Digitalization, what for?
Perhaps the story of waking up one morning and deciding we are going to get in shape sounds familiar. We go to a shop (probably online) and buy our weights, some sort of fitness equipment, or maybe even a bicycle. We watch tutorials on YouTube and buy a workout program to get started with the routine. On the next day, now geared up, feeling athletic, and grooving to our best music, we set about executing the plan. At the end of the first day, we are proud and exhilarated to know that we are athletes, that we are on the road to fitness, and perhaps, why not, to sign up for a local competition or race. It feels good, doesn’t it? As time goes by and after a few days we realize that we can’t make the time it takes to get in shape, we put it off, we don’t change our routines, the machines stop working, the weights get rusty, the subscription to the program or software expires and we go back to being the same person we were when we started “the project”. The lesson of the story is that change is relatively easy, the hard part is maintaining the change.
The same happens in organizations. When companies decide to “go digital”, they decide to change, they buy their hardware and software or applications and make a plan. They assemble their communication and management tools. They even train their staff to adapt to change. They may also establish processes and procedures on some occasions. This is an incipient digital transformation. The seed of one. What happens then?
It is clear to all of us that digitalization differs greatly from digital transformation. In both cases, it is essential to think in terms of change management, not just the transition to change. When we set out to digitalize our company, we are not changing reality, we are changing the scenario of that reality (the same as with our weights and fitness programs). The reality is day-to-day operations, sustainability over time, and operational viability. All these aspects are, or at least should be, subordinate to the general business plan, to the company’s mission and vision, and to its very essence.
It is clear to all of us that digitalization differs greatly from digital transformation. In both cases, it is essential to think in terms of change management, not just the transition to change.
If a change is to be sustainable over time, in addition to the hardware and software, we should think about how we are going to maintain the change over time, so that it becomes the new operating and management standard. This involves:
Understanding: Why are we initiating a change? What would happen if we don’t? Defining the impact of the change in real and quantifiable terms helps to understand why it is necessary to undertake it.
Destination: Where are we going? If we don’t know where we are going, we can end up anywhere. Having a clear picture of the new situation and the new standard will help define progress and success.
Strategy: Digital transformation (and its original version, digitization) cannot be a strategy per se; it must support an existing strategy that responds to the essence of the company we mentioned.
Plan: A strategy that lacks a plan of execution is just wishful thinking. It will never become a part of reality.
Work: Staying true to the plan is essential for monitoring progress.
Measuring and optimizing: Adjustments will be necessary and beneficial when they are aimed at improving results.
Visibility: Digitalization and digital transformation processes usually involve the entire organization. The entire organization must be aware of the progress and impact of the change.
Sustainability: If the change fails to be sustained over time and becomes the new standard, we have not really made the change. Much like our weights and training plans, it will become obsolete and the situation (reality) will return to what it was before we embarked on the journey.
However, uncertainty arises from the processes of change. Especially if one has no sense of purpose. Why do we change? Urgent or not, all changes are designed to generate a new situation differing from the existing one. In that sense, they represent a crisis: an unstable situation between two stable situations. Therefore, it is essential to know what the desired new stable situation is, the new reality that we want to engender with the change. This is where the “what for” takes on a special dimension. For businesses, the “what for” has been transforming from a culture of profit to a culture of impact. Moving from customer-centricity to value generation (without ever neglecting the customer)
Within the marketing and communication world, LlYC’s recent Deep Digital Journey study conducted in collaboration with ROI Marketing Institute has revealed that there are two major gaps in companies:
1 – An absence of digital transformation oriented to business and value generation.
2 – An absence of in-depth knowledge about customers’ expectations and the factors relevant to their purchasing decisions.
These two gaps highlight the lack of management models with a clear vision of the desired transformation (of change), and also relevant metrics to verify that this transformation is achieved. They also highlight the lack of visibility of the true economic impact and the presence of biases in planning and assessment.
The what for of digitalization is like the motivation to be fit. Unless we have a clear purpose, a clear and quantifiable image of how we want to be and, above all, how to maintain ourselves in this new reality, the processes of transformation and change will not take place and we will only be buying machines and tools that, sooner rather than later, will end up in obsolescence.
The what for of digitalization is like the motivation to be fit. Unless we have a clear purpose, a clear and quantifiable image of how we want to be and, above all, how to maintain ourselves in this new reality, the processes of transformation and change will not take place.