Now is the time for digital retooling

If you build cars or trucks for a living, having the right tools means everything. That’s why, for example, Ford Motor Co. still plans to shut down its F-150 pick-up assembly line later this year to retool for a new model, despite having just reopened most of its assembly lines this week as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Whether it’s new dies for the stamping presses, reconfiguration of just-in-time parts supply processes or re-programming of welding robots, you can’t be a successful auto producer without the correct tools, properly configured, and a skilled and trained workforce ready to wield them.

Digital businesses are no different. They require the right digital tools, configured correctly, and a trained and digitally skilled workforce ready to wield them. Effective digital tooling is so important, we’ve made it a key part of dPrism’s framework for Digital Posture, which states:

  1. Organizations with mature digital capabilities are more agile and resilient to external shocks.
  2. Digital Posture has four facets: Breadth and maturity of digital products and services portfolio, end-to-end data enabled digital processes, completeness of digital tooling and the sophistication of digital culture.
  3. There are straightforward metrics for assessing the maturity of your organization’s digital posture
  4. CEOs, boards and leadership teams should be focused on improving digital posture maturity for their organizations.

The reality, whether recognized or not, is that in today’s digitally intermediated economy, effective digital tooling is the price of entry. Market leaders place a strategic priority on continued investment as a critical lever to maintaining competitive advantage. Yes, there should always be a focus on driving as much efficiency as possible in digital operations. But it’s critical to ensure staff have the full portfolio of digital capabilities to successfully market, sell and serve customers.

The ultimate purpose of digital tooling is to enable an organization to deliver its products and services and support clients and customers as effectively as possible, driving growth and mission success as a result.

In simple terms, digital tooling for most organizations falls into one of three categories: Collaboration, Operations and Integration. An effective digital posture requires a balanced approach to capabilities across each of these areas. Some suggested starting points for assessing these capabilities are provided below.

Collaboration

Collaboration is about facilitating decision-making and problem-solving across the organization and with customers and partners. Increasingly, automated digital agents facilitate collaboration. Ask yourself these questions about your organization:

  1. Can all business decisions be effectively made irrespective of the physical location or time zone of everyone involved in the decision-making process?
  2. Does the tooling for collaborative decision making provide a system of record for auditing and reviewing the decision process?
  3. Are external partners and customers able to be integrated into digital decision-making and review processes seamlessly and without friction?

Operations

Digital tooling spans everything from product and service development and delivery, to marketing, sales and customer support. Ask these questions:

  1. Does the digital tooling for your organization’s operational processes enable seamless and automated flow of data and information between systems?
  2. What proportion of partner or customer service needs can be satisfied through self-service applications?
  3. Do staff and management have access to operational dashboards that provide an end-to-end view of the health and performance of operational capabilities?
  4. Has the leadership established incentives to reward a focus on continuous process and operational performance improvement?

Integration

Enabling the connections between systems and the flows of data and information in and out and across the organization through standardized protocols and interfaces. Assess your organization’s integration of digital tooling by asking these questions:

  1. Is the technology organization appropriately incentivized to drive year-over-year reductions in system integration costs while enabling higher velocity new product and service delivery?
  2. To what degree are partner and customer data and other external sources of required operational data facilitated through fully documented and automated application interfaces (APIs).

Data

Digital tooling is the means by which data is leveraged as a raw material to make decisions, improve process efficiencies and satisfy the needs of customers through continuous improvement in products and services. Ask the following to assess your organization’s data capabilities:

  1. Does your organization treat data as an asset to be managed as effectively as cash in the bank?
  2. Do all business decisions need to be supported by operational and market data and evidence?
  3. Are effective data governance policies in place that assign ownership to business stakeholders for the stewardship, quality and security of data assets?
  4. Does your organization’s operational infrastructure enable access to all the data anyone would need to enable effective decision making?
  5. Has your organization promoted and established a culture of data-driven continuous process improvement, from product development through to customer support?

Even if you can’t answer affirmatively to most of these questions, you’ll at least have a baseline from which to build your digital toolbox. If you’d like more guidance on how to grow from there, we’re happy to help.

The principals at Digital Prism Advisors have many decades of combined experience in driving growth through digital strategy. Feel free to contact us to set up a conversation about how we might help your organization assess and implement the strategies required to build resilience and improve your organization’s ability to adapt and respond to the challenges ahead.

dPrism is open. We practice what we teach and operate 100% virtually, serving long-time and new clients alike during the Covid-19 crisis.

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