There is a perception gap between what digital transformation laggards, and digital transformation leaders believe is possible. I am working on a new research report and one of the clear findings is laggards expect far fewer revenue benefits as a result of digital transformation, and therefore are investing much less to achieve the benefits. Leaders, and even the average businesses surveyed, expect significantly more revenue benefits, and are investing far more in digital transformation to receive them. The gap widens. Digital transformation luddites, the laggards, are living in an alternative reality that does not bode well for their future success.
I was most surprised when looking at the survey data on the retail industry. The gap between leaders and laggards is greater in retail than most other industries. Over the past year, I have been reading and analyzing a lot of data that details the rapid changes in consumer shopping behaviors influenced by online and mobile commerce. Online and mobile retailers must support real-time personalized and contextually relevant shopping experiences. Keeping up with these rapidly changing consumer behaviors requires continuous digital transformation. Businesses that don't anticipate and plan for these changes are in for a rapid demise. For more on this subject read The Advantages of an Advantage in Digital Transformation.
Change is hard. There is an entire industry of consultants, and many books published on the topic of change management. In today's world of digital transformation, a state of permanent change needs to be anticipated. Many businesses will crumble under the pressure, while others will perceive change as a constant flow of new opportunities to gain competitive advantages.
A state of constant change requires business agility. I define business agility as: The routine ability to respond to new consumer, competition and market data quickly and profitability in a self-sustaining, not self-consuming manner. Business agility, which is self-consuming, is like burning more calories than you are consuming - it can't continue forever without killing you. Self-sustaining means you are profiting from your business agility, so your business continues to get stronger as a result of change.
Business leaders must have the ability to maneuver an enterprise with agility, which is dependent on their ability to quickly recognize new trends, competitive forces and markets, and then realign, retool, reprioritize, re-educate and retrain employees to capture new opportunities profitably. They must constantly fight "normalcy bias" which is the desire to keep things the same. They must foster an environment that embraces change and recognizes competitive opportunities reside in every instance of change.
What measurement determines the agility of a business? I propose a measurement of BTEUs (business transformation energy units). BTEUs may include market/brand momentum, sales channels, partner ecosystems, customer base, competitive advantages and resources available to support change, less all factors that limit or restrict change. Limiting factors are things like leaders and IT systems incapable of supporting change, sluggish operational tempos, outdated business processes, outdated manufacturing plants, technologies, ineffectual partnerships, employees, investors or board members unwilling to support change, or a lack of access to resources and credit necessary to support change.
A higher level of BTEUs supports a higher level of business agility. More BTEUs support the ability to change strategies, change directions, start, stop, make investments and/or transform based on data.
Once you understand your BTEU score, you can work to improve it, and maneuver to take advantage of as many new opportunities as possible given your level of BTEUs. All new opportunities should be given a BTEU rating. This rating will help business leaders recognize the level of agility and energy needed to exploit the new opportunity.
All change requires BTEUs. In fast changing competitive markets, businesses with higher levels of BTEUs have the competitive advantage. As real-time data is analyzed, and changes in trends detected, businesses with higher levels of BTEUs are in a better situation to exploit emerging trends.
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