In recent years, the international and Italian managerial debate has focused a lot on theme of corporate digitalization, describing in the first place i emerging phenomena (for example new business models, new forms of digital customer engagement, new methods of analyzing data internal and external to companies), and subsequently the basic methods and conditions necessary for the start of digitalization in order to achieve real results in terms of company performance.

Although these are widely debated topics in the academic and business world; the terminology accuses problems related to the real meaning of the terms which, to date, does not have a univocal meaning.

Expressions such as corporate digitalization and digital transformation, in fact, do not have a single meaning and are often used interchangeably: these are “umbrella” terms that contain a wide variety of digital technologies relevant to the functioning of businesses and markets and that involve wide fields of application and different skills in order to be truly exploited.

In this article we want to give you a complete picture of corporate digitalization starting first from the current scenario; analyzing its definition and the difference from other phenomena that are occurring in the corporate landscape.

After understanding what corporate digitalization actually means, we will move on to analyze the best approaches and key elements to implement a corporate digitalization strategy by focusing on how digitization is not configured only as a combination of tools and strategies, but requires a corporate cultural approach inclined to change .

Corporate digitalization: the scenario

The term business digitization indicates a process for which we seek to transform interactions, communications, business functions and business models in (multiple) digital models that often boil down to a mix of digital and physical such as in omnichannel customer service, integrated marketing or intelligent manufacturing with a mix of autonomous, semi-autonomous and manual operations.

It is clear that a change is needed to take this path. This is why the terms business digitization and digital transformation are used interchangeably in most cases.

Is there a difference? It is very subtle and is often not considered, but we still want to emphasize the correctness of the terms.

The term business digitization means the use of digital technologies and data (digitized and natively digital) to optimize the business, replace / transform business processes (not simply digitize them) and create an environment for digital business, in which information digital are at the heart of the system.

Digital transformation, as it is defined today, is broader than digitization as a means of moving to digital business. It requires many more bridges to be built in an all-encompassing digital transformation strategy .

The reason we say “as it is defined today” is that digital transformation was originally used to describe document dematerialization. Hence all the problems related to these concepts.

Today, some people, mainly active in the business of documents and scans, still use the term digital transformation as they mean the digitization of documents and processes.

However, the vast majority define digital transformation as an enterprise-wide phenomenon. But some only look at specific aspects, so they often think silently or have a vision that is too technological or too focused on one aspect of the business.

Digital transformation is not a mere implementation and adoption of new technologies, but the digital transformation process helps every company to “redesign” the offer of its business by adapting it to the user experience .

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It is a new way of doing business and aims at an innovative economic model that “surpasses” the traditional one. This necessarily requires a change in the strategic vision within each organization and a continuous “refinement” of tools, as well as a full involvement of the actors involved.

Digital transformation is a process that includes a series of technological, organizational, social, cultural, creative and managerial changes. It is a pool of changes that impact the entire company organization and can only be addressed through a scientific method and a series of suitable application tools.

Top management is certainly the first actor to be involved in the digital transformation process of companies. In fact, it is necessary to combine a short-term strategy with a medium-long term one to create value within the company and to gradually reach full digitalization, avoiding “breaks” with the past.

It is well understood that this “virtuous” loop requires the adoption of a series of technological, organizational, but also cultural and managerial changes. All staff and company staff must be involved in this transformation process .

It is a circular process or loop that involves all people, all business processes and involves the adoption of the most innovative technologies.

Very often, on the other hand, we find companies that with a strong innovative footprint, or because they are supported by external actors (web agency), aim to implement all possible technological solutions as quickly as possible without however guiding their internal adoption.

Or on the contrary, companies that, lacking strategic guidance, prefer to rely on tools and instruments that are already known and established, thus limiting the potential of digitalization. This can lead, as in the previous case, to a lack of interest in triggering a process of corporate change to use them.

Business digitization: the essentials

Turning your business into a digital enterprise is difficult. Many companies have had some success, but few have achieved a real metamorphosis.

The worst part is that to date there are no guidelines to follow or checklists for managers and executives , but only a series of considerations, approaches and methodologies to be adopted based on your own considerations in relation to the company and needs.

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How to balance investments for today’s opportunities with investments for the future? How to win the war for digital success? How to finance digital initiatives effectively? How to drive digital initiatives to scale? How to stimulate employees to convert to new models and new working methods?

These questions are all based on a few fundamental elements:

  • The digital strategy: in which direction the company is moving.
  • The business model: how the strategy adapts to the company’s activities.
  • Enablers: the resources that the company uses to develop the business model.
  • Management : how the company will manage the change to achieve the goal.

We describe the individual elements in more detail, in order to form a valuable checklist that is useful for managers and managers who want to undertake a process of corporate digitalization.

The digital strategy

In our collective experience, setting up a digital strategy begins by addressing three key questions:

  • Where is the sector and the company located at the moment?
  • What challenges will the company face with digitalization?
  • Is the organization capable of successfully managing digital transformation?
  • How can you ensure long-term change and lasting innovation within the company?

To try to give the best answer to these questions it is necessary to try to have a clear vision on the present, the past and the future of the company: every digital transformation must include elements that pursue business opportunities relevant today as those that bring the organization on the road to change.

A practical example of this concept is given by Statoil , a Norwegian company in the oil production and refining sector.

The company created the GoDigital project , through which it asked its employees what initiatives they would take to improve their current business.

Based on employee responses , they created an integrated onshore operations center to increase safety , improve operations and reduce emissions.

In parallel with this initiative, several managers from different sectors of the company have been tasked with exploring what the company’s future steps towards the digital age could be.

This example demonstrates how attention to current and future elements is able to concretely modify the operational activities of the company and determine the first steps for carrying out future actions.

The dual approach adopted by Stateoil made it possible to give a clear vision on the present of the company, also providing a key to understanding possible future transformations.

The business model

Through the definitions we have given in the first part of this article, we have specified that digital transformations are transformations concerning not single processes but entire business models.

They need to generate real customer value and improve business outcomes, not just install new technology.

These transformations typically result in changes in the customer experience, in the digitization of products and services, in the emergence of new business models and therefore in the modification and updating of working methods. The question to ask is: can we derive added value from these improvements?

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The enablers

All digital journeys require changes to key enablers such as the availability of new data and analytics, IT systems, operating models, people and culture. While digital innovations are obviously about technology, this is often relatively easy to obtain. However, it is also true that often the success of digital transformation paths depends on the organization and its culture and on how easily they can be guided towards new scenarios.

The biggest challenges are hiring new talent, improving skills and shifting culture towards a more innovative and adaptable approach.

The management

Managers are well aware of being called upon to make an extremely difficult change. Most digital programs begin with experimentation, which is a test that is subjected to some limited areas of the company, with dedicated funding.

If the test is successful it is possible to move on to the next phase but it is not so easy to do it: it is in fact a question of taking the test and lowering it within the company as a whole.

Very often we run into obstacles and difficulties on several fronts: from guaranteeing financing to changing the behavior of an important number of people (not just 10) and the integration of IT systems.

An essential aspect of the success of digital transformation is the leadership capacity of managers: by leadership we mean the ability to communicate priorities, secure funding and overcome other obstacles.

In addition, high-potential leaders from all functions act as digital ambassadors. They are supporting the digital effort within their teams and across the company and are helping to change the mindset of all employees.

Once the elements necessary for the transformation have been defined, it is possible to discuss with some specificity which areas are considered critical and difficult and which are under control and already performing.

It is through this process that the path towards corporate digitalization is not only possible, but also effective.

Business digitization: the right approach

Many organizations are currently addressing the implications of digitization for the business and its systems, processes and people.

Today’s business environment is characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity ; a combination of factors that can exacerbate the effects of digital disruption on an organization’s operating model. As a result, companies are trying to respond to these changing conditions by safeguarding or enhancing their positions in the market.

We can certainly say that it is not possible to solve the problem by simply identifying the strategies that can help to respond to these new conditions.

Instead, it is necessary to focus on how to implement these strategies , especially when taking into account the social dimension of implementing strategic change: it is necessary to manage staff resistance; the fears of people who have the potential to block any effort towards change.

Good leaders are aware of the need for change management actions in such an environment and organizations are clearly willing to invest in change management activities. However, the expectations are sometimes too high.

Change management requires a commitment throughout the “change process” to be able to play your role and have the desired impact: this is not a last-minute and quick solution for a project that does not progress as planned.

Once understood and applied correctly, change management is a key factor in the success of changes in downtime and digital transformation.

The obstacles to corporate digitalization

Digital transformation can vary from company to company, but is typically driven by the need for growth, to meet changing customer preferences, or due to increased competitive pressure.

An IDC report estimated that by 2018 , 70% of isolated digital transformation initiatives would fail due to insufficient collaboration, integration or project management.

Three key elements that can prevent the organization from realizing the full potential of digital change management are:

  1. When digital transformation is considered only as a risk factor.
  2. When digital transformation has a low priority.
  3. When digital transformation does not take into account the behavior and characteristics of people.

When digital transformation is considered only as a risk factor

There is no doubt that digital transformation, if taken seriously, requires huge initial investments in terms of time and staff resources , especially from the management team.

Furthermore, a corporate digitalization process is often focused on obtaining benefits in the medium and long term rather than just in the short term.

This can cause conflicts with short-term corporate operational pressures, which is why digitization does not receive the necessary attention and consideration from business leaders and actors involved.

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When digital transformation has a low priority

Regardless of the project, business digitization needs to be considered as soon as the results of a project involve changes in business strategy, organizational structure and processes or mindset .

Very often the need for a business transformation is not considered in the meetings of managers or is considered only as a marginal element so as to be neglected.

Furthermore, executives can de-prioritize the digitization of business processes because, in their opinion, they are already subjected to continuous improvement processes and therefore do not perceive digitization as a priority.

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Senior managers may believe they have already invested enough time on the subject. Unfortunately, this feeling often arises when the change process has already begun for the organization but is no longer controllable and manageable.

When digital transformation does not take into account the behavior and characteristics of people

Last but not least (in fact, this is probably the biggest problem): there is often no distinction between operational change and behavioral change . For some, monitoring of milestones and regular steering committee meetings to review progress in implementing change are considered holistic change management.

This implies the implicit expectation that middle management must know how to disseminate and have information received through the organizational structure and communicate the required changes to their teams in order to give life to the digitization process.

This approach is doomed to fail as it does not explicitly define and address the necessary behavioral change of stakeholders in the organization.

How to fully exploit the potential of business digitization

To address these organizational and strategic issues common to most companies, we have highlighted three approaches that can facilitate the digitization process.

Emphasize the goal of change and connect it to daily activities

First, all stakeholders need to be involved to get their support in the implementation process. To do this, it is necessary to start from the top: it is an aspect that must be a priority of senior management.

Let’s take the example of a financial services company that decides to embark on a digitization project which involves an increase in standardization and automation of workflows.

At some point in time it freezes and cannot move forward due to resistance within the organization , resistance fueled by staff members’ fear of losing their jobs and concern about what a digital future may represent for them. working activity.

One of the first and fundamental actions to take when trying to overcome employee resistance to change is to clarify the reasons for the transformation you want to implement, describe its purpose and benefits .

Referring to Simon Sinek’s golden circle, the focus is on WHY, ie the definition of the project rather than WHAT and HOW, which are often communicated several times.

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To have a better understanding it is necessary to make sure that the reasons for the project are explained to all employees , even on an individual level, so that it is clear how this activity has a positive effect on the company system.

This approach generates positive momentum that can be harnessed to build a broader consensus.

Let the organization plan the way for the future

Responsibility for change must be explicitly distributed among those who are most concerned within the organization.

This needs to happen in parallel with capacity building efforts early in the process, especially for middle management who plays a crucial role during implementation.

Organizations must apply this approach from the outset to strengthen self-responsibility throughout the organization , which enables all concerned to take responsibility for their own future and the future of the company .

Change management tools such as “the working calendar” in combination with good communication have been shown to generate good results in this context.

Consider the adaptation time and proceed in stages

When it comes to business methods and business management, progress may seem slow, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Those involved in the implementation of technological change carry out this activity as daily operational work and thus overlook the difficulty that the rest of the employees may face.

It is therefore better to proceed step by step, give people time to adapt to change and make sure that the objectives set are respected and achieved.

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Many organizations make great progress when it comes to gaining ground early on, which motivates the parties involved and in turn drives major change efforts.

However, the biggest challenge is to continue this momentum throughout the implementation process, especially when facing more difficult times in the project.

Applying an iterative approach has proven to have a great impact in such situations, because it allows us to take into account the challenges of the modern world we face, characterized by volatility and uncertainty.

Why exploit and enhance gamification in the business environment

Gamification can be used as a versatile tool to accelerate the digital transformation process.

In fact, gamification can be exploited both by smaller companies that have the advantage of being more agile, and by large companies that can provide more resources to fuel digital transformation.

To better understand how and why gamification can be applied, let’s see some cases and applications of direct use.

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Gamification transforms the customer experience

Digital transformation should help companies better understand the needs of their customer base. This is done through the ability to add digital channels and touchpoints that allow customers to express themselves and offer businesses the ability to proactively use that feedback. Additionally, gamification is a great catalyst for driving customer loyalty programs.

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In 2014, American Airlines launched a “Passport Challenge” to engage customers following their merger with US Airways. Using a Facebook application, American Airlines created a virtual passport that contained quiz games , dashboards, and incentives for active participation. The results were incredible with attendees achieving 70% more than expected and American Airlines achieving a 500% higher ROI than the program.

Gamification changes operational processes

Operational processes mainly concern the internal processes of the company. The company can therefore plan to digitize internal processes and take advantage of the innovations that technology makes available. Gamification can have a huge impact in improving internal processes. Some basic interior applications include:

  • Improve Sales Training and Enablement:
    • 71% of companies experienced an 11% – 50% increase in measured sales performance after implementing gamification in their organizations.
  • Improve engagement:
    • 85% of employees say they love their work more as it keeps up with new technologies.
  • Enhance learning:
    • 80% of employees say they are more inclined to learn when learning is offered as a game.
  • Transforming the business model through data and engagement

Corporate digitalization makes it possible to change traditional business models , expanding company boundaries and including new companies in its network. Gamification should be conceived as an enabling factor for this change.

We are experiencing a moment of transition from an installation phase of networks and infrastructures to a deployment phase in which infrastructures become an enabling factor for the development of new services and applications.

Today we see many new industries transforming with broadband, mobility and the cloud, giving rise to an exponential series of innovations.

The transformation affects not only products and services but also business models.

And it is data that drives business models : it is no mystery that in recent years data has acquired an ever-increasing share in the percentage of corporate revenues.

To make any business decision, data is essential.

Applications that use gamification track and store a lot of data, which can be converted and used to calculate the ROI of a specific initiative.

You can predict that there are multiple gamification applications to guide your digital transformation process.

So you could train staff, geolocate a product, get customer feedback, and track all progress.

These dynamic capabilities can transform business models and guide companies on the path to digital transformation.

Let’s now see what are the stages that a company must know how to plan in order to undertake a business digitization process.

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The phases of digital change management

Digital change management can be defined as the process, tools and techniques to guide people to change in order to achieve a required business result.

In this section we want to offer you a model that, based on the assumptions of change management, can help you digitize your business.

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Prepare

Change management should be at the heart of the digital transformation vision. To get the necessary support , leaders are often fully focused at this stage on business intelligence and securing funding and resources for their project.

Very often an essential aspect in managing change is overlooked and that is the need to lay the right foundations to guide change from the very beginning .

The key change management activities here should include:

  • Develop a digital transformation charter that articulates business goals and strategies for achieving these goals.
  • Identification of executive stakeholders and agents of functional change. These figures will be the key to removing any reticence and creating advocacy, if properly involved from the beginning of the digitization process.
  • Create or join with a center of excellence to manage all digital transformation efforts and governance structure.
  • Maintain a backlog of changes to initiate monitoring and mitigate risks (e.g. end-user adoption, employee resilience, retirement of legacy processes, etc.).

The objectives of the change during the preparation phase correspond to the need to:

  • Create visibility for the program ,
  • Activate advocates (i.e. those who support and nurture change).
  • Document the greatest and most immediate risks you may face.

To define

The definition phase typically involves identifying desired business outcomes , opportunities to generate greater value through process mapping, requirements definition, user experience design, and execution calendar definition and design.

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These are all key inputs to your digital transformation plan. Additional change management activities during the definition phase should include:

  • Hold regular management meetings with stakeholders, relevant functional leaders, and agents to refine the vision and plan.
  • Performing an organizational readiness assessment covering: team structure and sponsorship, governance, adoption, measurement and communication.
  • Host change management workshops that take input from your strategy (vision, goals, KPIs, requirements, research, characters) and discover insights, strategies and tactics needed to drive change in the project life cycle. They typically fall into categories such as: leadership, resistance management, training, coaching plans, user feedback and measurement, content strategy, and communications.

The goal in this phase is to identify the key tactics that will drive the expected change of your target audience and in which order (pre-launch, launch, post-launch) they will have the greatest impact.

Design

Design is the phase in which the digital transformation project is finalized.

Wireframes, interactive prototypes, experimental tests, high fidelity designs, solution architecture diagrams, integrative maps, and data modeling help bring the practical vision of the project to life for a larger group of individuals.

Key activities at this stage should include:

  • Solidify change team role definitions and workflows
  • Resolve the implications of the business processes identified during requirements collection.
  • Definition of a measurement plan , including tangible KPIs.
  • Develop a content strategy and plan .
  • Design a training plan that includes individual, one-to-one, self-contained learning.
  • Drafting of an internal communication plan capable of generating involvement and explaining the reasons for the change.

The goal of change during the design phase is to trigger change workflows to create work plans and schedules.

Realization and verification

While highly differentiated from a development perspective, the Build and Verify phases can be grouped together when considering change management approaches. At this stage the digital transformation becomes real as developers backlog the product.

Successful organizations use both project management tools,

both experiences and testimonials collected from users.

User impressions are critical for managers to review the plans and activities defined at the start of the whole process. Should there be any inconsistencies, they can implement corrective actions that take into account all aspects.

Having a project management team that understands what the business activities are forces the collaboration of all employees from project managers to developers.

Key activities at this point should include:

  • Concatenation of the activities and the final results of change management.
  • Import sequenced and assigned change management tasks into a shared project management environment.
  • Meet regularly with product and developer teams to align change efforts with development realities.
  • Carrying out the iterative development and ensuring the quality of all results.
  • Feedback sessions to make sure your plan is relevant and shared.
  • Monitor and deal with overdue change.
  • Carrying out pre-launch activities.

The goal of change during the build and test phases is to collaborate with the development team and end users by adapting and executing the change management plan.

Launch

The launch phase is the most critical time for any change management team. It is time to lead the change and adoption of the digital tool .

If change management has been successfully integrated into your digital transformation initiative, the change team should have already completed most of the work.

All pre-launch activities have been completed, key stakeholders have been trained, business processes have been created or adapted, and measurement plans are in place that await user data.

Key change management activities in the initiation phase include:

  • Internal communication planning to allow employees to understand in which direction the company is moving according to a functional approach.
  • Moving from a project management to a procedure management model
  • Listen, measure and share feedback with project managers and participants.
  • Monitor and address the backward change.

Your goal of change in the start-up phase is to set up the organization to support change.

The key to successful digital transformation

Digital transformation is the key to the survival of many companies, however digital transformations are difficult and often fail.

This derives from the fact that change is a complex and tortuous issue and to really implement it, elements that go far beyond the idea of change itself must be addressed.

The reasons?

Those who innovate often feel exposed and worry about not seeing their expectations fulfilled. Again, there is some confusion in understanding how to implement change on the part of those who implement it. Without successful change management, digital transformation efforts will fail.

In most cases, the failure of digital transformation projects occurs due to a lack of resources, attention and awareness of the work required to effectively execute a change management plan.

As we have seen, designing correctly is not enough as projects and processes are based on people. It is essential to dedicate the same time to the correct management of people, making sure to modify and confer the right and necessary culture for change.

Gamification is a particularly effective tool when embarking on a business digitization process as it allows to improve the training and learning process; foster greater involvement and interest in the company and processes.

Changing management means getting people to use tools made for them so they can achieve true business value. Integrating these efforts into digital transformation initiatives from initial launch to launch will not guarantee success, but it will be a great foundation for achieving it.

In an environment of uncertainty, uncertainty and volatility, collaborators play a crucial role in the digital transformation. Therefore, the first step is to direct the entire corporate culture to constant change and progressive innovation.

This represents the first step towards a true digital transformation; but what are the winning characteristics of a digitalization process based on gamification?

1. Multichannel

In the first place, a fundamental element is the multi-channel approach: it is a tool with a very high potential as it is able to reach consumers and users quickly, significantly lowering the costs of advertising and disseminating information.

However, it must be used with full knowledge of the facts, articulated in a mix of large and well-planned actions: the risk, in fact, is that the brand and brand loyalty lose meaning in the face of too intense promotional activity.

Multichanneling requires awareness, otherwise it transforms companies into “digital stalkers” , making every effort of activity vanish.

2. Real optimization of processes

Furthermore, applications that exploit gamification allow processes to be optimized, making them contextual between the actors and therefore shorter , both in terms of type of process and time .

In some cases, rather than process optimization, it would be appropriate to talk about real re-design. The ultimate goal is to be able to design new processes and model them over time based on best practices. This is not a simple action: we often fall into the error of proposing a solution that simply transfers the business processes already existing in the offline world to an app.

Innovation is experienced as “the cure-all” for every malfunction, the irony of fate is that we often see digitalisations that “incorporate” the old inefficiencies present in the off-line into new applications .

3. Personalized experiences

The ability to customize the user experience in a gamification app makes the difference, allowing you to model the application based on the actual use of users.

The creation of the app is managed step by step based on actual results and based on real adoption by the users involved.

This allows the individual to monitor their work via app in real time, always having a control and comparison application designed specifically for them.

4. Measurement of results and KPIs

The transition between management objectives and the transfer of objectives to the workforce is a fundamental point in a corporate digitalization project.

In this case, the goal is to easily transfer the concepts of KPI (Key performance indicators) quickly and effectively .

The issue of measuring, simplifying and transferring information to the company’s operational plans is therefore central , knowing how to do it by providing information when, to whom and in the most appropriate format becomes the crucial point.

Managers must have a tool that allows them to identify and evaluate key actions in an easy and intuitive way.

Gamification makes this objective engaging, as the achievement of a certain KPI corresponds to the awarding of medals and badges.

Marketers who focus today on the transversality of functions and the simplification of the decision-making process will be able to promote applications and projects capable of motivating, involving and producing in a totally different way.

But the potential of gamification is not limited to the involvement of employees and staff.

Gamification in the business environment makes new process KPIs available and easy to consult, which make it possible to calculate with “reasonable certainty” the impact of the project in terms of savings (time and resources) on already consolidated costs of the company.

In this way, the qualitative impact of gamification, represented by the increase in involvement, and therefore productivity, can be easily linked to quantitative “historicized” information relating to company costs.

The future APPs will allow you to know exactly where and how to intervene in your value chain, in real time, in a system of continuous learning and information sharing that focuses on the key element that can make the difference: the individual. .

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