Go Digital, or Go Dark

Go digital, or go dark


The Digital Transformation Imperative

The COVID-19 crisis has brought about significant change in the way companies do business. Most of these changes are expected to be long-lasting and are already receiving the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.

While funding for digital initiatives has increased more than anything else, staying competitive in this new business and economic environment also requires new strategies and practices. Technology’s strategic importance as a critical component of the business, not just a source of cost efficiencies, is being recognized more than ever; most notably, filling gaps for technology talent during the crisis, the use of more advanced technologies, and speed in experimenting and innovating.

“Organizations that rest on their existing digital laurels can be surpassed by those that invest in adapting their digital capabilities

According to Forbes study, between 70% and 84% of all transformation efforts fail. This is due to:

  • The solution implemented does not echo what the consumers/end-users need or want
  • The champions/administrators have left the organization, and no one knows how to support the solutions
  • Disagreement among top management about goals
  • 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’s not enough just having a committed project sponsor, but a complete buy-in from your top management, middle management, the end-users, and even the IT support and maintenance crew after the implementation is necessary.

If there were any lingering doubts about the necessity of digital transformation to business longevity, the coronavirus has silenced them. With rare exceptions, operating digitally is the only way to stay in business through mandated shutdowns and restricted activity. It’s go digital, or go dark. This digital mandate isn’t new; it’s simply been brought into sharp focus. The pandemic is a reality check for businesses that have been reluctant to embrace digital transformation and now find themselves woefully unprepared. While fast and furious is the name of the game when it comes to digital innovation, fast and frantic can lead to mistakes.

“Crisis breeds ingenuity, and good ideas put into practice can propel any business to a breakout performance.”

On the other hand, businesses that not only developed digital strategies but executed them prior to the pandemic are now in a position to leapfrog their less nimble competitors. That isn’t to understate the COVID-19-related challenges they now face, irrespective of their current level of digital maturity. Going digital in and of itself isn’t a panacea to all that ails businesses in the current economic environment. They do, however, have significantly more tools at their disposal to not only weather the storm but to come out the other side stronger for it. Crisis breeds ingenuity, and good ideas put into practice can propel any business to a breakout performance. Organizations that rest on their existing digital laurels can be surpassed by those that invest in adapting their digital capabilities for the post-coronavirus future - a future that looks very different from the world pre-pandemic.

This brave new world makes digital transformation existential. The results show that some significant lessons can be drawn from the steps organizations have already taken. One is the importance of learning, both tactically, in the process of making specific changes to businesses (i.e., which technologies to execute, and how), and organizationally (i.e., how to manage change at a pace that far exceeds that of prior experiences). It’s also very likely that more changes will be required as the economic and human situation evolves.

As a result of the digital transformation mandate, human resources and capital will likely be constrained. Digital initiatives may need to be reprioritized based on relevance in the current environment. New problems and opportunities may come to light with greater urgency. For some businesses, the forces of disruption may be so great that the long-term strategic vision will need to be overhauled. And any digital transformation roadmap that does not deliver value at every increment will need to be reimagined. The key is continuing to experiment and innovate with digital solutions front and center. With the right approach, businesses can come out of the fray stronger, more agile, and more customer-centric than ever before.

  1. Forbes.com, "Companies that failed at Digital Transformation and what we can learn from them" September 2019
  2. Forbes.com, "Why 84 of companies fail flat at Digital Transformation", January 2016