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One thing is for certain: digital disruption is a cause for huge concern for most executives as they start 2020. So, it is more than likely that a digital transformation (DT or DX) strategy is on your to do list for the month of January. We share 5 key ideas that you will be considering as you develop your plans to counter the onslaught of disruptive technologies and get them on your side.

1. Make it your business strategy

A number of organisations have failed projects for digitalisation because of one core reason: it was given to the IT department as a KPI. That was about the extent of the management involvement. Others dutifully developed a digital transformation strategy, but implementation is again tasked to a single team operating deep in the basement of the organisation. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with having your IT Department tasked with digital transformation. But you cannot expect them to be the sole agent for delivery and be successful!

Digitalisation is a tool. The means to an end. You need to realise that you first need to understand what you aim to achieve with your business strategy, then distil the contribution required from the digital effort. By making it a business strategy, everyone in the organisation must get involved and develop buy-in into all the steps needed to execute a successful strategy, including digital transformation.

2. Digital transformation is a culture change

You don’t buy DT in a box. It will not arrive one magical Monday morning, to be unpacked and commissioned for service before introducing streams of revenue and bottom-line benefit. No, DT is a process and one best started with getting buy-in from participants and followed by a process of achieving culture change among stakeholders. The reach is likely beyond your employees and should best include your suppliers and customers.

You need to make time and have resources available to achieve this change. It is neither IT nor HR nor any other single department’s objective to realise this change. Every operational department, from strategic to marketing, from sales to production, from development to customer service, needs to understand what is coming and how to make incremental changes to how they operate. It is the collective change in how we work and how we interface with each other in the workplace as well as our customers and stakeholders that drive the culture shift and realise the necessary benefits.

3. Have the right Skills

The third priority enabler is to ensure that you have access to the required skills and (importantly) capacity, in order to have a successful journey. Digital transformation might not be the same as sending someone to the moon, but why would you send anyone but your A-team on arguably the most important mission for your organisation this year? So human resources management, both skill and deployment, are critical to a successful digital transformation journey.

But who do you pick for this all-important adventure? Resourcing a strong leadership team to plan, source support and deliver phased execution is critical and best coordinated with oversight owned at executive level.

4. Working in an Ecosystem

There is a growing list of industry solutions to serve your strategy and execution model. From IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, an array of solution platforms is accessible, interchangeable and deployable to cover your strategic objectives. But, similar to the demise of pure on-premise solutions for your digital systems, you will equally find that having all the skills and experience employed in your organisation to be near impossible. Partnering in an ecosystem of solution providers, the people behind the technologies and processes, will bring direction and continuity to how you deliver your objective and sustain value from the transformation. Except for a few very large organisations who can afford to employ all the skills needed at the various phases of a DT project, it is best to partner with the right people to deliver what they do best as part of your project and operational value chains.

5. Choosing technology wisely

The development and democratisation of technology have been phenomenal and expected to accelerate further in the early parts of this decade. Scores of papers are written about the opportunities coming with AI, blockchain, VR/AR and many other technologies. However, each of these Samaritans comes with a dark side: risks that need to be understood before you let them loose in your business and on to your customers. Not least are the subjects of data sovereignty and information security. You need to have a clear understanding of the legal implications of the technology you implement, the data you accumulate and how you will be using that information to make decisions for your business, employees and external stakeholders.

Finally, you want to know that the technology is scalable, fit for purpose considering your strategic objective and fully supported by accessible and affordable skills. Never let the technology choice lead your DT strategy. You will always select technology to support your business objective, which must remain your key result targeted for the year.

What to do?

Do you have the required skill and knowledge in-house? To ensure successful digital transformation, you need people on your team to assess your digital maturity and strategise how you will achieve the necessary culture change to maximise the benefit from your new operating model.

If you have not planned your strategy and organisation, get help. The journey is arduous and can be so much more satisfying if you have a clear plan and the organisation to deliver.
Also read: Syndicate 14. The 14 characters needed for a successful Digital Transformation game play.

Johan Louw is the founder of Aguru Business Solutions. He helps companies to get ready for automation and digitalisation.

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