In a recent report by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, we learned how organizations that are leaders in digital transformation distinguish themselves from the rest. Of the 500+ global executives, leaders were identified as the 27% who rate their company’s digital transformation strategy as “very effective” both before and after the Covid-19 outbreak. Next come the followers, who comprise of the 50% of surveyed executives who say their strategies were “somewhat effective” in both periods. Laggard organizations make up the final 23% of respondents who reported “not very effective” strategies both before and after this time.
Leading companies outperform followers and laggards on several fronts, one of them being the implementation of rapid-cycle innovation, which is the defined as a digital transformation strategy consisting of the modernization of business workflows and processes to yield quick wins. 73% of leaders currently use or plan to use rapid-cycle innovation in the next year, compared with 52% of followers and 35% of laggards. This is a key component to these business’s success.
A Framework for Transformation Success
The findings of this research report, titled Reevaluating Digital Transformation During Covid-19, shed light on the strategies used by leading organizations to achieve this success with their digital transformation even in times of disruption. The following four lessons comprise the framework leveraged by these highly successful organizations to ensure the effectiveness of their digital transformation – in any circumstance.
Create a foundation for ongoing transformation that’s rooted in executive commitment
More than 60% of leading organizations report having senior executives who are highly committed to rapid-cycle innovation. This is foundational to deploying a successful digital transformation project – without buy-in at the top where resources and organization-wide leadership are provided, people in the business will not be able to maintain transformation as a priority as they go about their day-to-day responsibilities. Management at every level must continuously reinforce that transformation is an ongoing process and empower their teams with the necessary tools and support to be successful.
Avoid ad-hoc approaches to rapid-cycle innovation
49% of leading organizations have an innovation point-person – such as a business improvement manager – to be the champion of innovation for their organization. This person job is not simply to spearhead all transformation efforts on their own, but to act as a communication liaison between executives and people in the business, and most importantly, to act as a talent magnet. Their role isn’t to implement innovation, but to build innovators by identifying people throughout the company who show potential and empowering them with the relevant tools and training. This overcomes the common hurdle that many organizations face where there is only one person responsible for the project, which sets the company back if this person were to leave or change roles.
Employ low-code tools throughout the business
Businesses must take advantage of the latest technologies that are aimed at helping them achieve business priorities such as digital transformation and business resiliency. Low-code application development tools is one example of such a technology. A key benefit of low-code as a tool is that it democratizes software development – so people without coding or developing experience can create and iterate on business applications that modernize the unique processes that they perform daily. In fact, 73% of leaders are currently capitalizing on low-code development, whether in a single department, or across the entire organization.
Invest in your organization’s culture surrounding digital transformation
Your business is only as strong as its people. With a strong organizational culture that encourages transformation and sees innovation as an essential part of everyone’s role, then transformation efforts will last for years into the future. To cultivate this culture of innovation, your company can update policies to support digital transformation and rapid-cycle innovation. You can also focus on building a relationship of trust and understanding between IT and business units. This encourages teamwork between teams who, when working effectively together, can be a major force for change — IT can better understand the needs of the business and people in the business can better understand how technology can be used in their jobs. This, in addition to providing training to help business people understand company protocols and opportunities for technology, will support a wider adoption of new tools.