Executives at legacy companies, struggling to meet the challenge of an aggressive digital disruptor, sometimes think they have to overhaul their business from top to bottom.
Not so, according to serial digital entrepreneur and McKinsey advisor James Bilefield, who has worked successfully on both sides of the digital-traditional divide. While a digital start-up can disrupt the market, legacy companies shouldn’t undervalue their own competitive assets or make the mistake of thinking the disruptors have all the cards. Bilefield recently discussed the ingredients of a successful digital transformation in the McKinsey article, Digital transformation: The three steps to success.
"In my experience, culture is the hardest part of the organization to change. Shifting technology, finding the right talent, finding the right product set and strategy—that’s all doable, not easy, but doable. Hardest is the cultural transformation in businesses that have very deep legacy and cultural roots," McKinsey's Bilefield shares in the article. "One of the elements that I think is misunderstood about a digital transformation is that it’s typically a Trojan horse for a much broader business transformation, a time to review many aspects of a business’s operations from top to bottom — the talent, the organizational structure, the operating model, products, and services. Some of those are hard changes that need to be made, and some are softer, like language or culture."
What are steps for getting digital transformation advocacy on track?
Any change process starts with an awareness that there’s an issue in the organization. According to McKinsey's Bilefield, there are a number of quite significant changes an enterprise can make to send a signal throughout the organization that digital transformation is positive.
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The reality is, it is not just about a chief digital officer or a chief data officer or a chief analytics officer trumpeting the value of the digital enterprise. Today, the advocacy for digital transformation and the adoption of digital technologies to improve operational efficiency and functionality can and should be on the agenda for all employees.
Key digital transformation advocacy support actions include the following.
- Building a culture of constant change: Many companies already have a strategy of continuous improvement in their businesses and in their operations globally. Instill and support a culture of continuous change and evolution in how things work.
- Executive buy-in makes the difference: For example, according to McKinsey's Bilefield, the role of the board in a digital business is quite different from the role of the board in a legacy business. One of the challenges many legacy companies face today is that their boards are not really ready to challenge them and to support and encourage their digital transformation. To make a digital transformation happen, an enterprise requires complete alignment.
By embarking on a digital transformation, a company accepts that the next challenge is putting together the right mix of technologies to jumpstart its competitiveness. That can be a stressful undertaking, given the array of technologies that are available to empower the digital enterprise. With enterprise advocacy of digital transformation, an organization can get on track to experience new levels of operational efficiency and cost savings - defined measures of today's competitive digital enterprise.