Organizations must embrace a digital future

This article first appeared in DNA India on 22nd December, 2016.

One of the reasons given for the recent demonetization drive followed by the cash crunch is that the PM wants to move India slowly to a more digital world wherein most transactions would be cashless and electronic. Critics of the execution say that without having the digital infrastructure in place, it is an overreach on the part of the government to push through these reforms. The jury is still out on the whole demonetization drive, where only time will tell if it will be successful or not. But are there any lessons that organisations can take as they look to the future?

One thing is certain. We are entering a more digital world in which the pace of digitisation of systems and processes is going to increase. This is a change that both individuals and organizations have to learn to deal with. We can either go screaming and protesting into this digital future or, chose the saner option, i.e., to prepare ourselves for the future to the best of our abilities.

Taking a cue from the critics of this drive, organisations must start moving as many of their systems and processes from manual to digital as fast as possible. The challenge in most organisations is that there is some level of digitisation already available but these systems are mostly isolated and do not talk to each other. Organisations must find a way to bring these varied systems together. The future of most businesses is going to be determined by who can make best use of data to aid in decision-making. Competitive advantages will be won and lost solely based on the ability of the institutions to make decisions on the basis of a multitude of data in the shortest time possible. How can they prepare themselves for that?

Organisations should start by tying together systems with a natural fit. This could mean putting customer relationship management (CRM) platforms for the sales force and integrating that with financial reporting platforms. Most firms do not even have real-time dashboards and depend on one person with an Excel sheet to come up with the required graphs. A move towards real-time dashboarding and reporting will go a long way in helping businesses take the right decisions. In addition, CRM systems also need to be connected to continuous employee feedback platforms, performance appraisal and peer-to-peer recognition systems. Integrating business data with that of employees can lead to the formation of a virtuous cycle. Here, improved business results enhance employee engagement, resulting in their better performance, thereby improving business results even more.

A natural question to ask is whether organisations can start off on a smaller scale? While having an overarching digital plan is important, I am a firm believer in the power of small wins to help drive the overall vision. Hence, picking bit-sized chunks (the ubiquitous low-hanging fruits) of systems of processes that can be quickly digitized can help give a massive fillip to the digitization goals.