Digital transformation is often viewed as a large shift that is rooted in technology but it’s important to understand that it is a business strategy first and foremost, with no end game. Digital transformation is a process of continual improvement.

The term “transformation” came into play when specific industries were facing massive disruption - education, healthcare, entertainment and incumbent companies that existed pre-Internet - and needed to take urgent action to right the ship on many fronts.

Five or so years from now, I hope we are no longer thinking of it as “transformation” but rather as fostering a continual process of innovation. However, we are far from this reality today as many industries and organizations are facing an urgent need to rethink how they create and deliver value in a digital economy.

Five to Thrive

There are many things to keep in mind when thinking about a major strategy shift or a digital transformation effort. Here is a list of our top five considerations, which we call “Five to Thrive”:

1. Always put the customer at the heart of the transformation

Customer behaviour is arguably the biggest shift of the digital revolution so ask yourself, “How can I design a better experience using on and offline channels?” or “Can I leverage digital technologies to eliminate barriers in friction to deliver additional value?” It helps to frame the “why” of the vision here and have that endorsed right from the top.

2. Align on vision

Before jumping into any basic digitization efforts, you need to spend some time visioning the future - at least 5-10 years out. In this phase, it’s less about certainty and more about vision. Many companies repeat this process at least once a year.

3. Understand your current state: know your gaps and build an integrated road map

When you put a focus on implementing major technology into your business, it can feel like an intimidating process. Successful projects begin by knowing which systems are in place today, mapping out all of the key processes in the business, and then moving to a period of analysis and continuous improvement. The roadmap should focus on the outcome, not the technology, at least at the beginning.

4. Establish innovation as a discipline

Innovative companies are those that develop a framework and tools to foster the systematic development and evaluation of ideas and then they bring the best ones to market. Innovative companies also develop a bi-modal planning framework where they embrace short-term optimization but also long-term future vision and planning. Organizations that develop this muscle regularly will go faster than those that don’t.

5. Foster leadership skills that are future-proof

Transformation is more of a challenge of leadership than technology. Leading through change and complexity and being able to evolve a business model takes a shift in mindset, which is key to success in any shift or transformation.

Curious to dig deeper into the topics discussed above? Watch the video below to learn more about Five to Thrive.

About the author

Isabelle Perreault

Isabelle is the Founder and CEO of Differly. She has spent her career helping business leaders understand the major drivers of change and helping them survive and thrive in a digital economy. She brings deep expertise in business transformation, corporate and business model innovation and go-to-market planning.

For over 20 years, she has been helping leaders in a wide variety of sectors develop and deploy human-centric, tech-enabled growth strategies. Passionate about entrepreneurship she also serves as a business coach to Startups with several incubators. Prior to launching Differly, she led one of the first Digital Transformation Practices in Canada and was head of Digital Strategy and Marketing for the Ottawa Senators, NHL Hockey Club. Isabelle is Chair of the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau Foundation and a champion for women entrepreneurs.

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