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How to Avoid Digital Transformation Pitfalls

Embracing technology improves internal systems the same way nutritious food improves digestion.



Technology has, over the years, gained an increasingly central role in the business world. Unsurprisingly, it has also spawned new business models, some of which are built and run solely over the internet and have gone on to be hugely successful. It is thus that the word digital was eventually added as a lexicon to describe businesses that are tech savvy.


The bar has been set high, and emerging entrepreneurs want their businesses to become major digital hits. The question I most often get asked by C-Suite leaders in my work as an executive coach is: “How do we build a digitally savvy and relevant organisation?”


It’s a question that also used to keep me awake when I was running large consumer operations. But recently, I have understood that, in many instances, they mean digital transformation.


I’m sure you know this is the process of integrating digital technology into all areas of a business. It is a necessary but scary evolution that, as Boston Consulting Group reports, ends up in failure 70% of the time.


Yet, if done correctly, it can deliver amazing benefits for an organisation, including streamlining processes, creating efficiencies, reducing costs and, above all, providing crucial data to help in decision-making. Where and how to start?


What does digital transformation mean for your business?


The first step to achieving this is fully understanding exactly what this means. Digital is an enabler. Its success rides on empowering people to be more effective and efficient in their tasks. This is true for both employees and customers.


If the digital solution or platform doesn’t add value to the human objective by making work faster, easier or simpler, it has failed before it has begun. This will be bypassed for a more logical and accessible solution.


Digital initiatives must alleviate pain points, not add to them. Ask yourself, will the digital solution save time, provide more accurate service and/or lower cost? If not, then what exactly is the point of disrupting the status quo?


It is driven from the top


Digital agility and attitudes must be championed by leadership to be embraced across businesses. Build the digital agenda into the formal strategy roadmap. Make sure that progress on the initiative is formally tracked, measured and scored from the C-Suite.


When the CEOs actively call out, celebrate and support both digital initiatives and executive milestones in the business, they are signalling that this is important. This focus and attention will help drive the conversations throughout the organisation.


Adopt the right attitudes


Successful digital transformation largely hinges on people embracing it with a positive, growth-minded attitude. They need to be able to visualise their personal benefit and enjoyment. It is the only way they will not resist the technology and the change it portends for the business.


Like that healthy Teff – the renowned, super beneficial staple containing 11% protein, 80% complex carbohydrates and only 3% fat – digital should be embraced as a nutritious accelerator for individuals at work and the organisation as a whole.


But before Teff is made into Injera – an Ethiopian pancake served with stews – you have to turn on the cooker.


Work with experts


One of the reasons cited for the failures of digital transformation projects is taking shortcuts. There are experts in every field, and it is well worth it to pair up with them to build a solution or ecosystem to help the company achieve its digital goals.


This may mean allowing the in-house tech experts to consult industry peers and agencies in customising the best-fit solution. The challenge that most companies have is that they fail to realise that in order to scale up and grow, they have to look outside themselves.


Breaking free often requires fresh eyes, free from the blinkers of familiarity and comfort. The right digital partner, like the right architect, consulting engineer or ad exec, will help you build the best digital platform for your business.


Get started


Navel gazing is an avoidance tactic. Continually iterating for a perfect solution is, in essence, chasing a moving target and will delay things. I have occasionally seen many businesses try to perfect a solution before rolling it out to the market or even internally across the company.


Executives often try to ensure solutions are bulletproof before deploying them, but finished is better than perfect. Nothing beats the confidence of first-hand experience from experimenting with new ideas, iterating on them in a live environment and scaling across the entire environment.


With new employees, for instance, put an end to manual, paper-processed forms and switch to a digital onboarding platform. At some point, after scoping and checking to see that employees and customers will be well-served by the proposed solution, it’s time to launch and scale.


My mantra is generally to just do it and serve it piping hot.


Lionel Marumahoko has over 25 years of executive experience in the FMCG sector. At the Coca-Cola Company, he navigated multiple roles in general management while working and living in five countries on the continent. Today, he counsels CEOs on effective leadership, problem-solving dexterity and entrepreneurism. Marumahoko is also co-founder of Dairy & Beef Global Solutions, a New Zealand corporate-rated AgriTech business.


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