Digital transformation in Malaysia must be a long-term evolution

AS our world evolves at breakneck speed, the requirements for succeeding in the digital-first era are constantly changing. With such sustained and persistent change, brands can find themselves losing sight of the strategy and rationale behind why they embarked on a digital transformation journey in the first place.

After all, digital transformation is not achieved overnight. In fact, it’s not something that is truly ‘achieved’ at all. Just because digital transformation doesn’t have a tangible ‘end point’, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a fulfilling and ongoing journey — and one that is critical to undertake.

In line with Malaysia’s Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDigital) to advance Malaysia’s transformation towards an advanced digital economy, it’s important for leading brands to view digital transformation as a continuous evolution, not a cliff-edge moment.

Technology is only one part of the equation

When it comes to the ‘what’ of digital transformation (i.e., what areas of the business are being digitally transformed), there’s no denying technology serves as the core of the entire operation. But, as with any business venture, technology only forms one piece of the puzzle.

The how, why, and who of digital transformation is equally important. Why is that technology implemented, how is it being applied, and who is using it?

These considerations form the four key pillars of any successful digital transformation: strategy, technology, execution, education — and they all carry significant weight.

In fact, research shows that the primary barriers to digital transformation are largely non-technical. These blockers revolve around people, structure, and strategy — the biggest hurdles being siloed organisational structure (19%), lack of focus on customer needs (15%), lack of strategy (13%), and company culture (12%).

It is for these reasons that brands must escape the notion that technology is a silver bullet to all their challenges. Rather, technology is an enabler — after all, one supporting pillar is not enough to hold up a roof.

Leadership’s role in maintaining a strategic outlook

Strategy can often be the biggest pitfall for brands, especially when embarking on a long-term digital transformation journey. Success is not achieved overnight, and it can often take a long time to identify return of investment (ROI).

This is where leadership plays a critical role. It’s their job to prevent the business from straying too far from the original digital transformation path, to keep beating the drum of the underlying strategy, and to consistently communicate relevant key performance indexes (KPIs) and metrics.

And, while it’s the responsibility of all senior leadership to ensure their teams are remaining aligned to their brand’s long-term strategic vision, the overall success of digital transformation is increasingly benefiting from a single advocate or sponsor to carry the torch and keep the business motivated and focused throughout the journey.

That is exactly why job titles revolving around digital transformation are becoming more commonplace among innovative and forward-thinking brands.

Education must also constantly evolve

Successful digital transformation relies on all four pillars — strategy, technology, execution, and education — evolving constantly in tandem.

The 2020 Randstad Workmonitor survey revealed that 87% of the Malaysians are willing to be re-trained to maintain their employability in today’s increasingly digital-first workforce.

However, education is often left for later, with little or no budget commitment to upskill the existing workforce. This leaves companies vulnerable to failure or limited ROI.

Successful digital education must be a daily exercise that is embedded into the core of the business. Employees should be encouraged within a culture of continuous learning to test and learn, to put forward suggestions, and to share success and failure in equal measure.

These insights should then form new and creative ideas, and leadership must continue to encourage this process by actively seeking ways to embed employee insights into new ways of working, or openly letting them influence campaigns or projects.

Brands need to constantly nurture a culture of learning — both from the perspective of digital capabilities, but also from emerging market trends and conversations with customers — which will ultimately drive long-term, strategic digital transformation success. – Sept 9, 2021

By : Simon Dale (Managing director for Southeast Asia (SEA) at Adobe) – FOCUS MALAYSIA

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