly, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. It will continue to do so and at even greater speed. To be competitive, companies must first understand what business means in the digital age in general, then its deep involvement in the organization, the way it is managed and finally how it shapes and changes the organization. value creation of a company.
When considering the investments to be made and the capacities to be developed, managers, executives and boards of directors must take into account that digital technology offers rich opportunities for innovation and distinction, unavailable until now. However, harnessing it will take exploration, understanding, and insight.
In short, beware of the “promised golden path to digital paradise”, but do not ignore the possibilities offered by innovation in digital technologies.
Liri Andersson is the founder of this fluid world; a business and marketing consultancy store that enables Fortune 500 organizations to understand, navigate and commercially exploit the changing business and marketing environment.
Ludo Van der Heyden is Full Professor of Corporate Governance and Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD. He is co-director of the International Directors and “Creating Value for Owners and Directors” program and lectures on governance, leadership and business model innovation.