Digital Technology: The Connector and Game-changer

In a world filled with so many technological innovations, it seems unfathomable that a virus (COVID-19), invisible to the eye, would cause so much havoc and destruction, literally bringing economies across the world to a sudden halt.

Countries across the world have been locked down for months and Digital communications have come to the fore with virtual meetings, E-commerce, E-communications (Email, Social Media, Television, etc.) becoming the primary way to connect. 

Unexpectedly, millions of people are finding themselves communicating via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual meetings and collaboration tools.  Large E-commerce companies are overwhelmed, and many small businesses are scrambling to have their e-commerce channels up.

We have been forcefully thrown into a fast-tracked digital economy with technology as the connector holding the world together at this time and enabling us to connect and exchange information.

This is a wake-up call for many organizations. Whether consciously or unconsciously, organizations are on some digital journey, and than ever before, they must consider their digital state and what stage they are on their digital journey.

Some have been deliberate, leveraging technology to drive value and remain competitive while playing in new innovative spaces. Others have moved rather slowly with no clear path or strategy to guarantee them wins in these times; deliberate steps need to be taken to achieve goals, leverage technology maximally and seize opportunities especially at this time.

It has been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. In the same vein, failing to integrate technology tools is a recipe for lagging and a precursor to extinction in a highly competitive and disruptive market.

The importance of making technology work for one’s needs cannot be overemphasized; there needs to be clarity in the direction of organizational growth with clearly defined goals which should take leveraging technology into cognizant.

Digital Transformation in its simplest form is the continuous process of integrating digital technology across an organization to deliver value to both its customers, the organization, and other key stakeholders.  It is a process that gradually transforms the organization, both in its products, services, customer experience, corporate culture, and other key parameters. It requires a paradigm shift from the old to the new.

In the past, the IT department’s focus was on delivering efficiency in operational processes and improving the bottom line. However, with all the new technologies (Big Data, IoT, Block Chain, AI etc.) and smart devices, the focus has moved beyond efficiency to delivering value. 

If one considers that the Technology giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and their impact in the world, then it becomes even clearer that technology is the engine of today’s world and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) has taken us into a new dimension of doing business.

Digital Transformation means different things to different people depending on the industry, organization, business unit, and people among other factors. It is like looking at an elephant and seeing it from different perspectives, a unique journey for each organization.

There tends to be a misconception that Digital Transformation is all about engaging the customer with a compelling and engaging online presence. However, it is much more than this.

There are three primary sides to Digital Transformation: The Internal Processes, the external processes (customer-facing/ supplier /external stakeholders) and the Products / Services. One needs to be able to derive value in operations, develop innovative products and services and strive for excellent customer experiences

In embarking on a Digital Transformation Journey, questions one needs to consider are:

  1. Where are we on our Digital journey?
  2. What systems do we have in place?
  3. What tools are we using now?
  4. How can we use technology to derive more business value?
  5. Are there new innovative or enhanced products we could take to the market?
  6. How can we engage our customers better and make their experience seamless and more pleasant?
  7. What is our competition doing?

In determining the organization’s strategy, technology should be taken into consideration and the Technology’s department leadership needs to be part of the process. This has to be a collaborative effort that will have the buy-in and be led by organizational leaders.  

Achieving success will require a projectized holistic approach, carrying the different business units along and meeting needs as required while ensuring that goals are met.

In creating value, one must think out of the box and set up cross-functional, high performing agile teams that will ask the right questions.

To successfully navigate the Digital Transformation journey, the organization will need to consider the following:

  1. Commit to wanting to use technology to take the organization to a new level of success. This commitment has to come from leadership
  2. Decide what value you want to deliver – in line with the Corporate vision, goals and objectives. Technology cannot be used just for the sake of using it or because it is trending. It needs to deliver specific value
  3. Understand where you are in your Digital Journey. There needs to be an Assessment of where you are. You need to ask questions like:  are the IT investments delivering value? Are there applications, infrastructure and tools that should be retired or moved to the cloud?
  4. Be creative and innovative and explore using technology to improve your products or create a new market.  Research what competition is doing, especially startups and the risk of being disrupted.
  5. Explore how you can engage your customers better and make their experience seamless and more pleasant.

Based on the outcome of the above exercise, a Digital Strategy plan and a Road Map can be developed. A suitable Digital Transformation framework should also be identified as this will be used for implementation.  The choice of a framework will depend on several factors including the organization, the industry and the objective of the transformational effort.

As organizations begin to seek the way forward, defining where they are, their desired playing field, and a plan to get there is crucial.  Developing and implementing a practical Digital Transformation plan will set one on the right path and ultimately towards becoming more competitive in an increasingly digital world. 

Since the COVID-19 crisis has suddenly transitioned many organizations into the Digital Space, it has become imperative to integrate the right digital technologies into one’s business so that one will not only survive in these turbulent times but transform into an organization set to excel in the 4IR era.