Becoming Digital vs Doing Digital

Tim Wadey, Advisory Services Engagement Director, Logicalis UK asks what your approach to Digital Transformation is and what the structure should look like.

All modern companies are looking at digital transformation, and the key decision they need to make is whether to “become digital” or to “do digital”.

“Becoming digital” is deciding to turn the whole business or business unit digital, re-engineering from the ground up to take full advantage of the benefits of technology across the value chain.

“Doing digital” implies taking specific processes, maybe a customer interaction or a B2B transaction process, and making it digital. Depending on which of these options a business chooses to take, the approach and qualities of the Digital Transformation function will change.

Digital transformation has grown as a concept over the last few years, but in general, is taken to mean building additional business benefit on the data and data processes that a business owns. This can mean finding efficiencies through process improvement and automation, new opportunities buried within the value of corporate data or new digital routes to market. A full transformation embraces all of these and more; the emergence of a connected environment, now known as IoT, is opening new opportunities with every technological development.


Becoming Digital: starts with a solid digital business culture

If a business chooses to “become digital”, the leadership team needs to embrace the objective and fully support the change initiative. That said, the scale of investment and impact of the programme means that a single point of oversight is essential. In some businesses this might fall to a CIO, in others a Chief Digital Officer, however, these leaders will need support from a team with excellent project and technical skills. In addition, the cultural change will require consideration throughout the process. Probably the most critical attributes that the transformation leaders will need to have are a clear vision of what digital looks like, the skills to understand how to deliver it and, most importantly, the drive to sustain a multi-year transformational programme. In many ways, the Digital Transformation Officer will have to lead the senior team through this programme, and these qualities combined with the soft skills to enable this leadership will eventually determine the success of the programme. This role suits an interventional style – enabling the business to focus on “business as usual” while the digital programme is delivered in a defined manner. There are well-publicised initiatives similar to this in major UK retail banks and across industries, like the airlines, where all aspects of customer interaction become fully digital.


 Doing Digital: requires greater focus on technical skills

Alternatively, if the choice is to “do digital”, the transformation challenge is much more bounded. In this case, the challenge is more to do with having the technical understanding and project management skills to deliver tightly defined digital projects. While these transform the particular process involved, they do not require wholesale change across the business. For most organisations, this will be the chosen option as there is less risk and disruption in such an iterative approach. Of course the CEO will take a close interest in any one of these initiatives, however with the choice to “become digital” he or she is betting the company and will want the transformation leadership to be part of his senior team and empowered to drive the vision to a conclusion. In choosing to “do digital”, the CEO confines the risk to particular areas and should use his management team to direct these initiatives through a skilled and technically able programme manager.

Whatever the approach, there will be a material cost and benefits realisation after go-live that needs to be driven and measured with similar control and vigour.

Tags Digital Transformation, Strategy, Digital