The year’s made it clear: go digital or go home. This is where the CEO and senior management need to take charge.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health and economic crisis that’s taking a huge toll on lives and livelihood worldwide. It is also a catalyst for digital transformation, as organisations face one of the biggest business challenges in recent history, a once-in-a-generation shift in mindset and behaviour. In the mad dash to digitalise as much business as possible—an almost instinctive, collective response—technology will power us all into the much-lauded post-pandemic digital era.


Not so fast. “The biggest part of our digital transformation,” says Simeon Preston of Bupa, “is changing the way we think.” Humans, not tech, are at the core of our organisation’s digital transformation. We need to drive it.

The Role of Top Management

Even with the pandemic urging the need to digitalise, inertia still exists in many organisations. Haphazard introduction of digital measures confuses employees and adds a bewildering sense of isolation. Worse, if not thought through and properly implemented, customer experience journeys are negatively affected when new digital processes are implemented. One of the key reasons for dissatisfaction: while companies may have various digital initiatives in place, they may not add up to a coherent system that effectively drives business forward.

Here’s where the CEO and senior management need to take charge, assess the existing situation and reassess the road map for digital transformation, bearing in mind that digital transformation often takes place in phases. CEOs need to ensure the right mindset toward digital transformation and cascading this way of thinking throughout the whole organisation. They also need to move quickly from active experimentation to active scale-up supported by ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement.

Besides transforming inwards or digitalising the core of existing business, CEOs can also focus on capturing new digital era opportunities. This is what many newly virtual F&B brands with cloud kitchen support have done. Another great example is food innovator company Growthwell Foods, who started and now run an e-marketplace for organically grown produce.

“The biggest part of our digital transformation is changing the way we think.”

Guided by Customer Experience and Brand Strategy

During COVID-19, many businesses found themselves unable to connect with prospects and customers the traditional way. Studies show that digital interaction with B2B customers is now two times more important than traditional channels. No wonder companies are rethinking how they interact with customers or even developing entirely new business models. Doing this, keep in mind that the only way to know where and how to change is through extensive and in-depth input you’re your prospects and customers themselves. For new digital interactions to be successful, opinions must be sought as expectations and behaviour are fast-changing, accelerated by ever-evolving pandemic conditions.

To ensure relevance, digital transformation initiatives should be guided by the broader brand strategy. This checks and assures that digital transformation initiatives align with company strategy and brand positioning and are based on market needs. Undertaking our own company’s digital transformation, brand strategy remained at the heart of it.

Internal Branding and User Experience Matters

When digital transformation initiatives fail to improve organisational productivity, don’t be too quick to blame the tech—it may be because of a failure to consider the experience of users, which include employees in the organisation.

One way to overcome these issues is involving employees, framing digital transformation as a means to become even better at what they are already great at. Companies can conduct a vision casting session with staff as part of internal branding, allowing them to participate and invest in the organisation’s future. This achieves not only the company’s long-term goals but provides employees with the opportunity to define their own roles and success within the organisation. This could lead to a more productive and positive atmosphere for staff adopting digital and other change initiatives.

For digital transformation to work and work well, leaders need to go back to the fundamentals: focus on winning employee mindsets as well as adjusting organisational culture and processes before deciding on the tech. In other words, technology should empower people at work, not the other way around.

Building brands for a changing world, transformation is at the heart of what we do.

Top image credit: Unsplash/Scott Graham

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