The hidden benefits of digital transformation

Nov 30, 2020 2:30:00 PM

User's hand pointing to computer screenDon’t you love unexpected bonuses?

It doesn’t have to be anything big. The parking meter that still had an hour on it when you parked there. The pizza in the break room on a day you didn’t have time to pack a lunch. The dollar bill someone used as a bookmark in the library book you checked out. The canceled late-evening Zoom meeting that gave you time to read a story to your child.

These are some of life’s little joys—inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but things that can incrementally boost your spirits, at least for a moment.

There are other greater, unexpected benefits: Those associated with digital transformation. Here are a few of the many benefits of digital transformation:

  • Better data – Business processes can be improved without leveraging digital tools. However, doing so can provide a business with better data regarding business operations, customers, and the market in general. Better data and better analyses lead to better information. You can make better tactical and strategic decisions and pivot nimbly when market conditions warrant.
  • Competitive advantage – Companies implementing successful digital transformations have advantages over their competitors that don’t. This is the main reason why businesses around the world are turning to digital transformation.
  • Improved business processes – The main point of digital transformation is to simplify and streamline manual, cumbersome business processes, especially those that don’t add value to any product or service your business offers.
  • Reduced costs – Improving your firm’s efficiency increases productivity and reduces the overhead costs that reduce profitability.

These alone should be enough to convince the leadership of any company, any size and in any industry, to take a long, hard look and business processes to determine what digital transformation strategy would be the best for them.

There are less-obvious advantages as well:

Eliminating Unnecessary Processes

Digital transformation requires organizations to examine their business processes in fine detail, looking for opportunities to reduce waste, add value, and automate. But as any process-improvement consultant will tell you, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is automating a process you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. The journey of digital transformation enables you to find these processes and get rid of them outright or at least merge them with similar processes that can pull double-duty.

It’s unlikely you’ll find many such processes. If you do, you have to wonder how the organization survived under the weight of all that wasted effort. But finding a couple of them and eliminating them can be quite satisfying.

Discovering Hidden Talents

Recall that one of the components of digital transformation is organizational change: A change in the way of seeing problems and opportunities, a change in the way of doing things, a change in the way the people and departments interact with each other.

Amid all this change, you may discover hidden talents in the organization. Someone in Accounting may have taught herself JavaScript and is eager for a project to try out her skills. A machine operator on the factory floor might have a flair for video editing and production and is willing to help produce training videos. In a transformative environment, people should not be pigeonholed by their job titles or professional resumes.

How do you find these hidden talents? Digital transformation, and the organizational change that comes with it, should involve everyone; not just because the transformation will be smoother if everyone has an ownership stake in the changes. When you involve everyone and really listen, you learn things about them you would never have guessed.

All this leads to perhaps the most impactful hidden benefit of all:

Improving the Organizational Culture

Organizational change on the scale required for digital transformation can’t succeed by cramming it down people’s throats. They have to embrace and own it. The way to do this is to get them involved; let them shape the transformation in a way that will improve their professional lives and the effectiveness of the organization. If the organization doesn’t have a culture that encourages this behavior, then the culture needs to change.

A culture change doesn’t happen by itself. But it can’t be forced. It has to be nurtured.

Culture change starts with a commitment from the top of the management hierarchy to examine the rules, procedures, and management styles that may be preventing a cooperative, collaborative culture from flourishing. And then, make the necessary changes.

The result will be a culture that not only drives digital transformation, but is also more transparent, more diverse, and more inclusive, with better communication channels and better ideas. Even without any digital transformation initiatives, an organization with this type of culture will be more effective, more productive, and more nimble.

So the next time the vending machine drops an extra bag of chips, give it to someone who needs it and be thankful for unexpected benefits, both large and small.

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Angela Spencer

Written by Angela Spencer

Angela leads our Digital Transformation consulting practice helping clients close the gap between strategy and execution. Her extensive background and leadership in leading transformations spans strategy, operating models, governance, data and analytics, product management, agile methodologies, and managing change across organizations.

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