Your CMS, LMS, and AMS are chatting happily together. The team is using the new analytics software to plan more effective outreach initiatives. And, members are enjoying your responsive and customized approach.

Is it time to put a wrap on digital transformation? After all, you’ve been working to improve your tech game for the last two years. Is there more to accomplish?

You probably know the answer to this question. It’s satisfying to check complex items off the to-do list. But technology continues to evolve, and we have a choice. Keep pace or fall behind. Yes, digital transformation depends on hardware and software. It wasn’t going to happen without purchasing those big-ticket items.

Unfortunately, despite the hefty price tag, the mechanics are meaningless without the philosophy, strategy, and culture that maximizes those tools. Digital transformation involves adopting a vision that continues to expand along with business and market possibilities.

Remain Adaptive

I hear many CEO say that they’ve learned to be more flexible about decision-making. Adaptation and resilience were watch-words during the pandemic. Don’t abandon those qualities now that the crisis is over. The willingness to see from a different perspective and the courage to innovate should also characterize your attitude to digital initiatives.

In a July 2022 article, Accenture reported that 88 percent of executives thought their customers were changing faster than the company’s ability to keep pace. One example of this phenomenon that comes to mind is how we will all need to address improved AI technology and greater opportunities for customer service and personalization.

The expectation for immediate responses to complex online questions and queries is only going to increase. If your members aren’t already expecting on-demand and intuitive support, be prepared for those requests in the very near future.    

Continuously Improve Quality

Digital transformation is a process of continuous quality improvement.

Remember when a procedure manual could be accurate for at least two or three years? I think about all the detailed chapters around web and online protocols that were probably irrelevant six months after their painstaking composition. Digital initiatives need constant tweaking and tending. There is no near-term end to monitoring and updating issues like these:

  • Identifying manual processes that should be automated
  • Finding roadblocks in operations
  • Understanding where data and business intelligence can support decision-making
  • Unifying initiatives across departments and platforms
  • Hearing the voices of your members and providing the content they are seeking

True digital transformation is a process of continuous quality improvement. It’s a journey that begins with leadership and strategy.

Back in 2017, a Wipro study found that one in five executives secretly believed that digital transformation initiatives in their companies were a waste of time. One in four leaders stated that a key obstacle to success was a lack of agreement on what digital transformation actually means, and 35 percent identified an unclear transformation strategy as a barrier to achieving full digital potential.

Those statistics were not surprising in 2017. There was still some skepticism around the urgency to adopt digital business systems. One thing has definitely changed. Today, few leaders would call their IT activities unimportant. On the other hand, confusion about what digital transformation actually means and the lack of a clear strategic direction, or roadmap, continues to be a challenge.

Understand the Concepts

I have written about this distinction before. The difference between digitization and digitalization is an important concept, especially in this context. It’s confusing that the two words are so similar. However, their meanings are poles apart in terms of scale and impact. The Gartner Technology Glossary offers these definitions.

“Digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form, also known as digital enablement. Said another way, digitization takes an analog process and changes it to a digital form without any different-in-kind changes to the process itself.

Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.” 

We are all more comfortable with the familiar.

The second definition explains the purpose of digital transformation and the reasons why it is a continuous process. Digitization, or converting analog files to digital formats, should be the precursor to digitalization or using that content in innovative and more efficient ways.  

Occasionally, clients want a new AMS to translate their analog behavior into a digital format instead of retooling to take advantage of the powerful processes at their disposal. We are all more comfortable with the familiar. I understand this tendency. It can feel challenging, time-consuming, and risky to reinvent the way you do business.

But reimagining is absolutely essential. To realize the return on investment from digital transformation and to succeed in fast-paced markets, experimentation is a process you must learn to enjoy. New technology will force you to rethink again, and again, and again.

Integrate Leadership, Strategy, and Planning

How do you break entrenched business habits and move forward? As I said earlier, leadership and strategy are key. Our paper, Pathways To Organizational Excellence, offers advice for leaders who want to develop strategies that drive technology and support integrated and innovative operations.

Our experience guiding multiple clients through digital transformation demonstrates that to keep the process moving forward, CEOs must be the first digital evangelists. The job requires an energetic management style that leaves dust around anyone who commands the conference table from the depths of an oversized swivel chair. Digital leadership means rolling up your sleeves and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Adopting a flexible and inclusive approach to planning is also critical. It’s important that the people who understand the human and financial resources available set the objectives.

A client once confided in me that every item on the organization’s plan included a technology component, and the staff did not have the IT experience to manage these projects. That’s a classic example of planning that took place in an information vacuum.

An integrated process, where the board plays the role of visionary, and the executive leadership team identifies and operationalizes business strategy avoids these knowledge gaps and other pitfalls. It cuts across the entire organization and includes constant communication among staffers and departments to ensure collaboration. The CEO is the hub that turns the wheel.

Commitment from the top creates the buy-in needed to keep digital initiatives successfully moving forward. Instead of viewing digital transformation as a project to be completed, strategic leadership makes it the engine of ongoing possibility—a gateway to keeping your mission relevant in a changing future.