The agile incumbent
How perception and realization of ‘value’ from digital transformation is morphing, as established organizations ‘get back to basics’
In their haste to respond to early digital disruptors (or competitors who are already successfully revolutionizing how business is done and the products/services they’re bringing to market), many incumbent organizations have become fixated on the ‘next big idea’. They’re seeking to realize immediate, far-reaching, and measurable digital value and by doing so, outpace the competition, and remain relevant and profitable.
But most organizations – especially established businesses – come with legacy ‘baggage’. Unlike asset-light, cloud-born organizations, it’s difficult for them to formulate and execute this ‘radical, big idea’ mandate, while simultaneously attending to and balancing ‘business-as-usual’ priorities.
As a result, some have become aimless, stagnant, and despondent. Indeed, our recently released NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report shows that the ‘lack of an appropriate business or digital strategy’ is perceived as the top barrier impeding digital transformation among all respondents surveyed.
Of course, value realization is necessary for enabling organizations to transform while they continue to perform. But ‘progression’ sometimes means focusing less on spending copious amounts of time and effort perfecting your digital strategy; it’s more about incremental execution that delivers business agility in the form of successes that may be repeated and replicated across other areas of the organization.
True digital ‘progress’ means moving to tactical and tangible steps – and being guided by value
This dynamic is often difficult for organizations to master. Our advice to organizations grappling with this issue is to understand and accept that not all progress necessarily delivers the value that’s expected from it, but that doesn’t mean this progress isn’t essential or desirable. Achieving tangible, useful value that enables progression is the most sensible way forward, but bear in mind that ‘value’ can take various forms within your digital transformation … and not necessarily in the form of immediate, giant leaps of progress or a complete self-reinvention.
Continuous, integrated, cross-functional ‘planning and doing’ needs to become the standard mode of operation: get into a cadence of regular, practical value delivery. Therefore, enabling an organization-wide understanding of digital and its value is essential. However, according to our research, establishing an ‘agile organizational culture open to innovation and evolving work practices’ and ‘making internal processes more efficient and streamlined’ are deemed of low or moderate importance by almost three-quarters of respondents. This is concerning, as the appropriate culture and collaboration which enable digital business are key to sustainable transformation.
Progress is being seen in multiple areas
Encouragingly, we’re starting to observe tangible progress, with some 72.9% of respondents across industries acknowledging that their journey towards enterprise-wide transformation is ‘in progress’ or better.
Organizations have cited gains in customer centricity and operational efficiency in the past. However, there’s now a clearer and more tried awareness of how organizations are seeing progress in a number of other areas.
- The highest-ranked definition of digital transformation from respondents is ‘digitizing and automating of core business processes’ (72.5%). This illustrates that the main, pre-defined value for organizations to bridge the gap between their legacy world and newer digital opportunities is starting to be realized.
- The highest-ranked tangible benefit of existing transformation efforts over the past 12 months is ‘shaping new ways of working’ through organizational transformation’ (52.0%) – indicating that value is now starting to be realized by ‘doing’ and ‘being’.
Realization of value is a continuous journey
We believe that the general understanding of the correct approach to digital is evolving, and should continue to do so: what was previously viewed as daunting, complex, ambiguous, and strategic, is maturing to an approach that's now more proactive, tangible, tactical – and ongoing.
Here are my top 5 top recommendations for businesses seeking to realize value and progress on their digital paths:
- Be comfortable with not having all the answers to digital upfront and appreciate the value of getting the basics right.
- Starting the journey, even without a fully defined transformation plan or not having a clear definition of what digital means in its entirety, is acceptable.
- Starting by tackling the right, relevant, known problems yields greater success.
- Deliver small increments of value that allow you to gain meaningful traction against your broader transformation strategy.
- Don’t assume that initial value realization is the end-state of transformation … this is just the start of exciting, future benefits that await, as your transformation progresses.
And finally, keep in mind these words of Mark Twaini :‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.’ ii
For more insight and analysis of this topic, download the NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report. (In particular, chapter 1, ‘There’s great progress and realization of value’ explores this subject in detail).
i Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 1835 – April 1910), known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer.