Bridging past and future: the digital transformation journey

A strong digital strategy is a journey, not an endpoint, explains Anurag Agrawal

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connecting digital

Connecting digital

Businesses everywhere are embracing the latest digital technology to reshape operations and deliver better value to customers. And they’re spending big to get there – investment in digital transformation initiatives will hit $1.7 trillion globally by the end of the year, including 25 billion in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, according to IDC.

However, IDC’s 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation report found that the execution often doesn’t match the hype. It predicts 70% of digital transformation initiatives will ultimately fail, whilst many more continue to disappoint stakeholders.

One reason for this failure is that businesses try to move too quickly to an ‘all-digital’ business model. While it’s understandable to want to reap the benefits of digital as soon as possible, it’s not as simple as flicking a switch. Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. With that in mind, how can you keep your digital journey on track?

find your starting point

Find your starting point

The first step is to decide how you’d best describe the state of your current business. Canon has identified three core stages of digital maturity: 

  • Digitised: Digital processes are used sometimes, but usually only if required by customers or legislation.
  • Automated: Some tasks are automated to save money or improve productivity. For example, software to automate document routing or workflows.
  • Optimised: Automated processes are continuously enhanced with the help of feedback and analytics. 
According to Canon’s independent Office Insights 2018 Middle East Report, around 45% of businesses in the region already automate the processing of at least one business document. After your business has rolled out automated processes, your focus should be on optimising them. This will enable you to gain insights and analytics to further improve processes and make strategic decisions that benefit the business.

the road to optimisation

The road to optimisation

Successful optimisation is about taking lessons from the past and applying them to the present to improve the future. These lessons could come from your customers, employees, partners or other stakeholders, and be enhanced by analytics tools such as metrics and dashboards. 
Digital business optimisation happens in 3 basic stages:
  • Process mapping: After identifying a process you want to optimise, map out its steps, either manually in a flowchart or using workflow software.
  • Process analysis: Look closely at each and every step to find opportunities to reduce waste or improve efficiency. Which processes are most critical, challenging and time-consuming?
  • Process improvement: How could each process step be enhanced? For example, through further automation or by adoption of new technology.
Digital optimisation can focus on not just individual processes, but also individual documents. Specifically, which documents would cause most disruption to the organisation should they fail to be delivered correctly and on time? Your HR and finance departments will have many of the answers as they are typically highly paper-reliant. Accordingly, they stand to gain most from introducing digital and automation to their document workflows.

the road to optimisation

Succeeding through collaboration

Applying the above strategies will enable you to implement digital transformation with confidence, but they won’t guarantee success. An often-overlooked cause of digital transformation failure is insufficient collaboration. Buy-in from customers, employees, suppliers, partners and other external stakeholders is critical.

That’s because digital transformation requires people to be willing to learn and adopt new technologies, processes, skills, and ultimately, a new workplace culture. Automation can be a scary concept, but the best way to get employees to overcome resistance to this change is to show them the real human benefits – reducing errors, saving time and money, and freeing workers from repetitive, admin-heavy tasks, so they can focus on more business-critical work.

For example, automating expense claim and annual leave requests in HR can make time for more productive activities, such as workforce planning and upskilling employees to meet new digital skills requirements. Building digital awareness and skills will continue to be an important challenge in the GCC region, where a 2017 study by Strategy & Middle East and LinkedIn concluded that digital transformation could create 1.3 million new jobs by 2025.

Written by Anurag Agrawal
Managing Director, Canon Middle East

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