Your Company’s Survival Depends on Digital Transformation

May 20, 2020 John Ryan, CMO

Digital Transformation blog image of a man walking alone across a bleak desert

Does anyone remember incremental improvements five years later? Will people talk about how hard they worked to make things operate a little better? Of course, the answer is, it depends on who those people are. Some people think and live small. The inexorable march of digital transformation must inspire you to think bigger if you want your company to survive. 

Your corporate culture counts for very little if your business is extinct. Think about all of the books, blogs, and speeches that were given about company culture. En masse, we like to discuss a fantastic company culture based on the “going concern” assumption; that is, the assumption that the business has the resources needed to stay in business. We love talking about our company’s culture because we want to thrive, but before we can thrive, we must survive. 

As the poet Wystan Hugh Auden wrote, “Grub First, Then Ethics.”

Please realize that a lack of digital transformation adoption is an existential threat. Your company’s survival is not guaranteed, and any lack of action will be harder to forgive since the answers are so available. Not wanting to make decisions about full digital transformation is a luxury you no longer have. 

Agility is an unfair advantage during an unexpected event

Agility is driving transformation projects and your best shield against uncertainty. New workflows are needed in a digital environment for the customer, partner, or contractor who interacts with a company. Who are the companies that performed best during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic? Those companies that had already invested in digital transformation and could quickly, seamlessly, and securely move to work-from-anywhere. 

Their pre-existing agile capabilities allowed leading companies to move swiftly to an infrastructure that included the homes of their employees. On the flip side, their lagging competitors lost valuable ground. Those lagging competitors will only survive a few of these moments, and then it’s game over.

Customers will not tolerate time thieves

It seems every business conversation has an element of time included. Why? Because unlike money or other resources, one cannot get time back. When you’re a customer, and are on a customer service call for 90 minutes, why are you frustrated? Because you are losing precious time. The hourglass in your mind tells you that your valuable time is compensating for lack of digital investment on someone’s part. It seems unfair the company has billions of dollars, yet offers a tired and soul-crushing experience. 

The Customer Mantra: A lack of digital transformation on your part shouldn’t mean a loss of valuable time on my part.

We are told to have patience. Patience indeed is a beautiful thing in many situations. However, this is 21st-century business, and I’m a customer. Either make my life easier with smart technology, or I will find someone who can. Customer decisions are affected daily by a provider’s digital choices. If you’re a large business, my expectations are even higher. 

I’ve been to customer portals at some of the world’s largest banks. Some are gorgeous, and some are a travesty of design. Companies need to make the customer’s experience effortless and stop stealing their time. Otherwise, the customer will take their business elsewhere.

The world’s professionals are watching

Everyone wants the world’s best employees. Superior professionals are critical to enabling your company to grow revenues and profits. If you’re a great professional baseball player, at some point, you might want to play for the New York Yankees. We all want to know what it’s like to work alongside the very best with state-of-the-art resources. Being part of a great organization is where we get to find out what a great team can do, how good we can get, and we won’t have to carry the whole load.

In 2020, if you’re very good at what you do, do you want to work for a company that isn’t ready for digital excellence? Isn’t that the game we are all playing? Do we want to use old infrastructure with performance issues instead of leveraging an effortless software experience? 

No one wants to be doing low-level work when they could be working on a project that is more interesting and career-enhancing. If a company gives us a sluggish system, that sends a signal. That signal says leadership doesn’t understand the unforgivable nature of the digital worker’s situation. 

The digital worker’s situation is they are concerned about an employment environment where digital skills give them career resiliency and opportunity. Common sense says the best employees should only commit to companies who want to be great. The world’s professionals are watching you from the inside and the outside. Give them something amazing to see.

Hiding the complexity unleashes the work-from-anywhere user

Life can feel complicated. Most of us aren’t interested in how every part of the car works. We want to drive the car with the feeling of control, performance, and comfort we anticipated. How many decisions were made to create a vehicle? We trust a thousand good choices were made by the designers and engineers. That trust is part of the brand choice we have made. Most buyers aren’t interested in the story of the parts; we just want to drive the car. 

In a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, those parts are code. Based on behavior and usage, we can relatively quickly upgrade those parts leading to better value for the user. Business leaders aren’t interested in the technology stories contributing to an overall experience. However, they are interested in hiding the complexities of the technology so that their people achieve superior business outcomes. 

Effortless. Secure. Mobile. Cloud. These are the words of the day. Why not save hours in accomplishing a workflow result? Why can’t we have security across the company? Why are we tethered to our desktops at the office? Why are we still using on-prem solutions when the cloud is proven and secure? If we want to unleash the modern worker, we must hide the complexity and focus on effortless, secure, mobile, and cloud-powered experiences.

Leadership means making decisions without perfect information

The approach of taking our time and gathering all of the facts is over. Spending more time on weighing the decision may sound prudent, but data shows it’s also foolish. As a college professor once told me, “intellectuals are great at getting together and not making a decision.” This isn’t a test of one’s intelligence as much as it is a test of one’s leadership. You’re going to have to work with imperfect information on this one. You’re in good company. Research shows companies that take several bold actions during a downturn beat their competition.

The information from the market may not be perfect, but it’s compelling. Look at the companies that weathered the original Coronavirus news better than most. Many of them were digital leaders that were agile enough for this type of event, and their operations adjusted. 

Digital transformation experiences are suitable for our new low-touch world. Whatever was holding your company back cannot be as important as your survival. Your digital transformation someday just became digital transformation now.

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