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The huge transformational effect of digital: ‘Nah, not a priority’

Fi Bendall /

“Mobile is having a huge transformational effect not only on how our audience seek out content, but how they’re discovering it,” says Anthony Sullivan, group product manager for Guardian Core products at Guardian News & Media.

Sullivan was speaking at the Guardian Mobile Business Summit 2012 conference in London, where he provided some stats on how people are accessing Guardian products – its website, mobile website and native apps – on mobile phones and tablets.

That was in 2012, we are nearing the end of 2013.

The UK Press Association says “approaching every technology platform as valid and equal to one another. This philosophy recognises that technology must respond to how it is consumed by the public rather than trying to dictate to the public how they consume it”.

A recent research report from MIT Sloan & Capgemini says CEOs don’t place a priority on digital transformation. Only 36% of CEOs are articulating a powerful vision, yet the report clearly shows how powerful digital transformation can be when a CEO champions these initiatives.

Of the companies who shared a strong vision and strategy, the average business improvements were a 9% increase in revenue creation, 26% profitability and 12% market valuation improvements. There is real evidence of how positive digital transformation programs can be in real hard revenue terms.

Why then is the priority to transform to the world we live in, a digital world, escaping the focus of very smart people?

The report says out of the 1559 executives it interviewed, 39% said no urgency was a significant barrier; this was in addition to excuses of legacy systems to resistance to change, fear and no vision from 28% of upper management.

Digital transformation starts with a vision from top leadership. Where senior leaders had shared their vision it had huge buy-in, with 93% of employees agreeing that digital transformation was the right thing, right now, for their companies to do, quoted the report.

“This idea that a thousand flowers will bloom and we will all be okay is a great way to get some ideas, but we have not seen any transformations that happen bottom up,” said George Westerman from MIT Centre for Digital Business. “They’re all being driven top down. The big difference between the companies that are just doing technology initiatives and the companies that are leading a technology-based transformation is how they’re putting the leadership frameworks in place.”

The smart guys from the UK Press Association and The Guardian are not the only ones who have a strong vision and successful transformation strategies. Starbucks is another example of how operating a successful digital transformation translates in to hard-core dollars. With a customer focused approach offering free Wi-fi, free content and adding mobile process payments to its stores, with customers soon to be able to order by mobile, Starbucks have significantly embraced its leadership vision. They also reduced in line time by 900,000 hours by cutting every card and mobile transaction by 10 seconds using a coordinated digital transformation strategy. By re-engaging with its customers through digital transformation its stock price has risen from $8 in 2009 to a current $73.

There is a growing acceptance that digital is an imperative, a must to succeed or fall to your competitors who do. MIT’s Centre for Digital Business found that companies who invest and manage new technologies are more profitable than peers who don’t. The overwhelming view of the respondents from the survey is that they believe that failure to effectively conduct digital transformation will harm their companies’ ability to compete.

But the clearest and resounding message is it needs to come from the top of the business and it needs to happen now.

What is your company’s vision for digital transformation?

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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