Making the Case for Mindful Digital Transformation

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A few years have passed since we all started talking about “digital transformation” (again), so it’s only natural that organizational leaders are beginning to ponder the question “How are we doing?”

As I was preparing for our webinar “Mindful Digital Transformation,” I encountered some research by Couchbase that offers enlightening insights on where we are in the journey. I came away with a picture of a technology community that is well aware of the necessity and urgency of digital transformation, but facing some major roadblocks on the way to achieving it.

At Primitive Logic, we believe that mindfulness is the key to a successful digital transformation: begin with the desired results in sight, quiet the noise, and focus on the deliverables that will advance you towards your goals. I believe that if more organizations adapted this mindful approach, many of those roadblocks shrink dramatically, if not disappear altogether.

The Big “Why”: It’s All About the Experience

When Couchbase’s researchers asked about “the why” behind digital transformation initiatives, experience-related objectives topped the list. Ninety-four percent of respondents cited “Improving the customer experience” as a “very” or “somewhat” important reason for digital innovation projects, and “improving the experience of end-users in the business” had a similarly strong showing. Leaders were somewhat less motivated by reasons such as making internal processes more efficient, standing out from the competition, and increasing profitability.

Focusing on customer needs is one of the “mindfulness principles” we’ll be discussing in our webinar, and it’s encouraging to see such strong support for the human side of digital transformation. If the end user is left out of the equation, it’s easy to get wrapped up in “technology for technology’s sake” and thus derail your digital transformation.

We need to be asking not only what customers want and need from us, but also what kind of experience they’re getting from other providers. Amazon and Uber, for example, have raised the customer experience bar not only for retailers and transport services, but also for banks, insurance companies, hospitals, and other providers in a wide array of industries.

Baby Steps and … More Baby Steps

The survey also revealed that, considering the massive budgets being devoted to digital innovation, expectations are high, yet actual results are proving to be more incremental than revolutionary.

About 90 percent of U.S. respondents said they “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that “the revolutionary potential of digital projects is often talked about, yet most of the time they are used to deliver incremental improvements.” Only 4 percent claimed that digital innovations have allowed them to revolutionize their customer experience to the extent that they are disrupting their industries.

When Primitive Logic works with clients, we help them think beyond today’s problems to create a cohesive view of their future — another mindfulness principle. Once they break out of the box of “how can we solve X?” and start considering questions like “What will our organization look like five/ten years from now?” they can work backwards from that vision and develop a strategic plan and roadmap. By defining this vision and making it the focal point of their digital transformation, enterprises can avoid becoming bogged down in incremental improvements and keep their sights on the larger goal.

Resolving “The Data(base) Dilemma”

Nearly 40 percent of respondents to the Couchbase survey said they are having to hold back their ambitions to launch new digital services due to reliance on legacy database technology. Forty-one percent have had digital projects fail completely because the legacy database couldn’t support them, and 29 percent have had to reduce the scope of projects due to database limitations.

An important step in mindful digital transformation is gaining a solid understanding of your current systems and their capabilities as early in the process as possible. Even the most ambitious plan is useless if your current database and other systems won’t support it. Once you’ve identified the gaps, you can make strategic decisions about whether some platforms need to be replaced or upgraded now, or whether it makes more sense to adjust your plan until those improvements can take place in the future.

The Pressure Is On

Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents said they were concerned that stalled digital innovation will impact the customer experience, which in turn will impact revenues. As the report’s authors point out, this chain reaction could initiate a dangerous spiraling effect:

There is a real possibility that an inability to take control of digital innovation will create a downward spiral: poorer customer experience leading to lost customers, lower revenues, and fewer resources to invest in digital innovation. (p. 12)

If a business falls behind the pace of digital innovations in its industry, respondents believe that it will survive for less than five years before going out of business or being absorbed by a competitor.

To me, these results point to the urgency not only for getting on board with digital transformation, but also for taking the mindful approach that we’ve been talking about. Enterprises can’t afford to waste time with initiatives that only deliver incremental improvements or that won’t elevate their customer experiences. Only those who approach the goal strategically — and mindfully — will be in a position to reap the benefits of digital transformation ahead of their competitors.

What’s Next?

As enterprises embark on their digital transformation journeys, it’s easy to get caught up in the noise — the technologies, the competing interests of internal groups, the push to replicate what competitors are doing. I see this “noise” as the primary cause of many of the roadblocks the respondents to this survey described. The solution, of course, is to quiet the noise and take a mindful approach, focusing on actionable, implementable solutions that generate lasting business results.

To learn more, watch the recording of our webinar “Mindful Digital Transformation.”

Anisha Weber, December 2017