The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says 42 is the answer. But what is the question?
For Professor Christopher Tucci it is: how can business embrace, not just endure, digital transformation?
From farming to fashion, there’s no type of business that will be untouched by digital transformation, says Professor Christopher Tucci, Professor of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Imperial College Business School. “It’s just a matter of time. Why not think about it now, rather than when you’re about to go bankrupt and it might be too late?” The best strategy is to look at the big picture, he says.
“Think about the future and say, ‘What can we do now so that we’re not struggling in ten years’ time?’” And then start small. “The most advanced companies don’t say, ‘Stop everything, we’re going to do a complete digital transformation!’ They do little things all the time, building skills and confidence. You might automate one process, like expense reports, and go from there.”
While large companies typically plan far in advance and startups have digital solutions built into their business model, small-to-medium enterprises that have been in business for a long time are often the slowest to innovate. “But they have one big advantage – they have fewer moving parts, so can make changes more quickly once they decide to.” Potential rewards include cutting costs, improving efficiency and increasing profits, but getting everyone on board can be a challenge. “No one likes change. Senior management has to be convinced it’s necessary and you might need to address employees’ fears that they’re going to automate themselves out of a job.”
The pandemic exacerbated existing gaps in digital competence. “It was a shock to the system. Restaurants that were cash-only, for example, had to scramble to take orders electronically.” But it’s not only about serving customers.
“Companies that had some collaborative online work processes were able to be more competitive because they’d at least made a start.” No company can prepare for every possible macroeconomic trend, but staying on top of technological developments can only help. “If you do, the chances are you’ll be more resilient, more future- proof and survive longer.”
Professor Tucci is Professor of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Imperial College Business School and Director of Education at Imperial