What’s NXT: (Digital) transformation — four strategies of the highly successful

The signs are everywhere. We've taken a big leap in digitalization during the pandemic, especially in our daily lives. We shop, work, and hold meetings online to an extent not imagined as late as two years ago. Studies show that firms and organizations that were ahead in digitalization at the eve of the pandemic have pulled ahead even more since then. Those who've put off their digitalization efforts struggle to catch up, causing what we call "digital anxiety" – an affliction affecting actors in all industries. The question they ask themselves is a broad one: How can we use digitalization to create better and more relevant offers for our customers?

To answer it we need foresight. What may the market look like in five years? Or even ten years? Top performers in general tend to also perform well when it comes to identifying trends and drivers (especially in technology) most impactful for their business. For example, keeping track of developments in 5G technology, AI and automation can help improve customer experiences almost in real-time. The more prominent a brand or an organization, the greater likelihood of them performing regular trend analysis and scenario work. Simply put, the very best keep their eyes on the future when they transform their organizations to become digital. 

In this article we present four strategies fundamental to any successful digitalization process:

1. Get your terms straight

2. Find your place

3. Steal from the best

4. Eyes on the future

We discuss a few important concepts to get your digital journey started, list a number of best practices essential for successful digitalization, and take a look at the next decade in digital transformation.

Get your terms straight
The first step is to clear the virtual jungle of confusing terms and concepts that keep leaders from getting their digitalization plans off the ground. By nailing down what digitalization and transformation actually means for you, and making sure everyone is on the same page, you can avoid misunderstanding and conflict getting in the way. Few areas are as plagued by confusing terminology as digitalization. 

Find your place
The second step is understanding where you stand today. By looking att the three levels of digitalization — digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation — you can benchmark your organizations digital maturity level. All businesses and organizations move from digitalization towards digital transformation. The end goal is the elimination of any distinction between "traditional" and "digital" work modes.

Steal from the best
Throughout history successful companies — and successful people — have been good at standing on the shoulders of giants. In this context that means identifying what's brought others success and making that part of your own strategy. However, the success factors mentioned may just as well become pitfalls if you act unaware of them.

1. Understand that digitalization is not essentially about technology. Technology enables digitalization, but alongside technological development there must be active efforts to manage change and develop new ways of working. A dynamic business culture is also required to get everyone on board.

2. Have the courage to be open about management's skills and experience. Often this part determines whether digitalization efforts will end up a success or not. To reach your Digital Destination it's essential that leaders demonstrate transparency about their skills, a willingness to learn, and openness to change.

3. Respect complexity. Successful digital transformation is still rare, and the term is often used when not justified. Transformation means deep, major change, like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. When business leaders look back on successful digital transformations they tend to emphasize the importance of having a deep respect for the complexity involved. 

Eyes on the future
Looking forward towards the 2030's, what do we see? How do businesses and organizations work in 10-20 years? We can't be sure, but observing current technological trajectories gives us some idea of where to look. The first is at data-driven customer insights. Over the last few years we've noted a trend away from focusing on the enabling technology to focusing on the customer. Understanding of customer experience is the new gold; developments in data analytics, 5G and AI will make markets more and more data driven in the next decade. Players who continuously gather and analyze data about how customers experience a product or service can adapt their offers much quicker than others. Top performers in this area today are also among the most successful organizations in the world. 

Exponential growth might sound like a tired cliché today, but it's nonetheless a fact that the future will bring change on a scale and at a rate we now struggle to imagine. Continuously watching trends, and imagining possible future worlds — scenarios — against which to evaluate plans, strategies, and ideas for new products or services, will grow more and more important for getting and staying on top. In other words, the more proficient an organization is at monitoring change and looking ahead today, the more successful it will be in 2030. 

The Kairos Future model for future-driven (digital) transformation
We hope to soon leave the word "digital" behind and just talk about strategy. That's why we put brackets around the (digital) when we work with strategy development. Our model for (digital) transformation is future-driven, which means it's built on our 20 years of experience working with future-driven strategies, in addition to the insights and advice you've read about above. The model is based on TAIDA, Kairos Future's well-tested framework for trendspotting and further analysis. It has three phases and is a strong foundation for both radical transformation and more limited efforts like digital maturity assessment. 

Do you want to know more? Or do you want help analyzing your organization's digital maturity level or book a walkthrough of Kairos Future's model for future-driven (digital) transformation? Please contact Nina Al-Ghussein Norrman

Together with our partner and principal owner Nexer, a leading player in technology development and digitalization implementation, we also offer services combining Kairos Future's well-established tools and models for future-driven strategy with Nexer's extensive capacity in IT. 

By Nina Al-Ghussein Norrman