What happens after a programme of digital transformation?

For businesses that have navigated the difficult maze of digital transformation, one question inevitably arises: "What comes next?"
Written by
Lee Conlin
Published on
February 28, 2024
What happens after a programme of digital transformation?

In the landscape of information and technology, change is the only constant. Innovation births transformation, and technology drives that transformation endlessly.

For businesses that have navigated the difficult maze of digital transformation, one question inevitably arises: "What comes next?"

This article explores life after the digital transformation process is “complete”, focusing on further improving your digital processes, human engagement, and adoption of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI).

A sprint, or a marathon?

We’ve written other articles on what a digital transformation is, how to do it well, and how to get started, but in this article is about what happens after. What do you do once you’ve achieved the goals you set when you started your digital transformation?

Digital transformation is analogous to the first step in a race. It's tough, filled with slips, trips, and missed turns. It's the hard truth that many organizations often stumble through this phase, sometimes achieving less than ideal results. In a well-cited article, Forbes noted that almost 70% of digital transformations "fail".

However, forward-thinking companies recognize that this process is not a sprint, but a marathon, where shortcomings are merely opportunities for improvement. Indeed, some of the most profound growth emerges from moments of adversity, with these apparent missteps fostering progress and development.

So, what comes next?

After completing a digital transformation project, the journey is far from over. Rather, it evolves into a continuous process of refining and enhancing the digital systems and processes that have been put in place. Businesses should be searching to identify improvement areas and address them gradually. Usually, coming out of a project, you will already have a list of things on the backlog that didn’t make the cut during the project. These items were important enough to be captured during the project so don’t lose sight of them.

One crucial avenue for refinement is the interaction between employees, customers, and the new digital systems. Digital transformation efforts must consider the human element at their core, as their ultimate success lies in the simplicity, efficiency, and convenience they bring to the interaction between customers and businesses.

An intuitive user interface improves employees' productivity and enhances customer experience, which indirectly impacts the bottom line positively. Therefore, decision-makers must continually keep their finger on the pulse of user interaction with their systems, seeking feedback, and implementing enhancements based on these responses. The goal should be to seamlessly meld the human and digital aspects of the business into a cohesive unit.

Looking beyond the human factor, businesses must also prepare for the oncoming wave of next-generation technologies such as AI. Once the domain of science fiction, AI has gained substantial momentum in various industrial sectors. It holds the potential to automate routine tasks, increase productivity, enhance customer experiences, and deliver crucial insights into business operations.

Understanding when and how to incorporate AI into the existing digital landscape can be daunting, but by beginning with small, manageable projects, businesses can explore the benefits and limitations of AI without revolutionary disruption. Those who shun AI and other emerging technologies risk falling behind in the competitive race.

Alongside the excitement of new technology, one must also consider the practicalities of maintaining and updating their technical infrastructure. As systems age, their performance may degrade, or they may become incompatible with newer technologies and systems. Thus, there needs to be a regular review of all digital systems to ensure they are in good order and up-to-date.

However, this doesn't mean that organizations should simply dash to implement the latest update or hottest technology. Businesses should strike a balance between stability and novelty, retaining what works, yet being open to experimentation - provided, of course, that sticking to status quo doesn't leave them lagging in the marketplace.

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Digital transformation done well

A great example of how a traditional company can continue to succeed at digital transformation comes from the Swedish furniture company, IKEA. They implemented an omnichannel shopping experience, strengthening their position in the e-commerce space, changed to smaller-format shops, pivoting to address the lower numbers of in-person shoppers (even pre-pandemic) and the boom in online shopping and began using augmented reality to allow their customers to choose furniture before making an actual purchase.

In 2017 the company bought TaskRabbit, a platform for hiring people, helping less able Ikea customers to find someone to help them assemble furniture.

Then in April 2020, Ikea acquired Geomagical Labs, a company known for its innovative work in computer vision and augmented reality. This acquisition has helped IKEA to enhance their capabilities in creating immersive shopping experiences for its customers. Geomagical Labs’ expertise in 3D reconstruction, room visualization, and interior design will likely continue to play a significant role in shaping the future of Ikea’s digital offerings.

IKEA continue to iterate on their digital offerings, predicting and reacting to changing in their customers’ needs and this has allowed them to continue to prosper despite sudden changes in consumer behaviour.

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Wrapping up

In summary, digital transformation is indeed an important milestone, and organizations that have weathered this storm should pat themselves on the back. But the journey doesn't end there; it merely shifts gears. The post-digital transformation phase is about refining established systems, focusing on employees and customer engagement with these systems, embracing emerging technologies like AI, and managing the maintenance and updating of the technical infrastructure.

During this stage, it’s important to continue to set clear goals and objectives. Creating an ongoing backlog of things you want to do or feature you want to add, and then regularly reviewing and prioritising that backlog is a great way to ensure that you keep moving forward and offers opportunities to respond to changes in your business, market and the wider world.

Finally, it bears repeating that the real aim of any organization’s digital strategy should be to improve the human experience. This involves enhancing customer satisfaction and employee productivity, which ultimately drives growth and profit. So, keep updating your roadmap, keep evolving, keep innovating, and most importantly, keep putting people first. Technology, after all, is merely a tool; it's people that infuse it with life and purpose.

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