Digital transformation – in 2020 and after.

With this article we would like to tap into the People aspect of Digitization – aiming to zoom into competences shared by people whom have been successful in Digital Transformation contexts.

In the year 2020, organizations across all markets (must) have covered “Digital Transformation” as one of their key strategic agenda topics. Being it as a survival issue for some, and a great opportunity for others. Some plan to bring (more) efficiencies in current business processes and operating models. Others prepare to leverage new technologies to support new business models in the nearby future. In both ways, Digital Transformation integrates Digital technologies in all areas of business: from sales, to marketing, to operations, to logistics and beyond. And that is, in our opinion – and in those of many others, how proper Digital Transformation should be done in 2020.

The struggle.

A solid strategy and clear C-level vision are the backbone of a successful Digital Transformation – combined with a strong tech/IT function and enough investments in digital capabilities, of course. Although that may sound obvious, many transformation programs still fail to succeed due to C-level hindrance. There are, unfortunately, many examples of C-level chairs that remain to be seated by the conventional ones holding on tightly to their mandate and decision power, referring proudly to successes gained in the past.

The wisdom of “What Brought You Here Will Not Get You There” could not hold more ground in 2020.

STEPHANIE STUIT Digital Specialist at Batenborch International.

C-level board needs to adapt the right mindset, mentality and willingness to transform. Even if that requires to say goodbye to long-standing business heritage. Even if that means to take risks, diving into a wide range of strategic possibilities this digital era has to offer.

It takes some strong guts to “let go” like that – we could not acknowledge more. Yet, there are more struggles to overcome. Even if grounded in a solid strategy, clear vision and strong tech/it function – Digital Transformation, as being defined as integrating new Digital Technologies in all areas of business, is highly complex. Especially for large, rigidly structured corporates. From people, to process, to product: all is reconsidered, reorganized and changed in the light of digital technologies. The more people, processes and products the more the pace of transformation is slowing down. At the same time, new technologies constantly emerge and radically reshape business economics faster than ever. While taking root in today’s digital landscape, tomorrow’s expecting new digital waves to come. Until technologies stop to develop, digital transformation is an ongoing process. An ongoing process of translating new technologies to potential opportunities or threats, in terms of your way of doing business, earning money and competing others.

Organizations are required to show agility and flexibility, to be able to adapt to the fast-changing world around them where needed. Which does not mean to fire your current employees and hire a team of digital professionals to come and do their “thing” – whatever that may be. Or to lose all structure, process or method: business should surely not become an experimental playing garden.

The solution.

The solution for organizations to be(come) future ready and future proof is multiplex. From a talent pool of existing, re-educated strengths complemented by new capabilities (people), to reinvented ways of working (process) and to new ways of adding value to a total ecosystem of consumers, customers, suppliers and partners (product). With this article we would like to tap into the People aspect – with a specialization in Digital propositions from mid-to top management level, and an extensive network of specialists, managers and leaders in the field of digital, we could fill a book with cases of success and failure.

Yet, we kept it to this article – for now, aiming to zoom into competences shared by people whom have been successful in Digital Transformation contexts.  There are multiple groups of people to distinguish, of course. The people on leadership level who will design and drive transformation, including change programs for cultural and operational shifts across all units (and their roll out). And the people whom execute – adding their functional Digital skills, bringing new perspectives, disrupting yet blending into your current organization. Here´s what we learned about them.

Competences.

Successful Leaders bring a strong business acumen, combined with strategic agility – allowing them to see opportunities in that wide range of strategic possibilities of the digital era, to be further assessed within their organization’s strategic framework. A successful leader is politically sensitive, understands where to be bold and where to show empathy – he or she is patient and smart in presenting ideas for change. When given a go, successful leaders are decisive and responsible – taking the role of frontrunner, including all responsibilities and (potential) consequences.

For new digital talent to be hired, a proper assessment on competences and personality is often underestimated. As digital talent is increasingly scarce, companies are hiring all capability they can get. But with just knowledge and technical skills, business impact is not guaranteed. New disciplines need to blend into your current ones. This requires for digital talent to be a team player, with a cross functional mindset – allowing them to place their specialism in the wider scope of their team. Successful hires are hands-on with a can-do mentality – filling your organizational gaps and positively contributing to organizational goals within a couple of weeks. Yet, successful hires bring a sense of entrepreneurship too – seeking for opportunities and new initiatives to create together.

There is no blueprint for the best organizational structure, with an overview of the best set of functional profiles. Organizations should work to an agile, flexible structure consisting of cross-silo oriented, multidisciplinary teams – matching market dynamics and competitive environments.  However, experience did teach us that these are some of the key competences to look for in people, next to their functional experience, skills and knowledge. To support you in assessing these competences during interview or evaluation processes, we have developed some easy to use tools including example areas to explore and example questions to ask regarding considering the competence Business Acumen, Decisiveness and Entrepreneurship.

Download Digital Competence Cards