How does digital transformation look like #1 : the visible part

Once leaders have understood there may be reasons to change things, the first question that comes is “what should we do ?”, “how will it materialize” ? In fact digital transformation has two sides

– a visible and concrete one and that’s the only thing the people who ask you the question want to know. They want to know what will happen on screens. Unfortunately, they’ll have to deal with the other side one day or the other, the sooner the better.

– an invisible one (at least on screens) that no one cares about and, sometimes, annoys people. But it’s about all that’s needed to make things work.

The 3 sides of digital initiatives : revenue, costs, risk

So let’s start with the visible side of digital transformation.

If you’re talking  with leaders don’t waste your time with tactical initiatives. They only care about three things with which you’ll have to articulate discourses and initiatives : revenue, costs, risk.

First let’s start with a digression. I know that there are lots of talks about intangible and soft benefits, that not everything can be measured. And that’s true. Nonetheless :

• Any project has a cost. A financial one first but not only. It consumes attention, resources, and hogs energies.

• Knowing that any leader will want to know in which way the money will return. Directly or indirectly. As a matter of fact even soft benefits are supposed to drive hard ones on the rebound, one day or the other. Smarter and better trained employees, a more engaged workforce, customer playing the role of advocates….are not only a nice stuff. The first are supposed to produce more and better, the second are supposed to buy more or make others buy.

What if your financial advisor tells you “I’ve a a good investment for you, you’ll have to put a significant part of you savings in, get personally involved in it but I can’t tell you what you’ll get in return, under which form, when or how much. I’m not even sure it will cover the spending” ? You would run away and change bank. Think about it when you’re about to sell something that will cost a least tens or hundreds thousands dollars for a large company.

If one don’t make more money than he spends he loses money. That’s all.

In short, as someone recently told me “it it does not make me sell or produce more or spend less it will make me lose money. That’s all”.

Even if the boundaries are porous and if some initiative can fit in several cells, let’s start with what can help to grow the revenue. It will logically include what’s about customer experience and value.

• Customer relationship individualization (welcome to the data kingdom) offline and online.

• Customer service (anytime, anywhere, any device, any channel)

• innovation and co-creation with employees and customers

• customer experience (in the literal sense, brand, voicing, postures, customer journey online and offline).

• R&D, products  : digital does not only change the way organizations operates but it transforms products, services and business models. A digital organization thinks and designs products for customers that are going digital faster than her.

As for reducing costs and raising productivity :

• learning : social learning, e-learning, MOOCs

• Collaboration : structured and unstructured

• Business processes / activities socialization

• Decision making : social and data

• Engagement (gamification, intranet…)

• Knowledge and information management, expertise location, networks of experts

• Remote work

And to mitigate the risks the company is facing

• Reputation management

• Retaining knowledge that should not leave the company with its owners

• Employee (re)engagement

• Employer brand

Of course it must come with the management of the new risks caused by the transformation itself, what has more to do with the management of the transformation.

This is not an exhaustive list but it should make anyone wonder about the role of “M. Digital Transformation” in the organization. Something is sure : no one can claim having the needed skills to put his hands both in marketing, processes, HR, communication, IT. So a kind of hybridity is needed (knowing one’s field, understanding the other’s as well as their challenges and language) and, most of all, being able to guarantee the coherence of all the initiatives led “under the digital umbrella”. Big picture and articulation rather than silos and redundancy.

The “Digital Transformation leader” will also be in charge of driving the invisible part of the work. That’s what I’ll be discussing in a next post.


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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