Modern consumers represent a dizzying challenge for businesses because those people have more choices than ever before, more buying power than ever before, and less brand loyalty than ever before.
And as digital technology has been added to that already-volatile mix, the situation for businesses has shifted sharply from challenging to existential: how do those businesses stay relevant and successful in a world that’s rapidly demanding digitally driven experiences in all facets of our lives?
Enter digital transformation, one of the most profound developments to ever hit the global economy. To keep pace with the relentless demands and expectations that come with those digitally enhanced lifestyles, businesses in every industry and across every region of the world have plunged head-first into the digital-transformation imperative on which they’ll spend more than $2 trillion—yes, that’s trillion with a “t”—over the next 5 years.
Those bet-the-company initiatives and investments have the potential to drive enormous new levels of innovation and value for the businesses that master them and for the consumers who buy from those digitally optimized businesses. But that massive potential will only be realized if business leaders realize that digital transformation—in spite of all of its potential and its mystique—is not the final destination or objective.
Rather, digital transformation is simply the vehicle that makes this profound journey possible.
For businesses today, the ultimate digital destination represents entirely new approaches to and ways of creating fabulous customer experiences by:
- engaging with customers on terms set by the buyer, not by the seller;
- co-creating products and services with customers;
- re-imagining and creating new end-to-end customer-centric processes that drive and enhance organizational agility;
- embracing disruption as a competitive advantage rather than fearing it as a trend to be avoided;
- creating entirely new products and services that are digital in nature;
- hiring and grooming world-class talent; and
- using data and data-driven insights to relentlessly adapt to shifting wants and needs of the marketplace.
But traditional ways of working—hierarchical, fragmented, larded with layers of paper-passing middle management and locked into annual projections with little or no real-time updates or adjustments—are completely incompatible with these new requirements. For digital transformations to succeed, and for companies to become the types of customer-obsessed businesses the digital age requires, those companies must master and embrace the emerging concept of organizational agility.
That’s the central finding from a groundbreaking study commissioned by Workday and designed to identify the triggers behind creating digital-business capabilities, driving new-revenue growth, and developing innovative business models. In a blog post offering some high-level findings from the study, Workday wrote, “No one can predict the future and the seismic shifts that can rapidly arise in their industry. That’s why for the long-term survival of any company, the most important thing is its ability to manage the unexpected.”
Well, in today’s high-change and high-velocity business environment, one thing about which we can all be 100% certain is that “the unexpected” will come flying at us more frequently than ever before. New competitors, new demands from customers, new fulfillment models, new technologies, new requirements for talent, and new global dynamics have become inextricable elements of the “new normal”—so how do business leaders juggle all those unexpected challenges while also staying intensely committed to achieving the business goals that digital transformation promises to deliver?
From its research results, Workday identified five attributes that are essential in achieving the organizational agility that is proving to be the catalyst for unleashing new digital capabilities and opportunities:
- Enable continuous planning
- Build agile structures and processes
- Upskill the future workforce
- Empower employees to make decisions
- Embrace measurement and control
If you roll those five behaviors up, they point to an ongoing cycle of planning the right steps to take, executing against those data-driven plans, and then analyzing the results in real-time to relentlessly optimize future outcomes.
“We believe every company in every industry needs to plan, execute and analyze on one solution because that’s what’s necessary to be agile as technology cycles get shorter and shorter,” said Workday executive Leighanne Levensaler, who is senior vice president for corporate strategy and also managing director for the company’s VC arm, Workday Ventures.
“In every industry, the competitive climate is in such great flux that companies need to be as responsive as possible—so if you have a disconnected, fragmented environment from a technology perspective or from a data perspective, you’re really behind.”
And in today’s blindingly fast-paced world of digital business, being even a little bit behind can be deadly—behind the curve on what customers want and need, behind shifting marketplace dynamics, and behind your competitors in pouncing on emerging opportunities.
Market-leading companies will choose a very different path by harnessing the power of organizational agility to move at the speed of their customers, relentlessly co-create fabulous outcomes with those customers, and generate new revenue from digital products and services.
And that’s the destination to which your digital transformation must lead.
This article is brought to you by Workday.
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