Moving at the speed of digital

high speed train

Technology is fundamental to digital; without technology digital business models, products and services do not exist. But becoming a digital business or, more accurately, transforming an organisation so that it can compete in the digital age, requires a lot more than investing in technology. A digital transformation means creating a vision for the organisation in the digital age and putting in place the right type of leadership, culture, governance, skills, policies and processes to realise that vision.

Digital markets move quickly, they are more dynamic than traditional markets and they can be disrupted more easily. New technology-enabled business models can be developed and launched far more quickly than has previously been possible. And they can be scaled-up to meet a surge in demand in a matter of days or even hours. The brand, scale and resources of an established company do not necessarily provide the protection they once used to when a disruptive new competitor or business model appears on the scene.

Customer needs and expectations drive digital markets. Customers have more choice than ever before and, in some cases, they can move to an alternative supplier in the time it takes to download an app. They can access information about new products and services, the best prices and deals, and good experiences and poor service through social media, comparison sites and reviews from other customers. Digital customers compare experiences across industries and markets and they are more demanding as a result.

It is no surprise then that successful digital businesses have a relentless focus on the customer and are constantly looking for ways to improve or enhance their products and services in response to the continuously evolving customer needs and expectations. As a result, digital products and services have shorter lifecycles than traditional products and services. They are developed and launched in shorter timescales and are updated, upgraded and replaced more frequently.

To compete in digital markets organisations need to be able to operate at the speed of digital. This means being able to launch and scale a new product or service quickly, and also being able to perform frequent updates and upgrades to existing products and services. It means understanding customer needs, expectations, behaviour and preferences and being able to quickly translate these insights into new features, tailored pricing, personalised offers, and new products and services.

Small businesses and start-ups in particular have an inherent advantage over larger organisations when it comes to moving quickly; implementing change in a small organisation tends to be easier and less complex, decisions can be made and communicated more quickly, there are less stakeholders to consult, and fewer people to manage through the change.

Larger organisations on the other hand are built on the assumption that things will not change; they have policies, processes, systems, management structures, roles, etc that are designed to ensure consistency and uniformity. There are more people to consult before a decision can be made, numerous approvals and authority limits to be navigated, and large numbers of employees impacted by change initiatives. All of these factors combine to make change a slow and often complicated process for bigger businesses.

The challenge for a large business and hence one of the key objectives of a digital transformation is, therefore, to enable the organisation to move quickly at every stage of the change cycle, from how it identifies a change, through to how changes are approved, communicated and then implemented. In other words, the organisation needs to be able to move at the speed of digital. This means having a leadership team that is confortable and capable of operating at a faster pace. And the organisation must have a culture that supports and promotes change, its governance model must enable quick decisions and its policies, processes and systems must facilitate quick implementation of changes.

Being able to move at the speed of digital is key to long-term survival in the customer driven, fast-paced markets that are a feature of the digital age. Organisations that do not have the ability to respond quickly to changes in market conditions, customer preferences or competitor activity, or that cannot bring a new feature, product or service to market quickly will find it difficult to survive.

If your organisation wants to develop a vision and strategy for its digital transformation, or reinvent its business model for digital then please contact me or visit my website, axin.co.uk.

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