I often get asked “So what does digital really do for my company?” I’m not surprised by the question given the unending messaging on the subject in airports, arenas, social media, etc. First, I think it is important to remember though that going “digital” or digital transformation is a journey — not a one-off destination. You don’t flip a light switch and suddenly you are transformed.
Second, digital is all about connecting the front office to the back office. The customer to the factory. It’s about creating an environment where information flows freely throughout the organization. I liken it to when America built the interstate highway system. As highways were built, they connected one city to another eliminating the hassles of 2 lane roads. The more people took to these new highways the more they brought with them their ideas, likes and dislikes. This spawned innovation and new businesses along them. Information and people traveled faster and with less friction.
As you build your digital highway, your customers, employees, vendors, and partners will become connected and feedback will begin to flow freely. This information will help you transform products, create new services, and empower employees to drive even more value to your customers. Just like the interstate system, more on and off ramps you create, the more valuable your highway becomes as more information flows through it. Remember a digital highway with no traffic is likely to deliver little if any value.
The interstate highway system was certainly not built in a day, and as I stated, neither will your digital transformation. However, you’ve got to take the first step. My advice is start with a focus on your customer. After all that’s why you’re in business. How can your digital highway improve the value you deliver to your customer?
In the next 10 years, analysts predict tech’s contribution to the GDP will more than double. This is due to corporations waking up to the journey and building their highways. Those highways will enable new services, new innovations that will drive a larger share of your customer’s spend. Digital is not something in which you invest and mentally set aside. It has to become part of your daily think and daily speak.
Many customers I speak with react by saying “Jim, not much has changed. I can wait, there is no rush”. They have that view because they think about their perspective in terms of today not in terms of time. Yes, perhaps if we just take a look at what is happening in business application software, we can easily see how going “digital” has impacted us.
It was but a few years ago that business application software ran via on-premise computers. Updates and new features came along every 18-24 months on average. Now business applications run in modern digital cloud platforms where updates happen sometimes daily and most often monthly. Each update bringing new capabilities and innovation. If you’re not on a modern digital platform, how will you keep up?
That’s maybe why more than 90% of executives believe in recent surveys that going “digital” is a requirement to remain in business. So are you ready to start building your highway?