By Sanjay Govil

 A giant in the entertainment industry for over 90 years, Disney has been long adored for bringing magical entertainment and experiences to people. In a world with changing customer preferences and new challenges, Disney consciously made it one of their strategic priorities to use the latest technology platforms to engage better with customers. To continue to deliver magical experiences to customers at Disney World, the company embraced technology and made a billion-dollar investment – MyMagic+. The system combined a website, mobile app, and wristband, allowing Disney to analyze customers’ preferences and behavior, so as to customize their Disney World experience. The effort proved to be an instant success, with 90% of visitors rating the band as “very good” or “excellent.” It was also a telling example of how companies across industries could adopt digital transformation.

Today, digital technologies are not an option anymore. They are rapidly changing the ways we interact, share, work, and consume. These technologies have become essential for organizations to stay relevant to consumers and markets patterns. Businesses must either adapt or get left behind. As Charles Darwin said in the theory of evolution, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Transforming businesses into digital organizations

It is easy to think of digital transformation as a technical exercise. But that would a simplistic and inadequate assessment. It’s not just about getting a new app, or hiring data experts. I believe the starting point for any attempt at digital transformation should be a thorough understanding of one’s customers and their expectations from a company. It is this that will answer four crucial business questions—what needs to be digitally transformed, what is the change that the organization aims to achieve, how can this be integrated with existing systems and processes, and what is a company’s forward-looking plan in a quickly-changing environment.

The other interesting truth I have observed about the digital transformation journey is that it starts to work at the very moment when it ceases to be a new or add-on initiative within a company. Instead it needs to become a harmonious, consistent element within businesses, integrating seamlessly with an organization’s vision, culture and people. Let’s look at how this can be achieved to help digital transformation succeed within organizations.

Going beyond technology to make it work

Digital transformation is really about transforming the culture, ways of working, and processes in your business. It is about changing the approach that your employees take to work every day. Let’s look at what this means for organizations.

  • Evolving a digital culture that can assimilate change: A 2016 report by the Altimeter Group establishes that the biggest obstacle to digital transformation in a company is its culture. Important factors that create this resistance include inertia to change, uncertainty, an inadequate understanding of why this is important, lack of motivation to adapt, and the environment within businesses. However, organizations can catalyze this journey by investing time, effort, and thought in evolving an effective digital culture and taking employees along. This requires being open to risk and experimentation, and investing in new talent to add value to its digital culture.
  • Having an integrated vision and strategy: A digital strategy that exists in isolation will cease to be effective. It must be aligned with the company’s future vision and strategy. A 2016 digital business global study by MIT Sloan found that nearly 90% of digitally maturing organizations— companies in which digital technology had transformed processes, talent engagement, and business models—were integrating their digital strategy with the company’s overall strategy.
  • Developing digital capabilities towards your organization’s goals: This means equipping and training your people to keep pace and feel confident—across various levels and teams. In the same study by MIT Sloan, more than 75% of digitally maturing organizations surveyed provided their employees with resources and opportunities to develop their digital acumen, compared to only 14% of early-stage companies. Even the MyMagic+ initiative saw 70,000 employees trained on new technology.
  • Ensuring that senior-level talent is committed to steering change: Digital transformation can’t happen overnight. Therefore, ensuring progress towards a digitally maturing vision, while staying resilient, needs the backing of senior talent. And more important than technological knowledge is strategic managerial attributes—including vision, openness to change, collaboration, and other soft skills.
  • Investing thoughtfully in digital innovation: Investing in infrastructure and resources can support your immediate and long-term digital transformation goals. For example, implementing MyMagic+ required several investments—creating new MagicBands with built-in radio frequency identification chips, adding scanners to Disney World’s existing hotels, shops, and attractions, and installing radio frequency readers on the doors of over 28,000 hotel rooms.

In this way, new, unconventional opportunities for growth lie in continuous innovation. However, companies can only leverage digital technologies to fundamentally change the way they deliver value to their customers by orienting every employee into this process. I also believe this is where the digital transformation battle is won—when it is assimilated into organizational culture, which goes beyond technology and digital trends.