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Turning digital transformation into a practical reality

Turning digital transformation into a practical reality

It’s time to quit talking and start doing, as CEOs pass the baton to their executive teams to deliver on the digital business vision.

Business transformation is complicated. It’s a constant tug-of-war between strategic vision and operational execution. One can’t succeed without the other, yet few of us are comfortable in both camps.

Digital business is a disruptive transformation that's not possible to achieve without the visionaries among us willing to push the boundaries of what's possible without sweating the details.

Increasingly, digital transformation transcends traditional enterprise boundaries and involves cross-enterprise stakeholders that include emerging digital partners. However, misalignment is the norm. Achieving alignment requires the right leadership and metrics to ensure that the business will respond and deliver at scale.

You’ve probably spent the last couple of years developing your digital business ambition and creating the catalyst that will propel your organisation into action. So, now’s the time to take action.

The baton’s been passed to those of us who know how to operationalise a vision to realise business value. It’s now in your hands to make digital business a practical reality. New products and services must be brought to market through business models that deliver new customer experiences in a digital world.

Forty-two percent of CEOs say "digital first" or "digital to the core" is now their companies' digital business posture, according to the Gartner’s 2017 CEO Survey.

Making digital business a practical reality transitions vision to value. A great digital business vision provides the catalyst for change. Realising that vision requires execution: solution development, operational ecosystems, a technology foundation and human capabilities that deliver.

Steps to practical reality

There are four steps you can take to make digital business a practical reality.

1. Align digital business solutions to customer value

Great vision provides a catalyst for change, but you need to be savvy in articulating how your digital projects will achieve business value. Longer-term strategic value and risk-taking innovation must be recognised, but not sacrificed due to short-term thinking.

Work closely with your business partners to speak a common language about how existing and emerging digital capabilities impact business performance. Align digital projects in progress across the business to business goals and the customer outcomes expected.

2. Ensure you have the resources needed

Leadership skills that succeeded in the industrial economy must be remastered for digital business. Transforming the business in the fast-moving digital world requires experimentation and failing-fast, but then delivering promising innovations profitably at scale.

Work will look different in this digital world, where people and machines will coexist. Culture change will be required to ensure engrained practices don't prevent new thinking. Success will require a workforce that takes advantage of new digital technologies as they become available to reinvent processes that extend across partner ecosystems.

Identify the resource attributes required to execute as a digital business. Look at the skills across IT and each line of business to ensure the organisation can adapt quickly as it designs, markets, sells and delivers digital solutions and services.

3. Partner to deliver the digital customer promise

A core tenant of digital business success is providing new customer experiences that are delivered by a digitally connected partner ecosystem. Achieving this success requires launching innovative customer solutions quickly and reinventing business processes to be operationally excellent and agile.

Solution development, digital marketing, customer service and supply chains are essential to delivering on the digital promise to customers. Working across partner ecosystems starts with solution development and is sustained through digitally connected processes and partner relationships that achieve joint value.

Define what your future customers look like and how you will deliver an experience — not just a product — to them. Design and model how that experience will be delivered through new suppliers and channel partners connected digitally and governed using intelligent systems.

4. Build a digital business technology and data foundation

Delivering value through business ecosystems is at the heart of digital business success. You and your team will be required to build the future platforms upon which the business will operate. This will stretch many IT organisations beyond their current capabilities and many will struggle with their role as business partners architecting the digital business platform.

Success begins with redefining how value will be delivered and communicating the need for a digital business platform. Designing how this platform operates requires that you have the right blend of application architecture practices. Networks can no longer be operated in a risk-averse manner, but must now support the agility required by new business models.

Finally, making decisions at the speed of digital requires that the underlying data and information are properly managed.

Mike Burkett is a VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner. He advises clients on supply chain strategy and transformation with recent research on the impact of digital business on supply chains.

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