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Designing for digital excellence: businesses need high agility and courageous leaders to make a lasting impact

Bringing together over 20 senior executives from across sectors, PA Consulting Group held an exclusive event which explored the challenges and opportunities leaders face when designing a digital business.

Rob Mettler, PA’s Director of Digital Business, invited guests to participate in PA’s digital barometer – a new online tool that lets organisations identify what stage they are at on their digital journey, and how they compare to competitors:

“The results show that while the businesses surveyed at the event have big ambitions, few are making the progress they would like around digital. Reasons cited include an absence of the strong leadership, skills and understanding needed to drive the digital agenda forward. Experience tells us that making democratic decisions on your digital strategy will only get you so far – it takes a leader with a maverick spirit to deliver radical change.”

The event included talks from Michael Fishwick, Head of Digital, Telefonica; Christoph Burtscher, Strategy Director, LateRooms; and Conrad Thompson, who leads on business design at PA. The key outcomes of the event are summarised below.

Digital must be embraced as a mindset, not a channel

Globally, over a trillion devices are predicted to be connected to the internet by 2015 and in the UK over 20 per cent of customer transactions will be made online. To profit from this opportunity, businesses must see digital as a core component of their strategy and re-calibrate their organisation accordingly. Attempts to tweak existing processes and structures to fit a digital model will fail – companies must be prepared to disrupt their operational models to develop the capabilities, propositions and insight required to succeed.

Leaders must have the courage to challenge conventional thinking

Too often, digital is viewed as secondary to the ‘traditional’ business model, and leaders across the organisation are apprehensive of taking the (often controversial) steps needed to fully align the business to a digital strategy. To overcome this ‘fear of the unknown’, your digital/company strategy needs strong leaders who can drive change across the business, instil confidence and overcome the resistance that can come from all angles.

Organisations must balance agility with focus

To dominate in the digital arena, businesses need to become highly agile. This agility must be demonstrated across all activities – from a willingness to innovate multiple diverse ideas to a recruitment strategy that allows the business to quickly hire the skills required to deliver a new project, for example through crowd-sourcing. At the same time, this agility must be grounded in a clear understanding of where the company needs to focus their efforts and investment to deliver the biggest impact on the bottom line – and achieving this balance is a critical challenge for leaders.

Innovation must be customer-centric

Continuous innovation and the ability to rapidly test and discard or develop ideas will be a defining characteristic of tomorrow’s organisations. Indeed, innovation should be encouraged across all areas of the business, rather than siloed into a specific function. However, to create value, innovation must be visibly focused on where it can add the greatest value to customers (who will often have conflicting desires) – 80% of our attendees identified customers as the driving force behind their digital transformations. Increasingly, using digital platforms to get instant customer feedback on products and services, and entering into open innovation with customers, are effective ways to create competitive advantage.

Decisions should be data-driven

By 2020 each of us will own an average of over five digital connected devices. The vast data created by these devices will enable businesses to develop valuable real-time insights around customer behaviour that can transform their strategic decision-making. Organisations must understand the potential this data offers and leverage it to develop services that deliver what their customer actually needs, when they need it – rather than what the business think they need. Equally, organisations will have greater opportunities to monetise their own data.

Read more about our views on digital, join the debate Destination Digital Blog.

To talk to one of our experts about designing your business for a digital age,
contact us now.

Anita Chandraker
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Kevin O’Shaughnessy
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