The Times They Are A-Changin, for Corporations Too – Total Retail

The past decade will be remembered as an era of great transformation. Transformation in the transportation industry, thanks to Lyft, Uber, and the evolution of self-driving vehicles. Transformation in the entertainment development and distribution space, courtesy of nimble companies like Spotify and Hulu, as well as more mature organizations like Netflix and In the retail space, we can look to Amazon once again, as well as others like Stitch Fix, for helping to reshape what we thought was possible in terms of supply chain management, along with customization and personalization.

Throughout history, revolutionary ideas and business models have helped redefine consumer expectations and transform industries. By their nature, disruptive ideas and companies put more pressure on industries, often forcing traditional sector leaders to also double down and innovate. Innovate not just from the perspective of rethinking how they leverage new technologies, develop products, and go to market, but also specifically how they modernize their entire organization.

As we turn the page on a new decade, more and more companies are not just looking for tech solutions (e.g., app modernization, digital engineering), but they’re also recognizing that organizational and process transformation has become just as important as the big idea or breakthrough product. Transitioning and transforming your entire organization requires a holistic approach, where technology becomes the pervasive element and constant ingredient in everything you do. Regardless of the industry, companies need to adopt a product-focused mind-set, one that comes with its own set of dependencies and deliverables.

There are three essential things to consider when initiating a successful corporate transformation:

Leading a Cultural Sea Change

It’s one thing to have a CEO or leader who says they want culture change, and another thing altogether to do the necessary heavy lifting. Leaders must do more than identify what needs to happen, they have to be able to mobilize resources and people and actively point them in the right direction. The key to success in this effort lies in the leader’s ability to design and implement a transformational journey, one that will help accelerate change throughout an enterprise environment.

Additionally, quite a few executives start a transformation process by talking about or formulating their strategy. But that strategy could be in direct conflict with the current state of an organization’s culture. Leaders need to be brave enough to pivot away from strategy and prioritize culture at the outset. Culture sits at the center of all successful businesses. Leaders must understand and prepare for that, and ensure the right people and mind-set are in place to help drive a culture of change in preparation for all that follows.

Broadening Your Tech Bench

Second, it’s only natural to think that everyone on your digital and tech bench knows what they’re doing, is prepared for what’s to come, and is immune to any reconfiguration or restructuring. In fact, that’s likely the first place to start when it comes to rethinking your corporate approach. These days, a successful corporate transformation requires a variety of digital and tech teams dedicated to specific areas. That often means redeploying or reorganizing staff around a front-end team, a security team, a performance team, and a QA team, to name a few.

Having dedicated teams assigns accountability and drives responsibility for achieving established deliverables, often around different and competing timetables. It’s also critical to bring these diverse teams together on a regular basis so each knows what the other is working on and the status of their respective projects. Creating a system for communications enables everyone to address challenges and opportunities on their respective terms, while also encouraging a collaborative model that should prove successful over the long haul.

Connecting People and Growth to Drive Innovation

Finally, organizations want to transform themselves to further their competitive edge. However, most companies struggle with shifting to a mind-set where transformation is embraced, let alone setting themselves up for growth and business success.

Innovation and digital transformation intersect at the crossroads of purpose, and it’s up to companies to not only realize this opportunity, but also welcome it. This involves connecting business growth with the growth of people and their respective careers. Today’s digital natives expect their organizations to move beyond convention, to be more inclusive, and more accepting of individual diversity. Putting stock in these types of values and championing the individuality of employees impacts business at every level, which leads to better retention, recruitment and, ultimately, innovation.

Make no mistake, accelerating corporate transformation isn’t for the faint of heart. To be truly successful requires an enterprisewide commitment, and an understanding that this type of transformation never really ends, but rather becomes the new normal for doing business today. In fact, the biggest benefit for an organization going through a corporate transformation is learning how to effectively manage change not as a one-time event, but rather as a continuous and normal course of doing business in today’s environment. Change is more than a destination, or going from point A to point B. Change should lead to better and more effective change management. Companies that encourage and lean into a healthy culture surrounding change will be more successful at incorporating new ideas and technologies, and ultimately win over the long haul.

James Hartling is chief architect at Cognizant Softvision (a division of Cognizant Digital Business). Cognizant Softvision creates impactful end-to-end digital products and solutions that result in relevant, memorable and rewarding interactions between brands and consumers.