Top Priorities For Digital Transformation – The ‘ACCORDION’ Approach

When working with companies who are ready to embark on their digital transformation journeys, I am often asked, “What are the main steps we need to take to become a truly digital organization?”

I always come back to the same key drivers that are, in my opinion, the core considerations behind any digital transformation initiative. They can be summed up using the ‘ACCORDION’ mnemonic.

An accordion is an instrument with many folds that, when squeezed together, emit an harmonic melody. Here are the components of my ‘ACCORDION’ digital transformation approach :

Agile approach
Connected digital enterprise
Customer-centric focus
Orchestrated technology stack
Resources (dedicated)
Data quality and integrity
Innovation
Operational digitization
Nimble competitive awareness

Agile approach
Short, rapid learning cycles that promote speed to market and an MVP (minimum viable product) approach can be applied to software development, marketing, innovation testing, and practically any other area of the business. Each iteration (or sprint) will typically be anywhere from 7 to 30 days, at the end of which the aim is to have an MVP that you will launch and test for performance. Prototyping, testing, evaluating and optimizing are stages of agile that enable organizations to be more nimble.

Agile has been a trusted methodology in the world of software development for many years and has also recently been adopted with much fervor in the marketing arena. Quickly pivoting to changing circumstances is another trait of being agile.

Agile

Connected digital enterprise
The digital mindset and strategy is not seen as a siloed initiative, but as a core part of the company’s DNA. Employees understand and embrace the game plan and are all rowing in the same direction with one common goal. This cultural shift MUST be initiated by leadership and be an integral part of the CEO’s daily narrative.

Customer-centric focus
Introducing a digital mindset means incorporating innovation into the processes and systems of the company in a way that is relevant to the customer, in that it streamlines their experience with your brand. It’s not about leveraging the latest and greatest technologies for the sake of doing so, or because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do. Any adoption of new technology or models should have the clear purpose of reducing friction for the customer and empowering them to engage with your brand through seamless and consistent interactions across all channels (omnichannel marketing), and on their terms.

Digital should be utilized to provide experiences that are already expected by your customer or that will delight them because they offer an unexpected level of ease or sophistication. Either way, it’s the emphasis on relevance to the customer that should drive the decision to implement any new processes. Understanding your customers’ journey (customer journey mapping), and being able to see through your customers’ eyes are essential parts to checking this box. In some cases, you may need to rethink your company’s value proposition in order to fully embrace the customer-centric focus.

Orchestrated technology stack
Many companies are still working with legacy systems that have been layered onto the tech stack over years of doing business. It’s highly likely that there are inefficiencies in the existing platforms, and that more effective and scalable options are available. There’s probably also a decent amount of functionality overlap in the existing tools and technologies.

A significant effort in the digital transformation is reassessing the architecture of the tech stack, eliminating platforms that have become obsolete and adding those that will streamline operations and introduce automation, AI and predictive capabilities. These technology platforms will be spread across different business functions – Accounting, HR, Marketing, IT, Sales, Operations. It’s important to take this on as an holistic effort and find systems that are going to work harmoniously across functions, enabling the sharing of data from one to another so as to reduce technological siloes and increase performance.

A common challenge to achieving this “technological harmony” is that some legacy systems hold companies hostage to data or connections, and an elevated level of migration and integration may be needed. Bridging the gap between the legacy technology to support the newer digital systems is part and parcel of process.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and business intelligence tools are top considerations in this category.

Resources (dedicated)
Dedicated resources are pivotal to a successful digital transformation. A clear and consistent transformation vision can best be permeated throughout the company by leadership personnel dedicated to the effort. In addition, C-suite team members must be fully engaged and vocal. It is sometimes the case that change agents exist intrinsically within the organization. These are best guided by a purposefully recruited role such as the Chief Digital Officer or the Chief Innovation Officer.

It’s natural and normal for employees to lose sight of the vision and start to question the strategy and tactics of the transformation, and it’s the job of the dedicated resource to realign them on the vision and reel them back into the forward-thinking approach.

Data quality and integrity
Clean and consistent data which is transparent and accessible by all business functions is highly desirable when undergoing any digital transformation. Data complexity is commonly cited as a roadblock, as is the lack of skilled data analytics personnel.

We often recommend investment in highly qualified data experts as well as in the redesign of the IT infrastructure in order to bring levels of data quality to the standards required for a successful digital transformation. With a solid foundation of quality data, advanced technologies such as predictive modeling and machine learning can be applied.

“Transforming the products and services companies offer is happening because of data intelligence. All companies everywhere are becoming data companies — from farming to finance, from New York to New Delhi — businesses are using data to connect everything from cars to cows.” Satya Nadella

 

Innovation
Ongoing innovation and experimentation from the inside (intrapreneurship) is another cornerstone of digital transformations. Identifying dedicated innovation specialist/s who have a change agent mindset and are responsible for driving innovation initiatives promotes healthy disruption.

In larger enterprises, it’s beneficial to establish an innovation lab that touches the entire organization, collaborating with departments to foster an innovation culture and establishing internal processes to sustain it. An innovation lab can be an onsite or offsite setup with members recruited from inside or outside of the organization. This group leads the vision, strategy and culture surrounding the ongoing innovation by working in a ‘safe’ space that is conducive to the germination of radical new ideas that will advance the business. By involving employees, accepting their ideas and then holding collaborative events such as Hackathons, an innovation lab is a central hub for all innovation activity.

“So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know—just explore things.” Steve Jobs

innovation

Operational digitization
Industry 4.0 is here. Business needs to raise productivity more than ever. To stay in the running and become an intrinsically digital company, we can’t look to just IT for the solution. Digital transformation is an operational endeavor. Leveraging digital to streamline the day-to-day running of the business is a non-negotiable. This, in turn, speeds up the metabolism of the business allowing it to run smarter, not harder.

An end-to-end approach is at the core of any digital transformation initiative, starting with an examination of the fundamentals of your organization’s strategic goals, its human assets, areas of potential growth, untapped markets, where it can double down on successful tactics.

Digital technologies such as automation, AI and IoT (Internet of Things) can then be applied to eliminate bottlenecks in the operational infrastructure.

Nimble competitive awareness
A kissing cousin of Innovation, having a keen awareness of the competitive landscape and a mindset of continual self-disruption (disrupting yourself before the competition does), is essential to the ‘digital DNA’  of the organizational culture. Acknowledging the rapid pace of digital innovation, which is only getting more and more frenetic, and seeing real examples of disruption such as Uber to taxi cabs, Netflix to Blockbuster, Amazon to Borders, reminds us that the need to constantly ‘be on our toes’ is acute. The change agent/s in the organization are responsible for spearheading this effort.

In conclusion

The ‘ACCORDION’ of digital transformation discussed here, when played out in parallel, makes the difference between a company that ‘does digital’ versus a company that ‘is digital’. A subtle nuance in terminology, but a huge difference in meaning. The benefits that a company can expect to enjoy by being digital include increased productivity, speed to market, growth in revenues and margins, deployment of new business models, undying customer loyalty, and the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on Industry 4.0?

2018-02-28T17:03:19+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Vera Shafiq
Vera Shafiq is CEO and Co-founder of 813 Digital Marketing, a digital innovation consultancy that uses agile and data-driven marketing processes to bring marketing innovation and transformation to growing businesses.
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