The theory and the reality of digital transformation are very different. Business leaders know they need to re-engineer their organisations to be agile and adaptable. But making that shift happen so that the business is positioned to respond to the changes coming this year, next year and in five years time is, to state the obvious, hard to get right.

To find the path to digital sustainability, leaders are struggling to know exactly what it looks like for their business and how to get there. It’s high stakes stuff, requiring extreme commitment and effort. But waiting and watching is not an option for organisations and executives today as complete irrelevance can be reached from a stage of absolute dominance faster than you can say “disruption”.

Understand your “what”

The “what” of digital transformation is about finding the right lever to pull to position the business for ongoing change. It might mean:

  • Fundamentally changing the business model
  • Evolving the products, services or solutions portfolio
  • Redefining the customer experience
  • Establishing new ways of working

Of course, it might mean all of these things or just one or two.

Netflix is an example of what it means to fundamentally change the business model in pursuit of digital sustainability. The streaming service started life over 20 years ago as a subscription service, but there was a moment when it might have become a hardware manufacturer instead. In 2007, the business was just weeks away from releasing its own hardware when CEO Reed Hastings made the decision to pull the release. Instead, Netflix started partnering with other hardware makers to embed their software in those machines. This major pivot necessitated a completely different business model and has made Netflix the highly adaptable business it is today.

People power your “how”

Once leaders are clear on what the change needs to deliver, the next step is to make it happen. This requires getting into the detail of what the change means for the way work happens in the organisation and the structures, skills and capabilities needed to support that change.

And even in a digital world, it is people - not technology - that will power this change and make it stick. Netflix is no exception. While its switch to a tech-based business model seems to speak for itself, it’s Netflix’s high-performing culture that sustains its success.

Our digital transformation framework puts people at the centre of how digital transformation happens in your business. It identifies the hotspots in the organisation where people will be crucial to success.

The solution set for the "what" and "how" of digital transformation:
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This might mean that after designing the jobs for the digitally sustainable future, the focus shifts to building a robust and agile talent pipeline by assessing and aggressively developing leaders within the business and building an external talent network. This approach led one global telco to assess and develop 1,100 of its directors and managers across 16 countries and 7 business units as it moved towards its “what”: to be a truly integrated, digital telecommunications business.

Achieving digital sustainability isn’t easy, but by understanding what this transformation means for the people in your business, leaders will not only be able to make change happen today but tomorrow as well.

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