When it comes to updating internal systems or changing up what technology is used to get the job done, many companies operate under an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. While this technique can keep a company chugging along, it creates unnecessary pain points for employees and can be a serious drain on productivity.
Whereas five years ago this unwillingness to embrace the new might have dulled a company’s competitive edge only a little, clinging to an older way of operating in an increasingly digital world can be a death knell for a business. Digital technologies are changing at an ever-increasing rate, bringing with it major disruption to nearly every business sector.
According to a recent poll, companies that successfully moved into the digital arena were 22 times more likely to bring new products to market than their competition. They also reported a higher confidence in long-term success. These numbers just further confirm what every business should already know: CEOs need to lead their companies toward a digital transformation in 2019 if they want to stay relevant for years to come.
Digital Transformations Require Strong Leadership
Recognizing the necessity of a more modern workplace and actually implementing it are two very different things. However, the challenges that come with a digital transformation are far from insurmountable. The biggest challenge isn’t one of resources or ability; it’s one of follow-through.
Digital transformation isn’t as easy as building a simple app and hoping that the company comes along for the ride. Once a company has identified what its digital transformation process or program should be, executives and management have to be firm in their commitments to making changes happen.
Budgets need to be set. Time must be set aside. Champions within the executive team need to be identified and relied upon so that, halfway through the process, the endeavor isn’t squashed because the ROI isn’t immediately visible.
It’s up to upper-level management to take the reins and ensure that the move to digital isn’t abandoned before it’s complete.
How to Ensure a Successful Transformation
CEOs must recognize that buy-in from the top is vital to creating an environment where digital transformation can flourish. Once it’s been identified that a problem needs to be addressed, the employees solving the problem need to know they have support from their supervisors to do what’s necessary to get the job done. Here are three ways to ensure your employees get the support they need.
1. Make digital transformation part of company culture. It’s not enough to send out a memo or two that nobody remembers seeing. Mention the transformation in meetings, in reports, at speeches, in interviews — basically, wherever and whenever you can. Let the entire operation know it has your support to try out things that can improve the company’s ability to embrace the future.
2. Set budgets and give the internal teams room to work. Setting a budget but forcing folks to work with an existing design or development team will most likely fail to fix any issues. It’s important to let teams discover the best ways to solve their own problems and use their budgets as they see fit. Your employees are the ones on the ground, working through the snags — they’ll likely know more about it than you. Your job at the top is to champion them and, ultimately, let them succeed on their own.
3. Give initiatives time to take root. Digital transformation and innovation can take more than a single quarter to bear fruit. New onboarding or hiring tools can take years to show results. Ultimately, these tools will lead to better retention, recruiting, and a higher-skilled workforce. You just need to be patient. Make sure the lens through which you’re viewing an initiative is wide enough to see everything.
Digital Transformation in the Real World
For an example of a company that’s successfully made the transition to digital, look no further than Nike. The company has embraced the concept of “fail fast,” recognizing that engineers frequently need to prototype different scenarios of change for their industry until they discover what works best.
On top of this, Nike has also been quick to embrace new technology, from its industry-leading website to its partnerships with Apple and other wearables manufacturers. Nike took more than 10 years of trial and error to perfect its innovative Flyknit technology, devising an innovation that couldn’t have been imagined at the turn of the century while also changing the face of production efficiency. Nike understands that even a company that deals in the relatively analogue world of shoes needs to become a part of the digital era.
Every company has the potential to become a leader in the digital space. It’s up to the person at the top, however, to make it happen. For CEOs, 2019 is the time to stop talking about a digital transformation and to start putting a plan into action. Take a cue from Nike and just do it.