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Digital Transformation In A Post-COVID World

Benny Ong, Managing Consultant
August 18, 2020

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly,” he said. “[But when it’s done wrong], all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” (1)

I have spent a large part of the past decade selling, consulting, and implementing digital transformation solutions for clients in the oil and gas, construction, and ship building industries. In my own experience, most of these implementations did not last past a certain period, often 2 - 3 years. I have seen projects implemented successfully, but when visiting the same companies 1 - 2 years later, the solutions often have either become a white elephant, or inevitably replaced.

According to a Forbes study, between 70% and 80% of all transformation efforts fail. Why is that? For one, end users do not see the benefits of such systems, having been implemented top-down; or the champions/administrators have left the organization, and no one knows how to support the solutions; or the solution implemented does not echo what the consumers/end-users need or want; or disagreement among top management about goals; or even trading in quality for quick implementations, just because they want to be seen as having implemented digital transformation first.

To have both successful implementation and sustainable utility, it is not enough just having a committed project sponsor, you will need the complete buy-in from your top management, middle management, the end users, and even the IT support and maintenance crew after the implementation. If I were to compare the entire process to a marathon around the tracks, my previous clients tend to start strong, but fizzle out after a few laps.

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Digital transformation is a journey, and it's not an easy one, it's one that you need to absolutely prepare for. You need dedicated team members, committed sponsors who believe in the vision of digital transformation, and stakeholders who understand the benefits that digital transformation can bring about in the long term, viz., a vision for your particular digital transformation. In a way, experience plays an important role in the implementation which eventually leads to the success of every implementation. Having at least one person on the team who has gone through a prior successful implementation and seeing it through to achieving certain benefit would provide valuable insights and feedback.

Now at a time when companies are grappling with the fundamentals of digital transformation implementation, the coronavirus pandemic emerged and put a dent on every organization’s digital transformation strategy, along with other types of strategies pursued.

So, what is new post-COVID-19? 

What is different and what has changed?

The COVID-19 crisis for many has pressed the reset button with significant implications for every industry by challenging forward operating assumptions. For some businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic could be the catalyst for their organizational caterpillar to evolve, while for a great many others, it may postpone the moment of chrysalis. Following the crisis, it remains to be seen which companies will emerge with wings – and which will simply be crawling along slightly faster than before.

Many companies are facing a variety of challenges; revenue and growth shortfalls, work-from-home disruption, stakeholder pressures, and shifting customer needs and demands. Picking up post-COVID-19 takes enterprise agility. It means strategic pivoting and business nimbleness. This crisis is an opportunity for every industry, and companies should not be in a ‘wait & see’ mode. New business opportunities not present previously might have materialized in a post COVID-19 world, and organizations need to be better prepared to continuously monitor for these opportunities.

This is because their own consumers need help navigating the new terrain as they move from initial shock to recovery to a "new normal" in a COVID-19 world order, and they can use your help, via digital transformation, to make that pivot.

“Organizations that want to avoid being left behind need to adopt and refine their digital strategy and in a way that won’t necessarily hurt your business model  — in fact it will enhance it,”

Uncertainty and volatility will reign for the foreseeable future and technology’s forward progress is never-ending. One of the takeaways here is that digital transformation is a continuous process, not only because new technologies and approaches will constantly appear, but also because businesses, markets and competitors will continuously change as well. It is critical that enterprises constantly re-evaluate, adjust and take advantage of new opportunities in ever more nimble ways, which smart, sustainable digital transformation can help you accomplish. And in preparing your new strategy post-COVID-19, digital transformation you should include these four additional values (Fig. 1), along with continuous monitoring:

Fig 1. New values affecting Digital Transformation post COVID-19

Figure 1: New values affecting Digital Transformation post COVID-19.


Relevance –
Does the strategy consider the new alignments with customer/end-user needs post COVID-19, for recovery and the “new normal”. Consider what customers/end-users will expect from your organization now and in the future under any recovery scenario.

Sustainability – Delivering sustainable and tangible value in the short-term, leaning to the future to customers/end-users, employees, the public and shareholders and anticipating holistic, total user experience from cradle to grave considerations.

Defendability – Position around the purpose of recognizing COVID impact and action. Strategies need to consider the impact of COVID-19 and solve for the crisis. The “new normal” is here and understanding it, not avoiding it, will giver your organization a clearer path.
 
Differentiation – Setting you apart from the market. Organizations will need to consistently find new sources of differentiation to stay relevant, “sticky” to their consumers and ahead of their competition. In digital transformation, it is the first movers and very fast followers that gain a huge advantage over their competitors (think Tesla).

Taking the long-term view now will help your business resilience in the face of future threats and assist in delivering new growth.

8 Questions You Should Be Asking:

1. Do you know all of the available and emerging digital solutions that are suitable for you out there?

2. Is your organization ready to begin your digital transformation journey? What do you need to do to get total alignment?

3. Do you have a clear view of where future value for your company is going to be and the road map that will get you there?

4. Is your company leadership aligned on priorities and ambitions in the digital transformation journey with the right time horizons?

5. Is your digital transformation strategy ready for the new normal?

6. How do you begin your digital transformation journey?

7. What technology or technologies can best support the transformation?

8. What are the use cases of peer companies that have embarked on this journey? What can your organization learn from them?

If you have any related questions or need further information about Lux’s response to digital transformation post COVID-19, be sure to contact us. Our experts have experience across emerging technologies, digital transformation and we’re here to help you navigate the ‘new normal’.

 

FURTHER READING:

- Upcoming Webinar: Building a Catalyst-Responsive Technology Strategy

- Blog: The Hidden Power of Know-How

- Blog: Identifying Adjacencies to Catapult Innovation Strategy

- Blog: Tech Scouting and Innovation Investing During Systematic Pandemics

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