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Digital prioritization

Author: Lode Verbruggen

“Blockchain will disrupt your industry. Companies investing in artificial intelligence outperform their competitors with double digits. Robots revolutionise your business…” We have heard it before and, indeed, emerging technology will impact your company, but strong statements are no substitute for smart decisions.

When business leaders describe their main challenges with respect to digital transformation, we often hear about organisational resistance to change, inflexible technology stacks and difficulties attracting digital profiles. All that combined makes it extremely difficult to break with the legacy business model. Indeed, many organisations struggle with digital transformation because it requires resources, a steep learning curve and the willingness to change. Despite what some might claim, there never is a silver bullet to make all of these challenges disappear.

So, why does digital transformation work in one company and fail in the other? Based on our experience it boils down to one vital aspect – focus. Organisations that can maintain focus throughout the complete transformation achieve faster impact with less resources. Maintaining focus sounds all too easy, but it really isn’t as everyday life is bombarded by tons of distractions.

We bundled our findings on how to keep focus throughout the transformation lifecycle in our “digital prioritization framework”.  We identify four subsequent areas of focus, namely prioritizing on corporate value, digital potential, business success and realisation. A fifth and central area of focus is the prioritization on people. Let’s have a look on how this plays out…

Define value

Focus starts at the top. Far too often we see companies mistake a long wish list for a corporate strategy. In the bestseller “Good strategy, bad strategy” Richard Rumelt describes the main reason why there are so many bad strategies: senior management just can’t choose. If the top layer of the organisation is not digital savvy – and it doesn’t have to be – an aversion towards clear digital decisions is even more likely.

So, should top management just provide a big bag of money and let the digital experts do what they do best? The short answer is no. Each investment must benefit the company.

First, the company must decide how digital can strengthen their organisation. Based on your market context and the line you set out, you can prioritize your digital efforts to support corporate value.

Typical focus areas are strengthening your offering, organisation or business model. Digital capabilities come into play when you define your tactics. For your offering, for example, this could mean harvesting data to improve your products or digitalizing your client touch points to improve the overall service. The key word is ‘decide’, to avoid shooting from the hip.

The leadership team outlines corporate value. Often it is a good idea to have a digital advice team to follow-up on emerging trends and to translate these into potential opportunities for the company. Don’t be afraid to assemble a diverse advice board, including young potential, technology experts and independent advisors.