Three Tips to Smarten Your Digital Transformation Strategy

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Read more about author John Knieriemen.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated organizations’ digital transformation efforts, regardless of whether they were ready for it or not. Now, as businesses have adjusted their plans to factor in the ongoing effects of the pandemic, digital transformation has become not just a business initiative, but one of high priority. In fact, Gartner found that digital transformation is now an organizational priority for 87% of senior executives, with over one quarter of managers stating it is necessary for business survival.

As digitization plans continue to evolve, it’s time to adopt a “work smarter, not harder” mindset by smartening up digital transformation strategies. This can be done through the power of data. Companies around the world have realized that data is the raw ingredient for effective digital transformation, the secret to understanding customers and the fuel for automation efforts that lead to a leaner, smarter way of working.

Based on my conversations with global business leaders, here are the top three ways to smarten a digital transformation strategy:

Break Down Organizational Silos

Digital transformation efforts are often planned for in a vacuum, meaning select department heads and C-suite executives plan for digitization without necessarily thinking of the business as a whole. The first step to ensuring a smarter digital transformation strategy is to simply break down these siloes, and collaborate with each department head to ensure you’re hearing their top concerns, priorities, areas of improvement and recent success stories.

When building this collaborative structure, a good place to start is by working closely with the organization’s chief data officer (CDO). Not only will this help the business better understand the data currently in possession, how it’s analyzed, and what it means for the organization, but it will also help to understand the latest worries keeping the CDO up at night. From my perspective, CDOs are currently trying to balance two sides of the spectrum – they don’t want to be the “data police,” hindering the business’ ability to innovate; but on the other side, they can’t have a wild west strategy, so they have to maintain control while still allowing room for growth and innovation.

COVID-19 served as a wake-up call for organizations. Many business leaders learned that to make effective decisions faster in an increasingly complex world, they need to put data at the top of the agenda. But a data management strategy can’t be implemented successfully without someone to spearhead it – the CDO is the best person for the job, but in order to navigate data and larger digital transformation efforts efficiently, the traditional organizational silos need to come down, and fast.

Really Listen to Customers

Organizations collect so much information on their customers – but are they really listening to what that data is telling them? For example, in a sales and marketing department, there’s data coming from several different sources. It’s easy to see which customers opened which email, who attended a certain event, and so much more. But yet, many sales and marketing professionals struggle with the follow-up and converting leads to customers. Too often, follow-up touchpoints are not tailored, impersonal or simply outdated. 

It’s a complex challenge to harness all data at one’s disposal, but it must be done in a smart manner – such as when accompanied by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies – in order to listen to an audience’s needs and deliver what they want. Fast data insights will provide these answers, which means data analytics must be a part of the overall digital transformation strategy. Listening before acting on a problem always proves valuable – the same can be said for digitization efforts.

Predict the Future Before the Competitive Set

It’s critical to forecast the future of the business, specifically when planning for digital transformation, before your competitors do. In order to do so, organizations must take full advantage of predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics is a form of advanced analytics used to make predictions about unknown future events. This is done in several ways, including (but not limited to) data mining, statistics, modeling, and AI/ML. Predictive analytics is all about unlocking value from existing data sources – not about architecting a whole new approach to data. 

One industry that’s harnessing the power of predictive analytics in DX is the retail sector. Smart retailers are using predictive analytics to drive smarter stock ordering and align special offers and staff rotas with the weather and sporting events. It’s also helping to eliminate unknowns from their immediate and medium-term future, which means avoiding running out of stock at inopportune moments, helping to halt supply chain shortages. Overall, I’m finding that the retail sector is using predictive analytics right when attempting to reduce waste and boost profit margins. As we look ahead, I anticipate (and encourage) more industries to take advantage of this technology and ensure it’s part of a smarter DX strategy.

Digitization efforts are here to stay. In order to remain relevant in business, digital transformation must be implemented through the entire business. In order to plan for digital transformation effectively, in a smarter, leaner way, the power of data must be harnessed by breaking down barriers, listening to the latest insights, and predicting what lies ahead. Is your organization ready to smarten its digital transformation strategy?

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