85% of global executives have up to one quarter of available enterprise budgets to invest in infrastructure supporting digital transformation in 2018, according to research by Forbes commissioned for Dell.
These significant investments are aimed at improving profitability – a benefit felt by 80% of companies already moving ahead with digital transformation efforts, according to separate research from SAP.
These studies are just a small sample of the publicly available research indicating that digital transformation is a major economic trend, with a growing number of enterprises identifying its opportunities and taking significant steps to capture them.
Despite having already touched so many industries, though, the digital transformation wave is nowhere near cresting – and the earlier a business learns to ride it, the greater its bottom-line potential.
Every company’s digital transformation path – which necessarily involves breaking new ground and disrupting existing business models – will be unique. But the best enterprise digital transformation paths do share at least one feature in common: successful partnerships with innovative technology specialists who help digitalise key business processes and embrace the ambiguity of digital transformation.
It is leadership that defines these digital transformation partnerships. Strong, concurrent leadership that plays out in the following three ways:
Both sides are continuously learning
In a typical enterprise technology project, a business sets goals and brings in a partner to help execute them. The point of digital transformation projects, on the other hand, is to shape an enterprise’s market, not just its technology. The endeavours involves creative open-endedness and are not so much about filling talent gaps as they are about combining talents – from within the enterprise and with external partners – to reinvent ways of doing business.
As a result, enterprises bring in digital transformation partners for the value they add to the mix at every stage of the process, from high-level strategy through goal-setting to execution.
To add value to an organisation in this way, a partner must first understand the organisation. And not just in terms of its technology – its objectives, culture, and people are key factors as well.
It is important to note, however, that nobody can know an enterprise as well as its leaders. They have an important responsibility to listen to partners, parse key insights, and make well-informed judgment calls on what will work best for the enterprise. And the most effective enterprise leaders prioritize transparency with a view to help partners continue their own learning.
Both sides have a healthy bias for action
There are certain points in the life of a business where it makes sense to wait and see. A digital transformation is not one of them.
Slow-movers risk being put on the defensive with their business model disrupted by competitors. Fast-movers can disrupt their own business model in order to come back stronger than before.
Good technology partners therefore move quickly to skill up, map projects, and hit milestones. They often anticipate requests that a client may not have made due to internal priorities, market awareness, or even regulatory changes, for example. A good technology partner can fill such gaps, but a good digital transformation partner has already identified them and has lined up – if not already executed – a solution.
Apart from supporting this proactive approach from partners, enterprise stakeholders also have a key role to play in pushing changes through on their end. Especially within a large organisation, they cannot expect immediate buy-in from everyone. Even if it is by design, re-inventing a business model is a significant shake-up and can be a challenging sell.
But achieving meaningful results takes more than just a bias for action. Translating it into real action – with organisation-wide support – takes communication.
Both sides communicate bidirectionally, early, and often
Continuous communication is at the foundation of any good partnership, whether or not its purpose is disruptive enterprise innovation. Prioritising communication may seem obvious, but when it comes to digital transformation, there are three important points that tend to be glossed over:
First, technology partners should be ready to provide constructive criticism. Sharing hard truths – especially with a client – may seem uncomfortable, but it is what good leaders do and expect from those they work with.
Second, project teams comprised of several technology partners need to communicate in good faith. Digital transformation projects often involve more than one technology partner – or sometimes even in-house teams – with each handling a certain dimension of the initiative. Too often, partners’ competitive interests get in the way of the enterprise’s, and the enterprise lets it slide.
Third, secure communications ought to be a priority for everyone in a digital transformation partnership. Ensuring secure communications with partners, especially regarding key business processes, can often absorb enterprise leaders’ already limited management bandwidth. The best technology partners actively facilitate compliance with enterprise security protocols.
To conclude, let’s tie together these three aspects of leadership – learning, acting, and communicating – in a couple of real-life case studies from digital transformation projects that Lingaro has led.
Co-leading projects with Lingaro: The view from Microsoft
Digital transformation is not just a fad or another buzzword – it's a technology-enabled tidal wave of new business models rolling across multiple industries. It is changing people's lives and the way companies do business. Rapid innovation and speed to market are more critical today than ever.
In such a dynamic environment, one big idea isn't enough anymore. Micro revolutions are now occurring ever 12 - 18 months, and enterprises must be in a continual state of transformation. That means there is rarely a single source for all the answers, solutions, and know-how needed. Success depends heavily on complementary knowledge exchange at all levels of digital projects.
Good leadership makes this knowledge exchange possible. It encourages all project stakeholders to bring their own strengths to the table, support others’ strengths, and find the digital difference they can all make.
For example, when working with Lingaro, Microsoft leads with our strength: products. We offer best-in-class platforms and tools strategically designed to help enterprises build four pillars of digital transformation: engaging their customers; empowering their employees; optimising their operations; and transforming their business models.
And Lingaro leads with its strength: people. Both we and enterprise customers look to Lingaro to help execute successful digital transformation projects by: understanding the customer’s core business issues; harnessing the best talents (providing skills); improving capabilities, especially related to AI; and overcoming the ‘predictably unpredictable’ challenges along the way.
In this way, Microsoft and Lingaro are supporting enterprises’ pivots to digital with different, but complementary, offerings. By leading both sides effectively, we can deliver a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and drive real value for our shared customers.
Piotr Rybiński is head of Customer Experience and Branding at Lingaro Group
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