5 keys to Unlock Digital Transformation Success

Digital transformation inside out and upside down

Digital transformation has become the new North Star for many life science organizations and is occurring across almost every industry. Digital transformation is driven by business transformation, resulting in a business whose experience, products/services, operations and talent are aligned to a new model.

Transformation is no small organizational undertaking but a few key steps can help facilitate and accelerate success.

1. Shift perspective

There was a famous experiment on perspective in the 1950s that used inversion goggles to turn the world upside down. Within a week, participants adjusted to this upside-down perspective. A fun video on the experiment.

Digital transformation suffers from a perspective problem and a definition issue. When the topic comes up, people apply a very personal definition, one that varies greatly across organizations and which frequently includes digital as a channel strategy versus the more significant reality.

Digital transformation is about irreversible experience, operational and, ultimately, business transformation; it is a new way of engaging and operating that provides sustainable competitive advantage.

A shared lexicon and a group shift in perspective is required for transformation to be successful, so digital transformation means a move away from internal silos and a more significant appreciation and immersion into the human dynamics of teams and customers.

2. Create new roles

The complexities of digital transformation require organizations to revisit and invent new roles. While today’s roles are often channel, audience or single discipline focused, the skills and responsibilities in digitally transforming organizations begin to look very different. There is an increasing need for broader perspectives spanning the customer journey and for critical skills that help to make the connections between ideas and systems.

One of the benefits of starting from the ground up, is that you can design roles to fit today’s and tomorrow’s business without legacy job titles and structures. As you transform your organization, consider how current roles and the skills of teams should evolve. These roles may not be formalized initially, but their accountabilities need to be considered.

The skills required for these new roles depend heavily on analytical thinking, a system mindset, a puzzle-solving approach and a balanced appreciation of human science and technology innovation.  System designers, orchestrators, human scientists and show runners begin to emerge. System designers act as architects for the new models, orchestrators manage more complex, integrated systems, human scientists champion behavior, change management and experience, while show runners set and maintain the transformational vision and have the authority to make decisions in the interest of the vision. 

3. Establish a new currency

Transformative models are fueled by a new currency – time, data, service and value are the drivers of new models. Success will be determined on how you make things faster, smarter, easier and better.

‘Faster’ and ‘smarter’ are driven by the real-time data-rich environment, where the demand for immediacy and relevance has never been higher. Teams must embrace and quantify time; the time it takes to serve, build, respond, satisfy, engage or even load an experience all have a significant financial impact. ‘I want it now’ and ‘I want it my way’ drives demand for ‘smarter’ and a layer of intelligence and personalization across business model.

‘Easier’ and ‘better’ tap into a market environment that demands efficiency and elevated value to both customers and the business. Fluid, seamless experiences that transcend device and channel start to separate and competitively differentiate the good from the great. This begins to force an internal discipline around simplification and reducing the steps, parts and pieces within transformative systems.

4. Transform your environment

Many companies experience a ‘Sunday evening/Monday morning’ phenomenon – Sunday evening employees use their iPad, play Xbox with the kids and talk to Alexa, but on Monday morning they enter a workplace filled with multiple sign-ons, disconnected systems, desktop-heavy presentation and unfriendly interfaces. This slows down transformation.

Organizations that successfully transform their external experience almost always have been as diligent in transforming their internal experience. Transformation is a reflection of your best self, and organizations need a proactive plan to transform how they engage, operate, onboard and communicate internally. It’s less about navel gazing as it is collectively embracing the currencies above to drive how the business operates.

Start by identifying those workplace pain points that feel incongruous with your external transformation vision. Operational areas, like starting a new employee, planning a new program or troubleshooting a service request, open up interesting transformative opportunities. Create internal opportunities for customer immersion, technology innovation and service elevation to transform how you operate.

5. Experiment toward a vision

Digital transformation requires thinking at scale – it becomes real when you ask bigger business questions and establish a more visionary destination. How do we meaningfully connect with every customer who starts our product? How do we cure condition x? These larger world-changing questions help maintain a North Star for a transformation journey.

Successful and enduring digital transformation is built through serial experimentation and disciplined planning, not by getting caught in a cycle of novelty pilots. With the vision in mind, it is important to have a disciplined approach to agile experiments designed to make continual progress towards that goal. Transformation is a continuous cycle of learning and in applying that learning at a much faster rate than ever before.

Overall, organizations must have a bit of a willingness to burn the bridges behind them and not retreat to comfortable ways of operating nor stop investing human and financial resources in significant elements of the current business model.

In summary, if you approach the business inside and out with a freshly informed perspective, a willingness to undo, and an obsession with the currency that drives today’s digital world you will create sustainable advantage.

Will Reese is Chief Innovation Officer at Cognizant Life Sciences


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