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Over the years, I have found myself in the midst of various digital transformations across various industries. From a pioneering CPA firm in NY going paperless, to Travel Agencies migrating systems and more recently helping Fashion, Luxury and Retail giants to implement successful digital transformations. Here is a quick summary of my findings and humble recommendations.
It all starts with a vision, and the more people involved in building that vision the better. Too many transformations are led at the initiative of one isolated department and struggle to spread and gain momentum because of the lack of support or involvement of other heads of department. Top management has to be on board and help support the project and change the culture.
“One team, one dream” is a great motto but very often the vision and incentive diverge. A digital officer might be designing a seamless on/offline strategy to create an amazing shopping experience for its customers but why would a store sales person redirect its customers online? He/she is naturally more incentivized to offer the products in stock rather than helping the user find the best online product on an IPad. Changing that mindset is just one part of the challenges when designing a great digital transformation.
“To successfully change the culture, the top management needs to be the driving force and make sure that incentives of each and every department is aligned with the long-term goals and vision”
First the vision, then the plan and finally making sure that the incentives are in place for the culture to change and for all employees to share the same goals.
Now, that we have the plan, it’s time to execute and once again a rapid disconnect can appear. A classic divide that I have run into over the years is the complete opposition/disconnect between management teams, sales and IT departments. Whether working with big banks, fashion, luxury or retail teams…it’s often the same issue. The IT teams are pushed in one direction or another by individual users looking for the most rapid and cost effective solution to solve their own needs. Add legacy issues or systems across worldwide organizations and the IT soon becomes a cumbersome maze and a drain of money and energy.
Most successful companies now hire CTOs to seat at the table to be part of that vision and help select, design and implement the best solutions at the group/company level. This may seem obvious but many companies still do not have a CTO with enough power, agility and reach.
It is crucial to stop seeing the IT department as an inevitable pole of cost with no other value added. My last comment goes beyond transformation and is an invitation to embrace innovation as a whole. Creating an innovation team whose goal is to constantly source, test and implement ideas, will help you develop an internal culture for change and experimentation. This department is allowed to fail, but will allow be a great source of inspiration for others and they will be able to identify solutions truly adapted for your business.
Embrace change, transformation and keep evolving, agility is a key factor to succeed in this digital age.
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