Four dimensions of a digital future

By Markus Koch

Digital transformation’ is one of the many buzzwords that can be heard on a daily basis in the new age of digitalisation. But how necessary is it?

'Transformation' - implying a dramatic overhaul of current processes and practices - surely does not come without an equally substantial risk. As the fully-loaded supertanker that is the large corporation steams ahead at full speed, persuading it to change course seems an impossible task - and perhaps an unnecessary one. Why challenge the well-oiled machine to transform if it's current path is profitable?

But inevitably with risk comes reward, and companies must be ready to identify and monetise the digital opportunities and avoid digital disaster. To be ready for the digital future the supertankers must position themselves as a promising launch pad for 'speedboats', i.e. their own corporate ventures. The stability of the supertanker provides the speedboats with the momentum they need to start their journey (although of course, there will be some that sink). As the small boats gather more speed over time, the role of the supertanker is eventually redefined.

According to research by Deloitte Switzerland, there are four interlinked dimensions determine a company’s digital readiness:

#1 People – Embracing diversity and future-proofing skills

First things first. Without the right people, companies can achieve nothing. In today’s ever more complex world, companies can only solve problems by reflecting on them from all angles. Variety of perspective comes from diverse teams representing a wide range of backgrounds, taking into account different industries, educations, ages, genders and cultures.

As well as diversity, certain competencies will also be essential in the future. Studies show that these skills include social intelligence (to understand customers), creativity (to solve unstructured problems) and a decent amount of IT-affinity (without needing to be a programmer). Of course, being flexible will also be important, as well as a willingness to take on new responsibilities and think cross-functionally.

#2 Organisation – Enabling agility

Cultivating a workforce with these skills is essential to a company becoming agile. Agility is achieved by delegating responsibilities and decision-making power from the top downwards, allowing a company to react to market changes quickly. Changing demographics and increasing globalisation are also encouraging organisations to make this cultural shift.

#3 Culture – Providing the freedom to fail

Not all corporate ventures will succeed, but with every failed venture comes an opportunity to learn. Whilst failing might feel inherently uncomfortable for a corporate organisation, the ability to cultivate an experimental approach that embraces failure as much as success will be critical. Individuals must feel empowered to try without guarantee of success, or in other words, to ‘fail forward’.

#4 Digital Environment – Building the right ecosystem

No company on its own - regardless of size - can stay on top of all digital developments. It is also difficult for companies to distinguish between hype lasting technological change. For these reasons it is important for any company to have a network of partners such as universities, trade associations, customers, suppliers and consultants.

Even with reputable forecasts, not all predictions will become reality. In fact, we cannot predict the vast majority of future developments, just as the inventors of computers, the internet and mobile phones couldn’t possibly conceive the full potential of their technological legacies.

What we do know is that digitalisation as an industrial revolution will, and already has, driven much change. The difference this time around is that this change is happening dramatically faster, and companies need to be bold so as not to fall behind.

There may be storms ahead, but are you ready to set sail?

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