Opinion: 10 tips for a true leap to digital

Hannah Mirza is global head of media partnerships of MediaCom

For years businesses have been boasting of their digital credentials. Digital we’ve been told is no longer a department, but a companywide ethos.

The reality in all sectors, however, is that many organizations are still working to making that a reality. Even if digital thinking permeates all departments and everything a firm does, it still needs to ensure that has the right people to deliver.

Here are 10 clear guiding principles to make sure that your organization is truly digital inside:

Build a board of believers.
Within any organization there are purists, converts and laggards — at all levels of seniority –when it comes to digital. The most important catalyst for digital success is the backing of the board. Make this a reality by making them realize that digital is sink-or-swim issue for the business. Take them on a tour of Silicon Valley, exposing them to how the Internet giants see the near and present future. If you can’t do this then prepare a well-researched presentation and education opportunity and sell your heart out. You’re transforming a business, not a department, and you will need more than one backer on the board.

Plan it out.
There is a lot to do to make a company digital inside. Organizational change is always slow. Once you have decided on your destination you need to identify a solid pathway to get there. Plan out your milestones, metrics of success and make sure everyone knows where you are on the path. Don’t be shy of change, however: The pathway may deviate, but the destination remains.

Start-ups are just small businesses.
Start-ups get great press. They have their own inspiring nomenclature as well as lofty job titles like “head of innovation.” More and more companies are spending time wondering how to think like a start up. What we often forget is that not all start-ups are successful. The mechanics of business don’t disappear when you’re doing something new in digital. Have a clear approach for navigating this space, it provides amazing opportunities, just don’t lose your common sense.

Partner wisely.
The right partner for today’s problem will categorically be the wrong partner in a few years. You can research and deliberate to find the perfect fit but rest assured that someone new will leapfrog the market forward. Digital moves fast. Problems evolve and change. Your solutions need to be able to do the same. Make sure you have an exit strategy built in and understand your switching costs and implications.

The technology stack is your most important asset.
Technology is at the heart of digital transformation. Your business technology solutions are your technology stack. While there are providers who will want to own your stack end to end, there are also partial solutions that work well with other partial solutions. Fundamentally, though, your technology stack is your intellectual property for effectively running your business operations. When you decide on its components you need to understand each choice you are making compared with the alternatives and what real cost each solution has. Not just the monetary cost but also the opportunity cost or opportunity lost.

Data has to be useful.
“Big data” is one of the most overused terms in digital. “Big data” is meaningless. Big insights are the ability to harness that data in practical applications to iterate improvements in performance. Digital businesses do not just talk about big data; they use it to make change happen.

Tailor your employees.
The skills your employees need are not always obvious. There are broadly three types of digital training: “Digital vision,” which is content that speaks to the pipeline of consumer and industry undergoing digital transformations. “Digital landscape” is content that speaks to each of the key companies within the ecosystem and the solutions they provide. Finally “digital practice” is operational content in your day to day working. Identifying which your employees need should be a high priority.

Make it a KPI and reward success
If you want to be a digital business, this goal should be a key performance indicator for every employee. They need to know the role they are expected to play and that they will be checked against it. Similarly, success needs to be publically rewarded. Doing this will create a culture of aspirational successes.

Beware of rabbit warrens
There are a lot of potential distractions given the all-encompassing nature of digital. Individuals need to remain focused on their responsibilities in the greater company digital vision and be privy to the content calendar of activities taking place in your organization so they can contribute constructively and keep on task. Open collaboration is essential but duplication and irrelevant exploration aren’t.

Anticipate the future and react quickly.
Being a risk-taker has to become the rule not an exception. Change is just around the corner. It looks like wearables; it comes in the form of virtual reality; it’s artificial intelligence, the Internet of things. Proper digital businesses are getting ready for not just thinking about these seismic changes. Digital success means a robust test, learn and change fast strategy.

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