By Rammohan Sundaram, managing director and senior vice-president – APMEA C1X Inc
Of late, I have been meeting a whole lot of people in Dubai who tell me they are into digital transformation and I get excited about the growing opportunities being created in the Middle East – especially given that the region is still a few years behind when it comes to knowledge and understanding of the digital ecosystem. Even though some of the best experiences of digital consumer journeys, globally, are brands originating from here.
That worries me because these are the people shaping what their respective organizations aspire to be in the digital world and I wonder how competent organizations land up recruiting some of the most compromised talents you could think off. There is a risk too; not every business can go online and I want to bring that out in this article.
What does it take?
- Shared vision
Before I write on the above, let me clarify what I believe is “digital transformation”.
You don’t transform bits and pieces, you just transform in total. It needs vision at the top, to begin with, and needs absolute clarity and relentless communication right below. Barriers that exist need to be broken and this can only happen when the CEO is involved in the transformation of change given the impact it will bring to society at large.
You are changing how you did business, you are changing the way you are addressing the consumer, you are changing the way problems are going to be solved… you are basically changing everyday walk of life and this is no easy job.
Will you find the right talent? Of course not! How on earth will you find the mix of retail and digital trading for example? There is a dearth of talent and the ones that exist are not wanting to join some experiment leaving a secured job. So, what do you do?
You look for hustlers from the digital domain. They might not have the retail experience but they may know the customer LTV processes that are digital. There might be some who would know how to acquire some customers and there might be some who would know how to retain a customer. Bring a mix of all these hustlers, put a leader who is experienced and patient with this millennial lot and see the magic brew. The talent starts feeling the power of ownership because it’s their business then; each one of them has a task to achieve while the leader directs what the tasks should be keeping in mind the organizational objectives.
But if you put someone who is a SEM expert in a lead role then God save you.
This board has spent significant years in expanding the business to where it is today. It has taken time, investments and failures. The patience you showed building brick and mortar for 25 years has been immense, so keep that patience on for maybe five more years because what you’ve achieved in 25 is about to be doubled in five. But, if you expect that to happen in one year, then you should practice running the Mount Everest till you master it before demanding it here.
So, capital is critical and transformation is an investment and not a cost. End results are profits so make sure you know the difference right at the start before you get into digital transformation.
Your business expertise as a CEO is priceless that will be the greatest value you bring in during transformation. Because it is you who is going to drive this success and, make no mistake, digital transformation’s success is fully owned by the CEO.
Banks and government organizations are great examples of those that have transformed fully in mature markets. Traditional retail didn’t, which is why you have Amazon, Flipkart, Souq, etc becoming multi-million dollar businesses. Macy’s, on the other hand, is tottering to become a digital destination, much like Target. That is because they took longer in making the right decisions in their journey of digital transformation.
If you embark on digital transformation, then there are no half measures. You might take time but the transformation is not in bits and pieces, it’s in total.So, there should be an absolute commitment from the board to back the CEO who is involved in the whole process. It must be relentless and absolute.
This is a very critical aspect for the C Suite group. You must be able to communicate to everyone right down to the security guard as to why you have embarked on what you have and they should know what they need to embrace. So, detailing is extremely important at every level and the processes can’t have any gaps whatsoever because even hustlers need to know their boundaries so that they don’t go overboard.
Look all you people who meet me now and then, and tell me you are into digital transformation and can’t have a conversation on what you do, focus because let me assure you, you will be out of the job sooner rather than later!