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Building data lakes and providing the fishing rods needed for users to move from descriptive analytics to machine learning and prescriptive analytics is the most important step a company takes

Digital transformation is no longer just a dream, it’s an idea whose time has come. Every company competing in virtually every segment in India and abroad has embarked on a digital journey and while some are happy with the progress, many are still struggling to see the true benefits after the initial glamour of social, mobile and cloud applications fades away or becomes mainstream. The pressure points are many but probably the most common problem has been the fallacy of viewing digital as a technology pursuit rather than an allen compassing change in the value offered by the company to its stakeholders.

At many leadership sessions on digital and its implementations through Industry 4.0 in the manufacturing sector, one question comes up: With a few years of digital experimentation having been completed worldwide, is there now a gold standard methodology to be followed that guarantees success? Our work with corporations in the US, Europe, Africa and even India shows that there can never be a one-size-fits-all approach, but there certainly are some truisms that can be adopted to ensure that the goal to get digital transformation right the first or second time can be realized. Let us encapsulate this in a five-step approach.

The way to start is to make a conscious effort to re-imagine stakeholder journeys, by researching not just customers and employees who have begun to embrace digital in their lives but also the emerging millennial and digital natives whose comfort with technology and familiarity with multi-channel shopping experiences get them to demand the same ease of access and digital touchpoints from traditional businesses as they do from e-commerce unicorns. Design thinking workshops, hackathons within the organization and behavioral scientists mapping stakeholder aspirations and actions are all useful actions that can get the digital journey off to a good start.

Next is the redesign and reengineering of business processes around the new journey maps to ensure that adequate digital touch points are available to all stakeholders. Here digital strategists would do well to realize the symbiotic relationship between new technologies and new processes and ensure that it is stakeholder delight that determines the choice of new digitized processes rather than the push of new technologies for forcible adoption. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, voice bots are all exciting for the tech crowd but an organization seeking sustainable change must consider the validity of each idea and ensure it finds a logical place in the new platform and process architecture for the future.

Building data lakes and providing the fishing rods needed for users to move from descriptive analytics and historical business intelligence to machine learning and the high opportunity space of predictive and prescriptive analytics is arguably the most important step the company takes in its journey and is an area where every management and technology consultant will have a point of view. It is wise here to choose experience over hype and build a data management and analytics plan that will sustain over a long period. An important decision point here is also the positioning of the analytics function within the company and all factors — capabilities, authority and responsibility levels should be considered before arriving at a decision.

A key commitment area for every firm is the investment in skills and culture building. From the board of directors to the latest entrant, involvement in the digital processes and participating in new ideas and designs ensure long-term adoption of the new processes of the digitally accelerated firm. And this means not just general awareness building but the development of true digital champions transcending roles and hierarchical positions that spread the buzz of digital through the organization. Moving learning to digital platforms, enabling experimentation with new digital technologies and bringing high quality digital experiences to the workplace are all essential aspects of this.

Finally, it is important for every organization as it proceeds from the early stages of the journey to cruising in fifth gear to build an innovation ecosystem that constantly tracks new technologies and ideas that have relevance for the firm. One of the most successful Indian companies in the financial services space has a tracker on developments not just in Silicon Valley and Bengaluru but also other digital hotspots like Tel Aviv, Singapore and London and is willing to offer a proof of concept opportunity to young firms who benefit from the opportunity and add value to the thinking of the firm as it constantly seeks to gain competitive advantage.

The relative importance of the five elements mentioned here — customer journeys, process digitization, data and analytics, culture building and innovation ecosystem will vary according to industry but in little or large measure must be addressed by every organization. To use an old adage, Rome was not built in a day and the thoughtful phasing of these initiatives can truly determine the pace of the journey and the benefits that can accrue in every stage of the transformation. May we continue to live in interesting times and see digital success.

Photo credits : iStock.