When thinking about digital transformation, it’s easy to get swept up in thinking about the big, flashy gadgets and trends. Honestly, I understand why. Acronyms like AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) are woven into dialogue in the same frequency at major, global business forums as they are in the innovation centers of Silicon Valley and events like Mobile World Congress. Not only are these trends raising the expectations employees and customers have for our businesses, but they’re seated front row center in just about every CEO’s strategic agenda. We’re in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. (Hint: You actually don’t need to be.)
If you maintain a reactive outlook on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s impossible to think of a way to manage it – it’s moving too fast. According to analysis from PwC, Fourth Industrial Revolution investments totaled $646 billion from 2012-2018, and continue to rise. The lines between humans and technology are blurring within each department of our organizations at record speed. Still, one of the hardest things to keep up with are the expectations of others. Which is why the best way to approach 4IR is to simplify it so you can anticipate its benefits proactively for your business. And one of the best ways to simplify it is to remember why we’re really all in this game to begin with: Digital transformation, at its core, is about helping our businesses spark new growth, relevance and viability into the future.
Business transformation used to be a once in a generation event. Today, the capacity to change has to be institutionalized. So, what does that mean in a world in which every organization is seeking to become a digital organization? Not every business exists to invent the next steam engine, wheel, computer, smartphone or any other technological advancement that changed the world as we know it. Today, technology has the ability to make or break every organization, regardless of its reason for being. Why? Because technology is no longer defined by a gadget in your hand. It defines the experience and relationship you have with an organization, and it is a key asset to helping your business solve your stakeholders’ problems. Most importantly, it’s critical to becoming fit for growth amid the challenges and market pressures businesses are facing today.
The decisions business leaders make today need to remain laser focused on that goal – future growth. And the best ways to keep that goal in your windshield are rooted in the following:
Reinvesting. In one way or another, just about every client conversation I have these days reinforces that business leaders continue to utilize and adopt technology to save time and money. This is where many businesses stop. When dollars are saved, boxes are checked. This is a mistake.
The question really isn’t about how much time, money or hours you’re saving, but what you’re doing with the time you freed up, the money you saved or the workable hours that were scaled back. Reinvesting in upskilling and tools in partnership with the employees who hold your organization’s institutional knowledge can fuel future growth. There’s no endgame in digital transformation, which means the learning must remain constant. Make sure the investments never stop.
Refreshing. PwC’s 2019 CEO Survey saw a record jump in pessimism, with nearly 30% of CEOs projecting a decline in global economic growth. Still, the survey found that US business leaders are overwhelmingly positive about their own organic growth; 91% are still either somewhat or very confident that their companies will continue to grow over the next 12 months. This is great news in the world of 4IR because that means the capacity your organization has to support double-digit growth is already right under your own roof. View these technologies as an opportunity to refresh your underlying processes and the ways in which your businesses operate.
This means looking at every nook and cranny of your organization – not to just add technology for technology’s sake, but in incorporating it into your entire business model and all its processes seamlessly so that you can remain agile and adapt to the changes that come. Go deeper than what’s visible to the outside world. Think through the totality of your operations, from your HR function and supply chain, to your employees’ in-office and mobile experiences. Align yourself with those who can guide the decision-making. Limiting the scope of your digital transformation journey is the quickest way to lose its efficacy.
Reflecting. The importance of top-down leadership in any journey of digital transformation can’t be underscored. But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how well you communicate your intentions to be a digital organization or how much you plan to be one if the reality doesn’t meet the expectations of your stakeholders. Your organization becomes a digital organization when your customers and employees say it is. Step in their shoes and experience your business through their eyes. Better yet, help them upskill and provide platforms for them to create new processes for you. In doing so, you’re more likely to find new opportunities to reinvest in your business and refresh how technology can fuel new growth.
Ultimately, as a business leader, you can’t lose sight of what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is really about. You must lean on the basics of your business as a way to proactively approach it. If you don’t, it will be virtually impossible to anticipate, react to, or adapt to the changing world around us, and grow your business into the future. From where I sit, the greatest opportunity 4IR presents is the ability for everyone throughout your organization to mobilize around it. No matter your level, you have the opportunity to demonstrate how digitization can re-imagine your day-to-day. Embracing the change rather than feeling overwhelmed by it will result in a better experience for all.
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