Some of the buzzwords of the past year have been “digital transformation”. The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated businesses uptake of digitalisation of the services, which has been necessary to function during the global situation.
Garry Hamilton is the Chief Growth Officer at Equator, a digital transformation agency. Here he shares his thoughts on the topic, as well as how to evaluate a corporation’s digital maturity.
Garry Hamilton, Chief Growth Officer, Equator
Unprecedented times. Unusual times. In the last 12 months, we’ve been inundated with phrases to describe the COVID-19 crisis that quickly became overused. Another term that has been banded around over the past year is “Digital Transformation” – a description of what businesses would have you believe had taken place in their organisations. But in reality, it’s inaccurate.
Thousands of businesses worldwide have radically evolved their processes, commerce and communication online, but this can be described more as a “shift to digital” rather than a complete transformation. While the digital and IT sectors can be comforted by saying “I told you so” to the myriad of businesses who had to rapidly spin up their digital capabilities in 2020, there is still much work to do.
The truth is, there are now more quickly stitched-together, not-quite-future-proof digital platforms out there than ever before. A minefield of potential security risks, data breaches and convoluted customer experiences.
Integrating digital technology and processes in a business does not make it “digitally transformed.”
Instead, those that have the potential to truly transform are the businesses that see digital as not just a technological solution, but a financial, social and cultural one. For these, digital runs right through all aspects of their process that it is almost opaque, part of the woodwork if you will.
As we step slowly towards our “new normal” and the dust settles on the changes of 2020, businesses large and small must assess the actual maturity of their digital estate, wholly and thoroughly.
Consumers and businesses have been tolerant of makeshift solutions, COVID patches and obtuse online solutions. But, by the middle of 2021, people will want a return to no-excuses high-service. A return to businesses that deliver excellence.
Customer experience needs to be the top priority, ensuring faultless, end-to-end digital self-service. Customers will expect digital operations as a standard, even when dealing with face-to-face interactions. Slow websites, unintelligent digital experiences and paper-based processes mark a business as outdated and irrelevant.
There will also be zero tolerance for data security and privacy issues. The fines, legal settlements and drops in share price experienced by organisations before COVID for security breaches will be a drop in the ocean compared to what is to come.
Companies looking for equity investment need to consider that their shift to digital will be even more deeply and thoroughly scrutinised. In the last 12 months, Equator’s digital due diligence wing has seen an 800% rise in enquiries from private equity houses looking to critically assess their current or future portfolio companies for real digital maturity.
Private Equity companies have cottoned on to the fact that an increasing percentage of a business’ value is in the completeness of its digital operations, technology and processes. They understand that businesses that have “sellotaped together” a digital operation are far from future-proof and can be exposed to untold financial risk from security flaws. On the other hand, businesses that have comprehensively considered their digital needs put digital thinking at the core of their DNA and facilitate the opportunity of digital to drive efficiency and productivity gains. In short, a company that has undertaken real digital transformation is worth more money.
Businesses need to take a moment to consider how they have come by their digital processes and systems. They need to consider how they work together, how people work with them and how much customers’ needs were placed in their selection. They should review their digital maturity, top to bottom. A company’s future value, possibly even its existence, could hinge on this. The COVID-19 crisis has proven this to be no exaggeration.