C-Suite Advisory

How Legacy Industries Can Stay Relevant With Digital Transformation

The business world runs on chaos and disruption. No matter how big and accomplished a company is, there’s always a genius idea out there ready to upend the status quo and challenge the established hierarchy of things. Remember Sears, Roebuck and Co.? One hundred years from now, people may very well be asking the same thing about Amazon.

Blasphemous? Hardly. Insignificant startups rise and industry giants fall all the time. As the leader of your company, you know this all too well. Part of your job is making sure your enterprise isn’t swallowed up by new players in your specific industry. And make no mistake: There are fresh-faced companies champing at the bit to push you into irrelevancy. Sharks are everywhere, and there’s always blood in the water.

To combat this reality, it’s wise to embrace technology and digital transformations as critical components of your business plan. This is especially true for companies in traditional industries like energy, manufacturing, finance, and law, all of which can sometimes drag their heels when it comes to abandoning the old ways of working.

Building a Better Business

Far too often, legacy companies take an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality when faced with necessary technical upgrades and innovations. Make no mistake: You can be “not broken” but still seriously outdated, which is as good as being broken. Holding tight to antiquated systems and processes is akin to having a massive internal injury — outwardly, things look fine; leaving it untreated, however, could lead to dire consequences.

If you are leading a team who’s sluggish to buy into the benefits of new technologies for a more secure business future, consider taking these three steps to convince them otherwise:

  1. Use data to understand your customer.
    Data is so much more than numbers on a screen. Analyzed correctly, the data that companies collect on their customers — and their own operations — can produce amazing insights into trends and behaviors. This is especially true for legacy organizations, which often have troves of data at their disposal. Use that historical information to your advantage.
    “Data capabilities will be key components of measuring progress toward innovation and will provide insights about how the business is (or is not) transforming,” says Derrick Bowen, principal at technology consulting company Pariveda Solutions, using the energy industry as an example. “On this front, traditional energy companies actually have a huge advantage: Being an established player means you likely have a wealth of data that new entrants do not.”
  2. Adopt contactless processes wherever feasible.
    The pandemic has changed a lot of human behaviors, seemingly for good. One of those is avoiding physical contact with strangers (and the objects they touch) if at all possible. Quantum-leaping into modern times — and meeting the expectations of today’s customers — means offering hands-free or contactless ways of doing business, such as producing products and handling equipment that reduce person-to-person exposure.
    From buying a new house or vehicle online to paying for goods with a tap of a button, people expect a safe space (and adequate distance) to conduct business. In fact, a GetApp survey found that 82% of consumers expect contactless experiences to continue post-pandemic.
  3. Focus on mobile technology.
    If you aren’t mobile-friendly by now, you’re on borrowed time. Think about how much you rely on your smartphone for consuming entertainment and handling business — from streaming your favorite sports and paying bills to searching for reviews of a new restaurant and finding the lowest gas prices in town. Prioritize building an online presence that’s easy for customers to find and navigate. The more seamless the experience, the more affinity they’ll have for your brand. This goes for all industries, from furniture to finance.
    “Consumers expect to engage with their financial institutions through their smartphones to do everything from open accounts to submit mortgage applications. If you haven’t already invested in a convenient mobile lending app, this would be a good time!” says Doug Wilber, CEO of social media marketing management firm Denim Social. “But invest carefully. You want technology that allows mobile digital document uploads, automated quality assurance, and application data pre-fill using internal and external APIs. These advanced mobile offerings will soon be table stakes as lenders see the benefit in speeding up sales cycles and decreasing costs.”

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the biggest beast often isn’t the hungriest. A Pomeranian won’t hesitate to lunge at a pit bull when the time is right. If you want to stay on top, you need to stay relevant. The only real way to accomplish this is to stop avoiding digital transformation and make technology work for you.


Written by Rhett Power.

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Rhett Power
Rhett Power is responsible for helping corporate leadership take the actions needed to drive impact and courage in their teams that will improve organizational performance. He is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill Education) and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. After a successful exit from the toy company, Rhett was named the best Small Business Coach in the United States. In 2019 he joined the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches and was named the #1 Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship by Thinkers360. He is a Fellow at The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship and management alongside the likes of former Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and AOL Founder Steve Case. Rhett Power is an acclaimed author, leader, entrepreneur and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.