Digital transformation has always been a living, breathing thing. Always growing, always changing. What was current three, two, or even a year ago can easily be tomorrow’s news today. Companies need to not only recognize the fast pace of digital transformation in the workplace and business, but also keep up with how it is changing the landscape both for themselves and their customers.
What the present looks like and what came before
Today, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft (and Grab in Asia) have become ubiquitous to modern living; accommodation-sharing efforts like AirBnb now change the way traditional leisure and hotel brands are looking and attracting customers. It feels like a long time ago before these digital solutions came into world, but in reality, it’s only been a few years.
Also only a few years ago, many companies had little to no mobile strategy. But after the realization that many customers — especially millennials, who are continuing to account for more and more of the customer base — were looking for solutions they could bring and access on the go, many have woken up to the benefits of having a strong mobile strategy.
The same principle applied to how companies viewed digital transformation, with many choosing to stick to more traditional approaches and strategies, concerned with the cost and perceived risk of investing in digital. This in part prompted the rise of small startup firms that shook and challenged the establishment, and in the process becoming the giants they are today.
Even the term “digital” also meant something smaller before, usually referring to information technology — and the corresponding department in companies. The term has now grown to encompass a much larger definition, and is now a part of many companies’ departments’ direction and strategy that is independent of IT.
Looking to the future
As digital transformation continues to evolve, many new and emerging trends are sure to play a bigger role in how things work. Here are number of things companies can expect in terms of digital transformation.
1. Bigger utilization of automation and artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence used to be stuff of science fiction stories, but no longer. While a lot of it is still in development, a lot of companies are seeing bigger benefits in automated systems and artificial intelligence in their operations.
A note of caution though — many customers still value a “personal touch” when they deal with companies and service providers. The challenge will be finding a balance and harmony in utilizing automation and AI without losing touch with what customers want and feel.
2. Larger focus on user experience
One major by-product of digital transformation is that is has created more discerning customers. Consumers — especially millennials — have much more access to information and are more in-tune with their needs. Brands will need to incorporate a genuine human experience into the way they do business and deliver their products and services to ensure that they keep their customers and attract new business. Gone are the tone-deaf days where businesses dictated what customers wanted. Customer needs will define how an industry innovates, changes, and moves forward.
3. Tapping into a talented global workforce
Geography is no longer a limitation to how a company attracts talent. More and more companies will discover talented groups and individuals all throughout the globe. These people will not need to report to physical locations, but instead work remotely from wherever they are. As such, companies will also be able to better tap into the global market and realize opportunities they never would have realized had they continued to set limits on their talent pool. Even in terms of basic cost reduction efforts, the concept of telecommute / remote working can make a significant impact in cutting down overhead expenses, especially those associated with physical offices like electricity, space, and equipment.
4. Real time, all the time
Customer expectations can be daunting, and sometimes even unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll stop. The more discerning customer means that he or she expects issues to be addressed as promptly as possible. User interfaces and experiences should be fast and seamless. Many will look to tech like virtual or augmented reality to offer more immersive and “real” experiences. Many digital strategies will also incorporate real-world interaction and even gaming (much like the principle behind the wildly successful and popular game Pokemon Go) into the way they reach out and engage with current and potential customers.
5. More partnerships and collaborations
The global nature of things as well as the way things digitally interconnect mean that a lot less things will be made in a bubble. Companies and brands will partner and collaborate with each other across industries to develop significantly innovative solutions, products and services they would not have been able to develop otherwise. This in turn will also be one of the important drivers for companies to improve what they have and think of new things to put out into the world.
6. More socially-conscious businesses
Entrepreneur reports that businesses with visible advocacies are more likely to be supported by customers, with the customers in turn becoming volunteer brand ambassadors in the process. Especially given the way social media works, the adage “any publicity is good publicity” no longer applies. Brands that are able to build up a reputable image will also see that trust translate into a larger and more loyal customer base.
What companies can do to catch up
Companies need to keep abreast with what’s current in the digital transformation space in order to find new ways to keep and serve current customers, as well as attract new ones. Thanks to digital transformation, customers and clients are more discerning, and are more likely to switch to a competitor if their needs aren’t met.
1. Promote a new mindset
Digital transformation is inevitable for every company that wants to forge ahead and keep itself relevant. However, many organizations make the mistake of simply handing down new digital policies and strategies with little or without consultation with its members. As a result, many initiatives fail to achieve their goals.
It’s important that any new initiatives be explained and understood by all members of the organization, from the officers in the c-suite down to the rank-and-file employees. It’s important to stress how essential the new direction will be not only for customers, but also for the continued growth of the company. Lectures and refresher courses can be held for employees who need guidance with new technology — that way, no one is left behind.
2. Invest, invest, and invest.
A 2017 report from the Harvard Business Review shows that the average investment in emerging technologies (as a percent of total technology spending) grew just 1% over the 10-year period. A lot of spending on digital is usually only for operation streamlining — but many companies are missing out on opportunities by failing to invest enough when it comes to their products and services.
Companies also need to invest in attracting tech-savvy talent. This should be especially true for executives who both appreciate and understand current and future trends in digital transformation. An effective c-suite that stand ready to steer the company through the currents of digital transformation should include someone like a chief technology officer or chief information officer, whose input should be made integral in shaping a company’s direction and strategy.
It’s also worth considering that many concerns about investing into digital have proven to be unfounded. Like any investment, the payoff can come slowly, but given the nature of digital trends, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
3. Don’t forget the customer
It’s a common pitfall for many digital initiatives to forget to consider customer needs and experience. Effective digital initiatives are ones that allow both company and customer greater convenience and efficiency. Customers today are more tech-savvy than before, and considering their input in a company’s digital strategy can be a strong differentiator in a highly competitive business environment. In a nutshell, applications should be easy to understand and navigate through, and be comprehensive enough to meet most, if not all customer needs and concerns.
Digital transformation is inevitable
It’s happening, and there is no stopping it. The need for digital transformation is undeniable, and the faster companies realize it, the faster they’ll be able to sit down and decide what they need to do. Technology evolves independent of business, but good brands will be on the lookout for new developments and how these can be incorporated into their business model. Good companies will look at the big picture and see how new technology can make operations more efficient, while maintaining product/service quality and making customers more engaged.
The potential that digital transformation offers is limitless at this point, and that’s not a hyperbole. Just take a look at how not just business, but our world and society has changed because of digital transformation. Some might still be wary of it, but the future is for those who seize it by the head and have it steer them into greater success and profitability.
It’s essential for companies to be prepared to keep pace with the constant evolution of digital transformation. Part of this is working hand-in-hand with the right partners like Runrun.it to help manage tasks and workflow, allowing the smoother implementation of digital transformation initiatives. Runrun.it’s expertise in the digital transformation space will also serve as a valuable resource for determining digital strategy going forward. Take a free trial: http://runrun.it