A day at the shops (Photo by Bruce Mars from StockSnap)

Digital is rapidly advancing. Businesses that are leading with digital are leaving those who aren’t increasingly far behind. Failing to keep the pace of digital change is killing businesses. How do you ensure you’re not one of them?

What’s happening?

Every industry is currently experiencing significant change. Covid-19 has of course had a huge influence, but change was already underway. The pandemic has merely accelerated that change.

Everything is becoming more digital, from business models to the increasing use of data, customer interactions and automation. The availability and accessibility of technology is growing each day. Consumers are not just wowed by a more digital engagement with businesses, they are now expecting and demanding it. And they are shunning those that aren’t keeping the pace of digital. To compound the challenge, digitally-leading businesses are harnessing data, automating processes and cutting overheads to increase operational efficiencies, making it harder for less digital businesses to remain profitable.

Online fashion retailers Boohoo and Asos, for example, recently bought the long-standing but now cut-price Debenhams and Topshop brands respectively. But the brands will only now exist online, with the stores (and their staff) to go.

Yet it’s not just a new generation of brands that are embracing digital. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, recently heralded the transformative role that digital has had on the 170-year-old pharmaceutical giant as it rolled out vaccines in record time. “Without digital, we wouldn’t be here”, Bourla claimed, explaining how the discovery and development of medicines has been digitised, cutting down the time it takes to safely bring new products to market.

Why does this matter?

Quite simply, digital is having and will continue to have a direct and significant influence on the commercial performance of every business.

If you’re responsible for the business strategy in your organisation, you need to make sure that digital plays a central role.

You don’t have to be a digital expert, but you do need to be aware of what impact it has, and can have, on your business, whatever its current level of digital maturity. You then need to know how to adapt appropriately in the short and long term, and act on those plans.

How can we ‘be more digital’?

Being more digital doesn’t mean the same for every organisation. There’s no sense in a business at the lower end of digital maturity to suddenly dive into embracing the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) or blockchain technology. Those at the high end of digital maturity cannot sit back either. Digital is never done and continues to evolve, so you need to keep evolving too in order to stay on top.

Whatever your starting point, the first step is to conduct a comprehensive audit of your current digital maturity and effectiveness. You may also want to benchmark your organisation with competitors and peers for context and inspiration.

Define a digital vision for where to aim your business, that everyone can buy into and rally behind.

Then, identify where the priorities lie that have the greatest impact on your business performance in the short term. Develop a plan and roadmap for change that is achievable with the skills, budgets and capabilities of your organisation.

It’s critical that the business buys into digital change from the top and throughout. Many digital transformations fail due to poor planning, high costs or lack of organisation-wide involvement. A plan without action is nothing.

How is your business being more digital?

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