These Are the 3 Keys to Digital Transformation Success

It's all about people, culture and technology

A methodical and reasoned approach to digital transformation will help enterprises mitigate risk. Getty Images

While larger conversations around digital transformation have been in the consciousness of business and IT leaders for some time, there is a common misconception about adoption of digital transformation and associated company success—at best, it is a mixed bag.

A recent survey mounted by my firm, Alfresco Software, suggests that leading industries have self-identified as being most likely to benefit from digital transformation initiatives, including retail (30 percent), banking (24 percent), healthcare (24 percent), and manufacturing (18 percent). But—and this is significant—the fear and perceived threat of losing out to a more sophisticated competitor is palpable, with some 87 percent of respondents believing that their business results will be impacted by a competitor.

So what does it take to create and drive transformation as a tool for competitive advantage?

Our survey research boils it down to three key factors: culture, people and technology.

1. Culture

First, transformation is enabled and driven by company culture. Top-down, companies must re-imagine themselves as more than just makers or sellers of “widgets” or services. Instead, the widget-maker, seller or service provider must look at what, when, where and how customers want and need to be served and then envision—with Disney-style imagineering—how they can design the ultimate customer experience and what that looks like.

Customers interact with companies in any number of modalities—for example, a banking consumer looking for a car loan might conduct product research on their smartphone at lunch time, then fill out a contact form to a lender via their work desktop in the afternoon, and log into their home laptop after dinner to check the rates they have been offered.

This multiplatform, multimodality experience across time and location is the new norm, and it means that customer needs must be met in real time to stay competitive and that Digital Customer Experience (DCX) needs to be on point. Companies must “wow,” engage and serve these users in every situation or risk losing them to a more agile competitor.

2. People

Second, address the people. A major takeaway from our research is that the human aspects of implementing digital transformation are very important. Dumping new technology on the staff and proclaiming transformation as “complete” will probably leave workers befuddled and ultimately discouraged—which will drive them straight back to old processes and less-efficient ways of working.

A careful evaluation of employee work habits, patterns of collaboration and company culture are key starting points for the work of transformation.

3. Technology

Somewhat surprisingly, technology comes third. Cloud-based solutions offer speed and financial advantages that traditional, “build it yourself” systems simply cannot match. Today’s agile DevOps culture means that companies really can “imagineer” and release new customer-facing features and functionality—almost continuously—in response to shifting business conditions.

Even our space, information management, has evolved from the “process management, document management, records management and content management” of days gone by to agile, composite, cloud-based platforms that provide dynamic microservices such as process, content and governance services.

These services are cloud native and leverage a microservices-based architecture. Ultimately, information should be provided as a dynamic service that supports the business—giving knowledge workers the most current, legally-compliant and accurate documents and corporate data in the context of their daily job functions.

That ability to deliver information when, where and how it is needed is the cornerstone of serving customers in the era of digital transformation. This sort of innovation and adaptability can now be found across industries that are typically thought of as “traditional.”

For example, companies like Capital One are recasting themselves as digital enterprises, eliminating paper-based processes and leveraging cloud infrastructure to achieve speed, scale and agility in customer interactions. In fact, some 21 percent of our survey respondents said that cloud is critically important, and an overwhelming 95 percent of respondents characterized cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) as important to business success.

Traditional, large-scale enterprises are prime targets for digital disruption, and unfortunately those that don’t adapt, do so at their own peril. Our survey data points to true uncertainty among business and IT leadership, who are living in constant fear of being outflanked by more nimble competitors capable of capturing customer attention and thereby hijacking revenue.

That said, a methodical and reasoned approach to digital transformation will help enterprises mitigate risk, better serve customers and drive profitable revenue. By focusing on the “Top Three” basics—culture, people and technology—companies can navigate these uncertain times and, ultimately, prosper.

Ankur Laroia is a strategic solutions leader at Alfresco.