Many firms fall for the ‘digital’ hype and rush into digital initiatives without fully appreciating the fact that these projects

must not only be envisioned differently but also executed differently. Success rates when these initiatives are handled like conventional technology projects aren’t flattering and for digital initiatives, failure is not just about burnt project budgets, but a loss of significant opportunity for business differentiation, and revenue.

Indeed, the stakes can be high.

Urgency to Deliver comes with Risks
Given that the threat of digital disruption in almost every market and industry is significant, organisations are under pressure to respond quickly in order to get ahead, to catch up or, in the least, stay relevant. Being a matter of survival, the pressure to respond is not without a sense of tearing urgency.

Urgency of that kind inevitably comes with compromises. In most situations, there simply isn’t enough time to think enough, plan enough and deliberate enough. This exposes digital initiatives to serious risks of failure. To add to it, our traditional decades-old approach to technology delivery is rather misaligned with the demands of delivering truly successful digital initiatives.

Don’t take your eyes off the basic goal
Today, many organisations make the right moves. They bet on the right focus areas and find the right budgets, but when it comes to execution, they tend to handle their digital initiatives a lot like traditional projects. Most organisations get distracted with the dynamics of conventional software development and delivery methods, thereby inevitably compromising the degree of success from these initiatives.

There can be a long checklist of dos and don’ts for digital transformation success, but at the core, you will not be too off the mark if you can stay laser-focussed on the basic force driving the very need for them: two essential elements that fuel and propel all these dramatic changes and disruptions in the first place –

1. Shifting Consumer Behaviour
According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the wireless subscriber base in India as of May 2015 is upwards of 975 million connections. Another independent study pegs mobile internet penetration at about 200 million users. An ever-increasing number of Indians want mobile internet access and are willing to pay more for it.

Meanwhile, alongside this growth, Online Banking transactions have seen a significant upswing in the last 18 months. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimated that the digital payments industry in India grew 40% in 2014 —in value terms that is $20.2 billion. The same study pegged the 2013 volume of transactions on electronic media in India at about 800 million transactions.

Bottom-line? Increased digital penetration is rapidly changing lifestyles and there is a significant impact on buying behaviour and payment preferences.

What that means to your business is this:  Traditional methods of engaging with your customer—no matter what your business is—are open for disruption. And non-traditional channels of commerce (payments) are becoming more acceptable.
E-commerce firms like Flipkart, Jabong, SnapDeal, Amazon, Pepperfry and Urban Ladder are seriously threatening the footfall and revenues for traditional retail consumer goods showrooms and, as the subscriber base grows further for smartphones and connectivity, this trend is only going to continue.

So ensure that your digital programme always keeps the focus on enabling strong alignment with shifting customer behaviour at the core of every decision across the entire journey through conception, design and execution of the programme.

2. Shifting Customer Expectations
Digital penetration is also directly influencing access to information. No matter what they are shopping for, customers today are more aware than they ever were—and it is not an awareness that happens by chance. Customers are actively seeking information and do their research before making buying decisions. As a general rule, buyers are getting smarter. Their expectations are clearer and more precise than ever before.

One thing that changed forever for me in 2013, when I took my first Uber ride, was my expectation from a taxi service. Not only was I delighted by the whole new experience of taxi rides but I became aware of how really good a ride can be.  It created an  ‘experience benchmark’ of sorts for me when it came to taxi rides.

By keeping the focus on shifting customer expectation, many aspects related to scope, design and execution of technology solutions become suitably well aligned.

Success does not have to be elusive
Your digital initiative is arguably very unlike other initiatives you’ve seen before. The skills required at various stages from conception to execution are different. The technology is different. The objectives are very different; it just isn’t a regular IT project.  By keeping these two most essential elements—customer expectation and customer experience—at the core of execution approach and planning, will ensure your digital transformation journey is on track.

This is part of a series of posts addressing critical aspects that make Business Technology initiatives successful. The series will cover topics relating to Digital transformation, Business Process Management, Customer Service, Change, Culture, etc.

This article was originally published on Forbes India Blogs and has been lightly edited.

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