The ‘New’ Workspace Is Really Just Digital Transformation

digitaltransformationIn my March 2020 blog, written before COVID-19 changed the world, I wrote about “Digital Transformation.” At the time, very few organizations had truly invested in a digital transformation strategy. It was still a buzzword corporate leaders did not understand or were not able to fully implement. Before we move any further, let’s get a reminder of the definition of digital transformation.

According to George Westerman, MIT principal research scientist and author of “Leading Digital: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation,” digital transformation “…is a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance.”

A definition that may make more sense to people today. To put it simply, digital transformation is what happened during 2020.

We moved everyone out of their offices and into their homes. We began using videoconferencing for every single meeting, using real-time communication apps like Slack and Teams. We digitized processes in our organizations that had previously been paper-based and manual. We stopped traveling on business trips and used technology in place of it. We developed new technical skills in order to continue our work.

I write about this because I see many predictions being made about the new normal. Some of these are from prognosticators who are guessing. In some cases, they guess knowing they are predicting more than what will actually happen but they want to shake things up. In this new reality, AV firms have two major challenges on their hands: First, they need to decide what parts of these new ways of working they will keep, and second, they have to understand which customers are truly committed to a strategy of digital transformation.

As most people think about what the new normal will be, they often think about what the company will want, what the executives will want and what the boards will want. Those are all the wrong people to think about, as it ignores the most important person: the customer. We all need to be thinking about what the customers want! What have customers become accustomed to over the past 18 months that they will not want to change? For AV firms, this is no different. Were your designers, sales team and programmers working from home over the past year? Were your customers able to get what they needed from these people while they were working from out of the office? My guess is, yes, they were. If that is the case, then perhaps as a company you need to consider how having people work from home affects your bottom line.

I am not just talking about office space and the associated expenses. Were your employees actually more engaged with their customers? Were they able to navigate successfully between their work life and home life? Did they need to leave to get the kids at three in the afternoon, but were then able to answer a call from a customer at seven pm? Did they have full access to all the resources normally found in an office environment? If so, that is an example of where digital transformation has used technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance.

Have you been able to completely reform your processes that are not part of your core competency? That is, have you moved your accounting and ordering to completely digital processes that increase efficiencies and provide better, faster and less expensive services to your customers? If so, that again is digital transformation in action. It does not really matter if your accounting wants to go back to the old way of doing things; what matters is what your customers want. In fact, your customers may require you to maintain the digital processes. They will likely tell you they no longer accept paper invoices or paper contracts. They want it all done digitally, because they have embraced digital transformation.

Why does it matter whether your customers are engaging a true digital transformation strategy? Because if they don’t, they will not survive as a business for very long moving into the future. I am not suggesting you should stop doing business with them, but you should be thoughtful about where you spend your resources. Working with organizations that are truly embracing digital transformation will give you a partner into the future. It will give you experience and expertise in supporting digital transformation, and it will force you to continue embracing it in your own firm. In the end, it will make everyone a better firm.

In reality, the pandemic did not create a whole new world. It catapulted us into an environment we knew could exist, but had not yet fully realized. It made firms that were hesitant to embrace digital transformation give it a big bear hug. So, going forward, you don’t need a crystal ball or a futurist. You simply need to evaluate your customer’s needs and truly think about how you provide them the best, most efficient services.