Go digital or go dead: A Business Survival Kit

2019-06-19 Karlskrona Softhouse. Foto: Jonas Ljungdahl

The world is changing in front of our eyes. All business strategies, development plans, expansions to new markets, it is all either going or will go through a serious revision to reflect these new realities. As the number of countries with a full lockdown increases, it is becoming clear that this global pandemic of COVID-19 will force everyone to prioritize automation and digitalization at least for their long-term operations. What will this mean for the supply chain of complex business networks remains to be seen – but there is one certainty in all this – going digital is a new order of the day. 

Although the pandemic has put a new light on the necessity of transforming our business processes digitally, the digital journey itself is not new. Many incumbent companies have already initiated activities towards becoming “digital enterprises” even before the unfortunate virus. This was a part of larger scaling strategies and conscious business decisions. But it has not feared always as expected. There were many bumps on the road which got us to a point of not even sharing a basic understanding of what constitutes the core of that process.

If you are looking for a definite answer to this series of queries, this is not where you will find it. The idea here is simple: before we clarify the answer, we need to clarify the questions. Right now, we are in the midst of what appears to be a collection of disjointed queries that range from questions about what does it mean to be a digital enterprise to what happens when you have a stalemate in the process of digitization. When it comes to digital transformation, this short article is but a teaser attempting to pose these questions in a slightly different way in order to bust some of the long-held myths about the topic. So, here goes – two fundamental questions to kick start this series. 

  1. Do we need to have all the answers about digital transformation upfront? There are still some key questions we certainly need to ask and find answers to before we make informed decision to start our journey. One of them is what do we really mean by terms “digital enterprise” and “digital transformation” ?
     
    The term “digital enterprise” is relatively new, has no universally accepted definition and continues to evolve. It used to describe native digital businesses like Amazon, Facebook and Google. Digital enterprise is “an enterprise that is transforming itself to meet the challenges of our post-industrial Digital Age, by embracing an adaptive culture, employing technology at its core, and creating new business models.” (,,EDGE – value driven digital transformation” by Highsmith, Luu and Robinson
  2. Digital transformation is about technology. Is this really the case? Digital transformation is really about your business and how innovation in the process will help you survive. The main reason we have companies is to solve some real life problems by applying a range of different business solutions to them. When you unpack the ‘’business solution’’ what you get is people (our staff), processes (the way we work) and tools (IT tools are just some of them). Having more IT tools and digital technology in place doesn’t necessarily mean we are digital enterprise because software solution is just one component of business solution. We can get IT solution from outside of our company but none but us, within the company, can change mindset of people and the way they work. Of course, our staff has to have certain level of awareness and knowledge about digital transformation followed by the willingness to develop required skillset which, once applied, creates digital enterprise culture within the company. We can easily see that digital transformation is not a project but the process through which we constantly evolve. And, to be able to do it effectively is to possess internal agility — the ability to make significant internal changes fast — which is the defining characteristic of the agile enterprise. 

Are we there yet? We will soon find out. What slowed our dynamics of digital transformation so far was fear of the risk that we won’t emerge on the other side of it. It did not bother us much that perhaps ‘’the other side’’ is not one destination. Instead of starting the journey anyways and adapting along the way, we preferred to do nothing and wait for others to do it first until the whole process becomes more mature and predictable and less risky. We are not going to have that luxury any more. In the articles that will follow, we will try to address some guidelines that can help us take the journey sooner rather than later. 

Ever wondered what would Charles Darwin have to say about this. Let us give you a hint: it is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable. 

Is adaptability the new currency of success? More on that later.