Founder of The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab in New Zealand has been known as a leader in innovation as well as emerging technologies. Here, prior to her speaking engagement at the virtual WIEF thinkTALK session, Frances Valintine talks about digital business and how it’ll drive the post-pandemic economic recovery and growth.
For seven years, Frances Valintine has been the chief executive of The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab in Auckland, both of which she founded. Born and bred in New Zealand, Frances has been known as a leader in innovation as well as emerging technologies, and on 20 October 2020, she’ll helm the virtual WIEF thinkTALK session on Reinforcing Digital Business: Accelerating Growth Amid Turmoil.
Here, prior to the event, she answers some questions about digital business and how it’ll drive the post-pandemic economic recovery as well as growth.
What are the three main obstacles faced by businesses in this digital-pandemic age? And what are the solutions to these challenges?
Firstly, this is the time to innovate and to explore new ways to take products and services to market and to review the relevance of key products based upon changing market expectations and market restrictions. Secondly, research and development are the keys, and critical as the springboard for business resilience as we work in an increasingly unpredictable time. Thirdly, it’s important to look at new ways of working and embracing the demand for employees wanting to have more flexibility in how and where they work.
What is digital transformation for a business?
Digital transformation is a process that businesses go through in the transition from analogue practices to digital. Digital products and services are generally designed to build efficiency, accuracy, speed in responsiveness and greater personalisation for customers. A key benefit for businesses is the ability to have live data that informs business strategy and enables businesses to respond to shifts in the marketplace in real time.
At the simplest form, digital transformation will involve an organisation investing in a robust online presence that includes highly responsive and automated website, e-commerce, ordering or booking functions that are intuitive and include instant confirmation as well as validation of customer enquiries. This will be supported by online and social media marketing driving customers to the website and an integrated system with backend processes including the extraction and visualisation of data.
From this starting point, digital transformation moves rapidly into much more complex intelligence systems that drive business processes that may include procurement, ordering, fulfilment and logistics. These systems will be built on robust platforms that utilises machine learning, AI and high functioning user journeys that predict as well as respond to customer interactions. A fully digitalised business will have almost all functions based upon cloud-based software supported by a team of content developers, data analysts, online marketing specialists and business processes built on cloud-based tools that connect all business functions from payroll, payments, ordering, communications and support through to customer feedback.
What are the main areas of digital transformation for a business?
There are no main areas for digital transformation as ideally once businesses take the step to digitise, it’ll be an organisation-wide commitment. The real magic of digitalisation comes with digitalising all systems so that they ’talk’ to each other, removing the risks of human intervention or manual processing. The area that takes the most time and investment is in the re-skilling of employees to support them to develop new skills and knowledge as well as ensuring the executive team and members of the governance board are engaged with the transformation process to avoid potential resistance to change.
What’s the result of not digitally transforming your business today?
The significant impact of COVID-19 has illustrated how resilient fully digital businesses were through enforced lockdown periods. Organisations who had invested in the tools and software for remote working had the ability be ‘back in action’ very rapidly after the transition to working from home. Analogue businesses, are often reliant on customers walking through the door. These businesses have been under extreme pressure as their customers stopped being able to engage with these organisations. Within a few years, I doubt there’ll be any significant analogue business left in operation as the cost to compete in an increasingly online and virtual world will be too prohibitive.
What are the three fundamental steps to digitally transform a business?
Start now. The sooner the process of digitisation begins the greater likelihood of success. Focus on all aspects of your operations, not just one area. Digitalisation should start with internal processes moving to the cloud. For example: to the Google suite, so all business documents can be accessed from anywhere and where online collaboration becomes a normal business function. Once your team is working collaboratively online, more to external facing customer functions and engagement. Build capability as well as knowledge in the team. And be brave.
How much does it cost for a digital transformation for a business?
Digital transformation can be as expensive or inexpensive as your business allows. There are many low cost providers or SaaS (Software as a Service) options that can be utilised for small businesses and many websites are now built using templated systems that have plug-ins that provide functionality such as e-commerce transactions or bookings systems. The most important thing is not to let cost become a prohibitive reason to taking the first step. Start by seeking trusted advice, watch webinars as well as online tutorials, build knowledge and then get going.
Lastly, what can we expect from you during the WIEF thinkTALK session on 20 October?
I’ll be talking about the rate of change and now COVID-19 has super-charged the digital transformation process. Regardless of where we are in the world the business tools of our time are digital. The skills needed for the road ahead require investment in developing new knowledge and understanding, as well as understanding how changing customer expectation will drive new expectations. Technological advancement isn’t slowing down, and our world is more connected than ever before. There are many aspects of digitalisation that are greatly beneficial to business owners and to customers, so moving beyond the fear of change is the first step of the journey.
Register for the virtual WIEF thinkTALK session today to discover more on digital transformation for businesses by Frances Valintine on 20 October 2020.