Why Business-First Approach is Critical for Digital Transformation

Digitalization is just the tip of the iceberg, beneath it lies a depth of downstream changes that need be done at various levels, says the Global Head of Digital Business Services, Dell.

Raman Sapra, Global Head, Digital Business Services, Dell Digital transformation is providing great opportunities for enterprises, big and small, to reinvent themselves and create more value through newer business models. Many companies across industries are adopting digital technologies like analytics, cloud, mobile, social media and more recently Internet of Things (IoT) to engage customers innovatively, provide greater possibilities for their employees and optimize, and even redefine operational models. Digital technologies have also given rise to a new breed of ‘digital only’ startups, with little or no physical components --- for example travel ticketing aggregators, taxi aggregators, digital content streaming apps, virtual collaboration space and tools, to name a few.

These harbingers of digital change are showing the world the real possibilities of digital. But what drives successful digital adoption for them? It is the business outcomes and value creation, driven by digital possibilities that is driving true digital adoption. 
While it’s fascinating and heartening to see how digital is revolutionizing several industries and the very nature of business itself, companies must also realize that the digitalization potential varies across businesses and industries. A comprehensive view spanning front office, mid office and back office is essential to define and drive business and operational outcomes. Trying to adopt digital technologies, just because your competitor or industry is doing so will not yield the desired benefits, especially in the absence of a business-focused goal.
Companies seeking digital transformation should have the ability to see Digital holistically --- business strategy, processes, customers, and employees rather than how and what digital technologies alone can do for their business.
And as companies begin identifying opportunities for digital transformation they will realize that digitalization is just the tip of the iceberg, and that beneath it lies a depth of downstream changes that need be done at various levels --- IT strategy, people strategy and the organization change-management as a whole. Today, many companies have high expectations from Digital and are eager to transform themselves digitally. It is important for these companies to define how their ‘digital company’ will look like or where, what and how to use digital strategies to benefit most from them. Taking a business-first approach is critical Serious digital adopters today have already started seeing the benefits of going digital. A common factor among these early adopters is that they are using digital to redefine their vision, redesign their business model, reinvent their operational model and business processes and repurpose their existence to align themselves to the evolving, soon-to-be disruptive, digital economy. This business-first approach, where technology is an enabler of business outcomes is a key factor in their success. A business-first approach means setting up digital at the heart of the business and growth engine and using it effectively to envision new business models, becoming truly customer-centric, improving employee engagement and achieving process and operational excellence with greater success. With a business-first approach digital transformation initiative, a healthcare provider for example, can envision new digital-driven care models like remote health, better clinical outcomes, wearable-driven patient engagement program for patient loyalty and satisfaction, a mobile app for nurses at the point of care for seamless care management, and analytics-driven operational optimization to drive better ALOS (Average Length of Stay) and bed turnaround times. For successful digital transformation, companies must first identify and understand the full range of digital possibilities across their enterprise, evaluate alternate options based on business objectives and desired outcomes and then implement a sustainable digital vision. Steps to adopt a business-first approach
  1. Recognize: Investigate priorities and risks in the context of business environment and future outlook.
  2. Rethink: Analyze business functions, processes and roles, through the lens of 'digital' to identify potential areas that can be digitalized. Consider the costs vs. benefits of these potential changes, especially in the context of customers and their stakeholders.
  3. Render: Build mock-ups of the proposed changes to storyboard the idea and create better engagement with key users and other stakeholders.
  4. Reorganize: Define process, people, key performance indicators (KPI) and ownership to deliver the transformation at identified digital touch points.
  5. Realize: Execute the transformation through a combination of business process changes and technology implementation of analytics, cloud, mobility, social media and IoT.
Not all businesses are born equal, and not all industries need all digital technologies equally. While healthcare might use cloud solutions to store data and provide doctors with the right information at the right time on the right device to improve health outcomes, the manufacturing industry might use IoT and other digital tools to increase efficiency and output. The retail industry on the other hand can use social media, analytics and mobile technologies to provide a personalized experience for shoppers. It’s vital for companies to first assess their digital maturity in the ambit of their specific industry, while also ascertaining how and where digital fits into their business agenda and growth strategy. Companies need to also establish security and compliance at every step of their journey, and ensure their IT is modernized and agile to cater to the impending changes. But the first definitive step of a digital transformation journey starts by having a business-first approach with a clear vision, and comprehensive and outcome-based roadmap. This will help establish digital at the core of the enterprise, enabling companies to nurture and drive the right digital programs for success.  



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