Marketing strategy consultant
Invoking this overused buzz term may make me squirm, but it’s real – “digital transformation” has never been more pressing. 2021 is underway, and only 27% of CEOs feel confident about revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to PwC. And yet, companies continue to be dragged down by legacy systems.
Frankly, it’s unreasonable to think you’d be able to deliver quality customer experience, run an efficient business, and rally employees around a common mission without having first aligned your entire organization in digital collaboration spaces, using digital tools to execute well-oiled digital processes.
It’s astonishing how many companies are still paying lip service to digital transformation.
Well, let me modify that. It’s understandable in part because the office closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced the issue among enterprises that weren’t fully prepared for virtual work. The Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey 2020 estimates that 47% of CIOs see the pandemic as having permanently accelerated digital transformation.
On the other hand, although the situation sharpened the need for full digital adoption, in too many cases it spurned little more than surface digital transformation. There’s a big difference between an organization installing new digital systems and those systems actually being used to drive business growth.
Under the pressure of the coronavirus, a number of companies adopted digital tools and platforms in haste, providing little, if any, training to employees. Even less thought was dedicated to driving a sustainable digital culture.
While the end may be in sight for the worst of the pandemic, the changes it brought won’t disappear quickly. Organizations that have failed to complete their digital adoption have no choice but to catch up swiftly or shrivel away.
The pandemic wrought lasting changes to consumer expectations, leading them to seek more digital services, contact-free interactions, and self-service options. Customer experience was already vital pre-COVID and is seen as a key driver for economic recovery. As a result, CEOs have looked to digital initiatives to increase profit margins.
According to data from market veterans WalkMe, digital transformation heads the list of concerns for corporate tech leaders today, edging ahead of cybersecurity as the primary budget priority for over three-quarters of CIOs. Remarkably, analytics, BI, and CX also feature as budget priorities, further reflecting the extent to which digital transformation has moved business issues under the CIO purview.
Indeed, we’re seeing a repeated failure to understand that digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done deal, but a journey towards digital adoption. Too often, executives focus on acquiring licenses to tools, platforms, and other shiny new virtual objects which are expected to be a panacea, while neglecting the employee training and cultural shift needed to underpin them.
In this sense, executives are working against their own interests. In 2021, digital workplace leaders need to prioritize cultivating an intuitive work environment for employees and encouraging agility and adaptability, but by not prioritizing digital adoption, they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle.
By applying digital tools to their fullest extent, digital adoption lies at the heart of true digital transformation. Gartner’s Improve Employee Usage, Engagement and Productivity With Digital Adoption Solutions report from November predicts that by 2025, 70% of organizations will use digital adoption solutions (DASs) to overcome insufficient application user experiences.
DAS inquiries are increasing month by month as awareness spreads, Gartner’s report finds, but it’s still alarmingly slow. Without digital adoption to upskill and empower employees to create a digital culture, enterprises have nothing but the shell of a digital company.
According to close to 50% of Fortune 500 CIOs surveyed by WalkMe, the biggest challenge they face is the burden on IT support, which is directly related to the second-biggest challenge of inadequate employee tech skills.
Too much pressure on IT support teams can cause burnout and mental health issues, especially during the pandemic, and 84% of tech leaders are worried about the mental health of their teams, according to the Nash / KPMG data.
This is the challenge of the newly remote office. Employees are overwhelmed by too many tools, and they don’t have access to enough training or support. Some tools are complicated, because they’re designed to empower complex functions such as sales processes, and employees are frustrated and stressed by their own lack of ability to make the most of this empowerment.
They’re unsure when and how best to use these systems, anxious about pandemic conditions, and mostly working remotely without IT support at hand, leaving them to feel discouraged, unmotivated and disengaged.
Digital adoption is what it takes to relieve this frustration, streamline work processes, lift the burden from IT reps, and get people rocking in whatever “the next normal” looks like.
During the pandemic, companies increased their IT budgets, Nash / KPMG found, primarily for remote work and cybersecurity needs but also to support new digital customer interactions. Global IT leaders added an average of $15bn per week during the first three months of the crisis, a faster rise in IT spending than any other time in history.
Tech spending has been high and growing steadily since 2009, but this year may be the first year it shrinks, due to the plateaued spending spree of COVID-19’s onset, combined with drops in revenue.
As a result, CIOs will face even more pressure to use their existing digital tools more efficiently and prove RoI on the expenditure.
The trouble is, though, that untrained employees are more likely to avoid new tools and stick to old methods, which is a waste of both the money spent on them and the time and efficiency they were meant to deliver, thus dragging down ROI. Full digital adoption helps deliver and measure increased ROI, further increasing uptake and helping you track usage.
Bear in mind that your customers have gone through a digital transformation too, switching to online payments, online self-service portals, online shopping, online banking and more.
Many are struggling to master it, but your employees are unable to help them with a digital platform when they don’t understand it themselves.
Digital adoption makes the process as smooth as possible, helping consumers onboard to new digital interactions easily instead of causing friction and irritation that will push them to your competitors.
Digital transformation is crucial for driving business growth and recovery in 2021, but too many businesses are overlooking the important part played by digital adoption. Although the exigencies of COVID-19 make that understandable, as time wears on and consumer demands increase, the excuse no longer holds water.
Enterprise leaders who want to avoid losing talented employees, wasting money and haemorrhaging customers due to the stress and confusion of unfamiliar and often complex digital solutions would be wise to start taking digital adoption seriously.
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