Technologies help us deliver on a business strategy. Without a strategy, there is no rationale for deploying technologies. In addition, there is no rationale for digital transformation, unless there is a need for business transformation. If you believe this as we do, then strategy development will be a priority. Strategies, however, are developed under the guidance of a doctrine. The purpose of a doctrine is to create a high level understanding of what we we want to achieve with our strategy, and the concepts that must be employed to achieve it. An organization’s doctrine will guide strategy development, and the tactics needed to achieve a goal.
An example of a doctrine is, “We will be a fast follower, and excel at quickly manufacturing and delivering popular fashions.” With this doctrine, the company can now develop strategies that align with the doctrine.
Many executives consider digital transformation important, but an IT issue. We, however, believe IT serves only one purpose – supporting the needs and strategies of the business. If the business doesn’t perceive a need, or have a business strategy that requires digital transformation, then there is no transformation role for IT to play. All of our research, however, concludes that organizations must be engaged in business and digital transformation or they will fail at winning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Digital doctrines and strategies must come from the top, as they require an intimate understanding of the goals, doctrines and strategies of the organization, and the resources available to achieve them. Grassroots efforts to transform a company will fail, as they are too slow to compete against engaged, focused leaders.
Leaders must have an intimate understanding of how markets are changing, by how much, and the technologies that are supporting these changes. We all watched as advertising and sales expanded quickly from brick and mortar locations, to search engines, to online auctions, mobile retailer apps/websites, and now to online classified, online markets and sharing economy platforms. Do we fully understand consumers’ path-to-purchase journeys in these evolving digital environments? Do we understand where traditional path-to-purchase journeys intersect with digital journeys? One thing we do know for certain, as a result of our research, is that consumers are altering their buying habits to take advantage of the convenience, market feedback and in-depth product information available in these mobile and digital markets. The need now is to measure how fast buying habits and shopping behaviors are changing, which is not easy. Many new behaviors and trends are outside of traditional measurements.
An additional challenge for leaders is measuring the pace of market change, and aligning resources and priorities to ensure we are changing, if not at the same pace, at least at a pace ahead of our competition. What units of measurement will capture the speed of change? What data sources will provide the data necessary for analysis, and how do we capture the data? Once we have a methodology in place for measuring the pace of market change, how do we then measure the pace of our own changes inside our organizations and in those of our competitors so we know how we are doing?
Watch the 3-minute video on digital thinking in retail.