There is a very big, very scary-looking dollar value given to digital transformation technology investment – $1.2 trillion in 2017! This astonishing, and seemingly unfathomable figure, only demonstrates how boardrooms across the world are taking note of digital transformation.
So what is digital transformation actually? Digital advances in data and analytics, social media, IoT, workforce and customer mobility, improving legacy ERP systems, putting everything “in the cloud”? Is it about being agile and building an open API platform that is so efficient that it renews itself? Is it about using machine learning and artificial intelligence to create even more buzzwords that seemingly mean the same thing?
It’s easy to measure costs when looking at bits of software and kit, evaluating lifetime value and being able to draw compelling accuracy with regards to ROI. But probably the most difficult thing to quantify, and perhaps justify, is investing in skills and leadership.
Skills development is a discussion all to its own (and the reason we are hosting the Data Talent Summit next year), so I would like to draw attention to leadership. There is the old adage that the true cost of any disruption is to ignore it and hope for it to pass. Equipping executives with the knowledge and encouraging the will to make cultural change is paramount. This has been harped on before, but it really cannot be stressed enough.
Where the danger lies is being left behind. Not investing in creating new leadership streams and literally changing the mind-set of management is going to lead to an inevitable downfall. This is a new way of operating the business in a digital age, a customer obsessed age, an era of automation and artificial intelligence, machine learning and agile thinking. Leaders need to be powerful communicators who can bring people on board and buy into their vision, but they also need to be given the room to do so.
There is an almost irrational fear that by investing the leader tomorrow (and the “now”) you run the risk of losing them to the competition. But, I would argue that empowered digital transformation given the budget and the backing from the CEO, will become the most committed and loyal of them all.
The true cost of digital transformation will be felt through inaction. Where are you on your journey? Join the conversation with South Africa’s digital transformation leaders at Chief Digital Officer Africa in Johannesburg from 5 – 7 March 2018.
Ryan is the content director for Chief Digital Officer Africa. He has spent many a late night delving into digital transformation in South Africa and across the continent. He is thoroughly impressed by where we are on our journey.Good job!