Do’s and Don’ts for Your Digital Transformation Journey

Organizations in India are now at a turning point in their evolution as they stand on the brink of digitization. At this crucial juncture, the CIOs and CDOs are laden with apprehensions around what works and what does not.

Kushe Bahl, leader of Digital Practice and Partner at McKinsey & Co. has assimilated key learnings from some of the global digital journeys of organizations to offer tips and guidelines on how CIOs and CDOs in India should go about approaching their digital transformation roadmap.

Top Down Approach:

If you want to get business value from your digital transformation initiatives, they cannot be driven as bottom up. Little experiments, which don’t cost much, can be led like that. But, if one wants to see real business impact it has to be led like any other transformation. It has to be sponsored and driven by the CEO and led by senior leaders in the organization.

Obsess Less About ‘Digital’ and More About ‘Transformation’:

In digital transformation, one usually obsesses a lot about the ‘digital’ part while it is actually the least complicated part of the exercise. It is the ‘transformation’ part, which is the critical and complex part and needs to undertaken like any other transformation – getting customers to adopt, bringing about change management, etc. 

Mostly, digital transformation is underpinned on the premise that customers, partners and employees are digitally savvy considering their wide usage of digital tools like WhatsApp, Facebook and mobile/online shopping apps. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the same customer, partner and employee will lap up any new digital initiative readily. The applications may be made engaging and still they might not adopt them. Plus, the existing channels may feel threatened by new channels and put up resistance. Hence, there is a huge transformation element involved in the whole digital transformation exercise.

Partner, Not Solo:

Large companies are usually obsessed with doing everything internally and justify it by citing reasons of security and proprietary. Even CIOs love to build stuff on their own. However, that is not always advisable. As a general principle, if you can find something outside which is readymade, its recommended to take it and start with that. Don’t build it. The reason being that the readymade product has been tested and already works, saving you from going through the same learning cycle again and re-inventing the wheel. This will allow faster time to market.

Also, when you create your whole digital venture you don’t know which pieces of it you may actually want to persist with. After you put it out there, you may want to actually revamp the whole thing. So, you are going to end up throwing away a lot of things. You don’t want to throw things away that you have invested a lot of time and effort doing. So, partner wherever you can.

Customer First:

This is the most important design principle. Do not presume that because you are very committed to the company and the customer and you give the customer importance, that automatically gives you the ability to be customer first.

 It is about the flow, the journey and genuinely making it customer first. It’s also important to understand that it need not necessarily be people from within the company who understand the customer better. In most cases you need outsiders to do this. Not consultants, but artists as understanding what customers truly want, the journey that they want to go through, what they like and what they don’t like, and what they are going to respond to is an art form. It is not about app’s UI, UX, how it looks, color scheme, etc.

Do Fast, Fail Fast, Learn Fast:

Managers are trained not to make mistakes and to plan and get it right the first time. But, in digital you need the exact opposite. Any new digital use case that one is creating should actually hit with some kind of a minimum viable product within 8-12 weeks. If its taking you longer than that, then there is something wrong and you are getting into over-planning mode.

When you put your digital initiative out there, customers may not like it. One would want to know that early on so that it can be modified and re-released rather than realizing it after 6-9 months, when significant efforts and resources have already been invested into the initiative. So, do not try to do things first time right, which requires adapting to a different mindset.

Budgeting Like a Startup:

Budgeting like a startup doesn’t mean less funding. Rather, it means funding based on achievement of certain milestones. The funding into the digital transformation initiatives should be milestone based. You work in an iterative way, put your first version out, prove it, the put your second version out, prove it, and so on. The funds are also given in that way.

Large companies, usually, don’t work like that. Normally, with them a big budget proposal is given, lot of planning is done, big business case built and approval given. Once they have the budget they would go and get an expensive SI and buy some fancy solution without bothering about whether the customer will like it or not. And, then at the end they would complain that the usage and adoption is low. Therefore, its important to understand that even if you have a decent budget it doesn’t mean that it needs to be committed to some long-term plan. It can be allocated in chunks, let’s say of three months, based on milestone achievement.

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