by Pearl Zhu

5 common but erroneous assumptions about digital transformation

Sep 19, 2018
Digital TransformationIT LeadershipTechnology Industry

Digital transformation is worth its weight because of its high impact on optimizing business performance, unleashing collective potential and driving the business’s long-term prosperity.

Embracing digital is inevitable as that is now part of the reality. However, taking a journey of digitalization is a bumpy road with many ups and downs. It could be misled because of the wrong focus, the wrong assumptions, the wrong ends, or the wrong means. It is important to clarify the myth and misconception in order to lead change and drive digital transformation seamlessly.

1. Digitalization is not equal to digital technology

Digitalization is not just about one-dimensional technology adoption; it has to stretch out in every business dimension with people at the center of its focus and make organizations more integrated, energetic, reliable, flexible, nimbler and faster. It requires both digital leaders and professionals to rethink how things are done in the business, and how to improve the business performance and speed.

The shift to digital cuts across sectors, geographies and leadership roles. It is now spreading rapidly to enable organizations of all shapes and sizes to reinvent themselves by harnessing cross-functional collaboration and fostering innovation.

In order to survive and thrive amid rapid changes, companies must reclaim the right balance of standardization and innovation, process and flexibility, stability and change, competition and collaboration, etc.

Digitalization represents the next stage of business maturity, which is not only about technical excellence or process efficiency, it’s also about being able to get all the way around the task and rethink the alternatives to solve today’s complex problems and rejuvenate the business brand. It is important to harmonize a hyperconnected and interactive digital ecosystem in which the business can grow organically, and people can unleash their potential confidently.

2. Digitalization is not a one-time change initiative or spontaneous business activities

Doing digital is perhaps about playing some cool gadgets or taking a few spontaneous activities but being digital is the fundamental shift from mindsets to behaviors. It takes the long-term business commitment and discipline to stay focused on the real priorities of the business instead of being distracted by what seems to be more urgent on any given day.

Digitalization has to expand in every dimension of the organization with a structural approach. Thus, performing an organizational change impact assessment is a very important step to understand the ‘current state’ factors in digital transformation. Then, determine what the impact, risks, and challenges of any proposed changes are.

The digital transformation journey is where the juice is in the organization, not just the destination. Those who lack vision are perhaps incentivized incorrectly to focus only on the short-term stability. Effective digital leaders must not only have the comprehensive digital roadmap but also track the journey along the way.

Dealing with the challenge of digital transformation requires accelerated digital mindsets, leverages multidisciplinary knowledge, takes end-to-end responses, and makes change as an ongoing business competency and an iterative digital continuum.

3. Digital strategy is not implemented by taking linear steps

There is no good strategy without an execution and there is no good execution of a bad strategy. The challenge is that the environment changes so fast nowadays that your strategy must be very flexible. Therefore, you need to have a strategy before execution, but it must be a dynamic strategy – easy to share, and concise to follow.

The digital strategy management is a set of living, synchronized and iterative processes to make continuous adjustments and deliveries. Strategy-execution synchronization can lead the smooth business alignment process of ensuring all organizational actions are directed toward achieving common strategic goals and objectives.

Strategy-execution synchronization can also catalyze the flow of the right information to the right people at the right time to coordinate and execute strategies, handle tactics, and manage risks. This means to translate the business strategy into operational terms aligning the organization to create synergies in making the strategy everyone’s everyday job and a continual process mobilizing change through cross-functional collaboration and strategic partnership.

4. Digitalization is not just about applying some best practices in the industry

Principles, processes, practices, performance and potential, etc., are all important perspectives of running a highly mature digital business. It is important to leverage a well-developed digital framework which provides guidelines, checklists, standards, processes, practices, tools and building blocks to define and develop business competencies in order to manage the holistic digital transformation.

Digital exploration is all about planning, designing, developing, operating, consolidating, integrating, securing, modernizing, optimizing, collaborating, innovating, balancing, investing and orchestrating. Before developing digital practices, it’s important to set updated digital rules which are not some out-of-date cliché or overly rigid processes to stifle innovation. Instead, they are based on a set of digital principles behind the methodologies, and they help to shape the digital mindsets behind behaviors and actions.

By following the digital principles and rules, the business lifecycle could be viewed as resulting in emergent means of reorganizing structures, refocusing business priorities, rebalancing resources, and redirecting people to understand the whole, its components, the specific interaction among them, and its interactions with external systems, etc, in order to ultimately achieve the seamless digital flow and high-level business maturity.

5. Digital transformation is not just about improving the business performance for the short-term

You need to take a hybrid model for both accelerating organizational performance and unlocking business potential. Performance keeps the lights on, but potential leads the business up to the next level of the organizational growth. Organizations need to take a hybrid model to “run, grow, and transform” their business.

Managing digital performance and improving business achievement as an iterative continuum means setting metrics, adjusting plans, measuring performance and understanding business results dynamically. Business potential includes the ability to perform in the future and that’s what really matters.

Sometimes, you even need to leverage all tradeoffs, retreat today’s performance a step back in order to accelerate the future performance a few steps ahead. Performance-based management requires that the measurement and communication of performance are an integral part of an ongoing process and not an annual, quarterly, or monthly event. It’s important to align the strategic level of measurement with the operational level metrics and manage business performance as an iterative management continuum.

Stop making wrong assumptions and put people at the center of changes. Digital transformation is worth its weight because of its high impact on optimizing the organizational performance, unleashing collective potential and driving the business’s long-term prosperity.

Digital businesses become more dynamic and hyperconnected, clarifying myths and misconceptions for riding learning and change curves is particularly important for improving business responsiveness, increasing the speed of digitalization and achieving the high level of the organizational maturity.