GE’s search for a buyer of GE Digital, its apparent “non-core” business, and UBS’ sale of its Smart Wealth digital wealth management platform are causing the old guard to rejoice and claim that digital businesses are bogus and hogwash. Even Everest Group’s research suggests that 78 percent of enterprises fail to scale their digital initiatives, and don’t realize the benefits they envision.
It is easy to naysay the naysayers. But these developments do merit a discussion. Many enterprises are investing in digital transformation initiatives, and they have a lot to lose if they don’t do it well.
So, what is plaguing enterprises’ digital transformation agenda?
Not Moving the Revenue Needle
Most of the industrial enterprises we engage with as part of our research believe that, even in the coming two decades, 80-90 percent of their business will come from their so called “core” products. Though they acknowledge that their core products are not static and continue to be increasingly connected, software-driven, and service oriented, the incremental impact on revenue is not yet clear. Their business modeling and simulations provide numbers that are sufficient to fund digital initiatives, but are insufficient to move the revenue needle.
Enterprises are realizing they have overdone some of their digital initiatives. Because business impact continues to be hazy, leadership is asking difficult questions. Our research suggests that 45 percent of enterprises fail to get funding for digital projects as the decision makers and purse string holders consider them vanity pursuits. Moreover, even strategic initiatives are struggling as the return on investment horizon is becoming longer as time progresses. Leadership is losing patience.
Challenges in CX to Business Attribution
Our research suggests that 89 percent of enterprises believe digital initiatives improve customer experience (CX). However, they struggle to attribute this improvement to business success. Therefore, business success becomes a secondary metric for such initiatives. Moreover, many enterprises confuse customer service – e.g., contact centers – with customer experience, which thwarts their ability to drive meaningful digital transformation.
We discuss another major reason for the gaps in digital promises versus reality in our research on digital operating models. Various enterprises assumed that digital transformation would create completely different businesses or business models for them. A prime example for comparison was about Google, a search and advertising company, getting into autonomous vehicles. Another was Amazon, an online retailer, getting into cloud services. These enterprises also assumed that they would disrupt their entrenched competition in their own and allied industries, just as Uber and Airbnb did.
However, I believe enterprises need such a dose of reality in order to separate the chaff from the wheat. As tech vendors, consultants, and system integrators brand everything digital, enterprises need a solid business case for digital transformation lest they spend precious money on worthless pursuits.
Enterprises’ needs of the hour are to develop a realistic digital transformation plan, rely on incubating multiple projects, be willing to fail fast, and leverage broader industry ecosystem. They must also remember that technology disruption always come with high risks.
Not acting is not an option, as the cost of doing nothing significantly outweighs the initial failures your enterprise may experience. Failing today is better than becoming irrelevant tomorrow.
What has been your digital journey experience? Please share it with me at [email protected].