Given the rise of generative AI, the metaverse and web3 technologies, it’s clear that business as we know it is changing. With the rapid advancements in technology and the ever-changing digital landscape, organizations must embrace digital transformation to stay competitive and relevant.
Digital transformation is not just about adopting new technologies; it’s about reimagining business processes, enhancing customer experiences, and driving innovation. Here are nine essential steps to create a successful digital transformation strategy:
1. Define Your Purpose And Ambition
As with any business plan, always start with your purpose (mission) and ambition (vision). If you don’t already have mission and vision statements, now is a perfect time to craft them. And if you do have them, great – but do review them to check they’re still fit for purpose. In other words, consider how future technologies will affect your mission and vision over the next few years.
Just to clarify, your mission (or purpose) statement articulates why the business exists, what purpose it serves and for whom. You’re essentially answering the question, “What do we do?” Meanwhile, your vision (or ambition) statement outlines your aspirations for the future.
2. Check Your Existing Business Strategy
No doubt you already have a business strategy that sets out core business goals and activities for the next year or several years. But is it still relevant for the future? Are you absolutely sure you have the right strategy in place, given the wave of transformation coming your way? In other words, you need to carefully review – and, dare I say, challenge – your existing business strategy.
3. Look At Your Products/Services And Business Processes
As part of reevaluating your business strategy, you’ll also need to revisit your customer value proposition. Value is the keyword there. Ask yourself, "How do we add value for our customers and the wider world through AI, metaverse and web3 technologies?”
Now, it’s absolutely fine to identify an experimental project (or projects) that perhaps aren’t your most strategic, pressing priorities. That’s fine. Experiment away! But even your most experimental projects must still add value for your customers, employees, or other stakeholders. Otherwise, what’s the point?
The same goes for your business processes. As you explore your business processes to see how you can enhance them with AI, metaverse and web3 technologies, make sure you remain laser-focused on adding value.
4. Identify Your Priority Projects
Having explored your products, services and internal processes, you should have arrived at a list of potential use cases or projects that you could implement in your organization. This may include things like launching an NFT that accompanies a physical product, creating an immersive metaverse experience for customers, implementing immersive remote working tools, leveraging generative AI in your product development, bringing blockchain into the supply chain, and so on.
How do you narrow these down and identify which one(s) to focus on first? To start, I recommend identifying one key strategic project that will help the organization deliver its vision. Something that's 100% aligned with your organizational goals and will deliver significant value. You can have other strategic projects in mind to follow after that but choose one as your top priority.
Naturally, strategic priority projects can take time to execute. So, I also recommend identifying one, two or even three "quick win" projects. These might be more experimental, or they could just be smaller projects that you can pull off in a shorter space of time, with fewer resources. It's all good, so long as they add value. Quick-win projects are a low-risk way of testing your ability to execute a digital transformation project – and in the process, your team will build confidence and learn valuable lessons that will feed into your bigger, more strategic projects.
5. Build Your Skills Plan
You’ll no doubt need to tap into a range of skills to implement your projects. It's therefore imperative to do a skills audit in order to identify your skills gaps and consider how you will address those gaps (through hiring, upskilling, partnerships and so on).
6. Look At Potential Partners And Acquisition Opportunities
If you don’t have the necessary internal skills and can’t hire people with those skills (which may or may not include freelancers), what can you do? Well, you can acquire companies with the necessary skills, you can form partnerships with other companies, or you can work with the many external consultants who offer services in these areas.
7. Define What Success Looks Like
It’s vital you define measures of success for your future projects. This may include tangible goals (for example, a certain number of visitors), less tangible goals (such as improving skills in a certain area), milestones, and of course, metrics that will help you track measures of success. In other words, this step is all about articulating impact (so, what do you want to get out of your project?) and then identifying how you will measure that impact.
8. Don’t Forget About Ethics And Governance
You will need to put in place the right governance framework and consider the many ethical challenges that come with technologies such as AI and the immersive internet (things like privacy, data security, using technology for good, and so on). With this in mind, more and more organizations are setting up ethics advisory boards.
Having an ethics advisory board isn’t just important for digital transformation, though. It will help you improve all aspects of the business – how best to handle business disruption, for example, or how to avoid unconscious bias in hiring. An ethics advisory board should create a strong foundation of ethics right across the company, not just in certain areas.
You should also ensure ethics is embedded in the fabric of the organization – a core part of your culture if you will. Therefore, you'll want to raise awareness of ethical challenges and decision-making, and ensure practices are integrated across the entire organization.
9. Identify The Technology You Need
You might be surprised to see technology come last in the plan, but that’s very deliberate. In fact, it’s how I approach any future technology strategy. You should always work through your goals, vision, wider business strategy, core projects, skills, ROI metrics, and ethical considerations before you even think about investing in new technologies. Never go straight to technology to solve your business challenges.
Because those earlier steps – things like skills and goals and ethics – they're the hard parts. Having worked through those, it's relatively easy to identify the technology you need to make it all happen. That said, I recognize that the tech side of things can seem daunting, especially in such a fast-evolving area like this. This is why it's so important to have the right skills in place – or the right partners or consultants on hand – to help you identify which technologies are needed to deliver your goals.