4 keys to success and 5 mistakes to avoid in digital transformation
When it comes to digital transformation, you have to be revolutionary and know how to think. The 10X Rule is the path to success, explains Grant Cardone, in his eponymous book. To succeed, you have to thing 10 times bigger, fix objectives that are ambitious and also give you ten times the ability to succeed. Little goals can only lead to little successes.
That is real digital transformation. Let me explain my vision.
Digital transformation is a break point - the biggest mistake is to just keep on doing as beforeClick To Tweet
At a time when digital transformation is on everyone’s lips, you cannot talk strategically without exploring the importance that digital has in business. Digital is used to sell, to expand businesses, to communicate with customers … in a nutshell, to do business better.
It is a tool that lets us multiply our results 10X– or even 100X or 1000X. Without it, you will have only “digitized” – to put it another way, at best, you will have automated your existing processes, and, at worst, introduced technology for the sake of it, where it adds nothing, just because it is in vogue.
What, in my opinion, are the main characteristics of a really successful digital strategy?
Characteristic n°1 : The best approach is based on a culture of results.
It is the results in the medium and long term that let you understand if your strategy is good. If you have this ‘obsession about results’, then your strategy will be a success. We implement a digital strategy so as to obtain better business results, that is to say concrete, tangible results for the company: financial, commercial, but also in the broader sense of the results in terms of image, results in terms of innovation. The improvement must really be measurable and remarkable.Digital is a tool that lets us multiply our results 10X – or even 100X or 1000X (tweet this)Click To Tweet
Characteristic n° 2 : A digital strategy is a success when it is well executed and it gives us the expected results.
The results must be seen in the real world. These results should not just be paid lip service. They are to be tracked, measured, and benchmarked against each other. Often, companies think more about the strategy itself than about its application. Certainly, designing a good digital strategy is a real challenge, but first we have to think about its relevance and efficiency. A digital strategy must really serve the company. It must be able to benefit from it, to come out stronger. It should enable the company to anticipate changes, to seize new opportunities. It cannot just be about making changes at the margins.
Characteristic n°3 : A solid digital strategy must also include a strategy for a speedy and effective execution.
One of our clients, big in the food sector, decided to make a significant investment in its digital strategy. They were worried that while the strategy was good, as had happened before, it was not being effectively deployed in each of its markets. With our support and our platform, we were able to align each country they operated in with their new strategy in a matter of months. It was this speed of execution which made it possible for them to create momentum, to mobilize the troops and, most importantly, to outsmart the competition.The digital revolution is to innovation what the printing revolution was to the spread of knowledgeClick To Tweet
Characteristic n°4 : Finally, an effective strategy must include creativity and innovation.
The digital revolution is to innovation what the printing revolution was to the spread of knowledge : an incredible innovation accelerator. Those who succeed in this brave new world are not necessarily the biggest but the quickest and the more innovative. When there is not enough innovation, or if the innovations do not create sufficient value, the strategy is not a good one.
With these crucial points in mind, here are the most common pitfalls that we have encountered in the real world?
Pitfall n°1 : Digital transformation a break point,
the biggest mistake is to just keep on doing as before.
Too few companies think outside the box : They expect a different result but they keep doing the same things. Believing that they have initiated a real digital strategy, these companies keep the same habits, the same cultures, the same ways of making decisions and just apply them to new contexts that would otherwise require them to adapt and do things in a different way.
However, to get new results, you have to use new methods. For example, one of our clients launched a marketplace a few years ago. It had chosen as its solution provider a tried and tested leader of the market. But after 2 years, 3 million euros of investment and 20 people dedicated to the project, its marketplace was still not live.
So we took over the project, and got its marketplace up and running for just 300,000€, in less than 6 months and with a team of 6 people. The customer was finally able to test their new business model. Whenever our clients impose their internal standards and ways of working on us, it goes against the ways of business and is detrimental to their success. If it is serious about success, it has to change its way of working.
Conversely, I knew a businessman who wanted to accelerate his Go to Market in order to serve his customers faster. At the same time as wanting this acceleration, he had to work with the internal IT systems which, because of their sheer size, contributed in a big way to the problem. As a result, it caused huge problems every day. You only get a radical result if you are willing to match it with a radical way of working.
Pitfall n°2 : Digital transformation digital is strategic, to make it your second or third priority is a fatal error.
In a company, everyone claims to be a part of the digital transformation that is at the heart of the digital strategy. But the reality is that, often, day-to-day business is put ahead everything.
As a result, medium- and long-term projects designed to create value for businesses do not have the quality of execution they deserve. Similarly, we still see far too many organizations where ideas fire off in all directions with no rational plan, without any defined objectives or context.
Here again you have to add a bit of radicality to your vision. If your digital transformation is strategic, it must be made the Number 1 priority to the exclusion of everything else.
Pitfall n°3 : Losing sight of the reason for your initiatives is a fatal mistake.
Everyone knows Start With Why, the famous video of Simon Sinek. Yet few actually apply its ideas. It is fundamental to know and remember Why we are launching digital innovation initiatives.
It may seem obvious but this pitfall is probably the most common. Why will this initiative lead me – or my business – to 10X? Is it crucial? It is a priority? It is fundamental? Will my clients / partners / employees be the first beneficiaries? Will these initiatives materialize quickly and bring real change? Or are they just simple optimizations of what we do now?
By not answering these essential questions about the meaning of digital innovation, you will lose the reason for what you are doing, and all these beautiful innovations will quickly become a cost center rather than a vector of results.While technology is a great tool, it is never an end in itselfClick To Tweet
Pitfall n°4 : learn from your failures or learn to live with failure
When it comes to innovation, making mistakes is inevitable. As Scott Berkun explains in The Myths of Innovation, no one knows the history of innovation. The most far-fetched stories abound and the mythologies of innovation are legion. We were told these stories as children where an inventor hits his forehead in the bathtub or comes up with a revolutionary theory after getting hit on the head by an apple.
They are not just false, they are ridiculous. Archimedes spent years of research before finding his new laws and while Newton probably did sit under an apple tree, he did not to eat a piece of fruit not to write equations! Innovation does not work like that. It is part of a process. It requires a lot of work. 10X is the rule here too. But far from trying to discourage you, I would rather suggest that you focus on this: not only can you use your mistakes as an opportunity to learn, they are your best method of improving. Failure is an important part of your investment, as long as you know how to learn from it.
Pitfall n°5 : Last but not least, we must not confuse the means with the end.
While technology is a great tool, it is never an end in itself. Mastering technology sometimes gives us a strategic advantage – it is only if you use it properly that you will see the biggest impact. The companies I meet are still too focused on the means. A digital revolution happens properly when the technology is used effectively and the users not only understand the technology but, more crucially, that they have become major players in the revolution. When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, he did not try to design the most technicaFlly rich phone but the easiest to use and the smartest for end users. The companies that have understood this difference are the ones sitting at the top of lists of stock market capitalizations.
In conclusion, what are the keys to making digital transformation a real business success?
A digital transformation is a real success when it empowers the company to change the situation, to gain a significant and lasting advantage or to protect itself from a significant threat.
Digital transformation is first and foremost about transformation, before being about digital. Transforming really means “doing things differently”, which is why creation and innovation must be at the heart of this revolution. We can say that we succeeded when we have truly created and innovated.
A true digital transformation is when the business makes 10X on its business, when it goes to the next level, when it has changed its business model, when it has conquered new markets. The technology it puts in place to achieve that result is only a means. Lose sight of these key ideas, and you’ll definitely end up back in the Digital Transformation Horror Museum.
Yann has a long-standing experience in marketing, information systems and Web marketing. He created visionarymarketing.com in 1996 and since then, he has practiced Web strategy, e-business and Web communications in the field. He was a member of socialmedia.org from 2008 till 2013. He is a lecturer, a keynote speaker, an author and blogger. In early 2014, he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur when he founded his digital marketing agency Visionary Marketing.