Your Company's Digital Strategy Needs to Grow Up
Today's fast-paced digital society demands that organizations quickly take the steps necessary to bring their business to the forefront of the digital era. We are seeing this first-hand in the financial services industry for sure.
Companies across all industries need to ask a very basic question, and be ready to answer it with brutal honesty: Is your company digitally mature? According to this article from MIT Sloan School of Management, digital maturity has many different facets--and it's critical that your company know how to stay at the forefront of this age of transformation in order to maintain your place in this global marketplace.
Step One: Plan for the Long Game
MITSloan points out that digital maturity requires an eye for the long game. You may not be able to bring your company to full digital maturity in a matter of weeks or months--and that's all right! A fast solution won't bring the kind of long-term results you need in order to keep your company in the right position. Instead, plan the long game.
At Infinium Investment Advisors, we are very clearly a B-2-C organization, and this is both good and bad. On the one hand, we are small enough to be nimble and thrust change through the company at a very rapid pace. In some cases, it might takes us a day or even a few hours to modify how we are doing business. Conversely, we may not have access to all of the great new resources hitting the financial services world today. Namely, there are incredible advancements taking place in artificial intelligence and machine learning that quite possibly are cost-prohibitive for us right now. Our hope is that industrious entrepreneurs help to drive innovation in this space to bring down costs of ownership.
When a company thinks long-term on their digital strategy they do the following:
- Create strategies for digital advancement, including technological changes throughout your industry in the coming years. Keep in mind that you can't necessarily predict the ways technology will change, but you can create a plan that will prepare your company for jumping on those changes.
- Track technology use. This isn't just about learning what's happening throughout your company! You need to know how your customers, your partners, and your competitors are using the tools currently available on the market and how they are likely to continue to use those tools in the coming years.
- Adapt to the digital age and preparing to take on the challenges that come from a technology-based company--especially if your company doesn't currently use technology in that way.
Hiring the Right Employees
The employees currently within your company form its backbone. In some cases, they may be prepared to help your company take the steps that will propel it into the digital age--and in others, you may need to bring in someone from the outside to help support those changes. The right employees to help your company reach digital maturity will have several key qualities:
- They'll be technology-driven, with a focus on technology rather than on other standards.
- They'll have the skills necessary to examine digital tools, deepen their understanding of them, and implement them throughout the company.
- They'll have leadership skills that will allow them to guide others through the digital transformation process, leading employees throughout the company to digital maturity despite their current skill levels.
By hiring the right employees or providing the right tools to employees already within the company, you'll put the company as a whole in a better position to reach digital maturity and remain at the forefront of the industry.
For us, delivering financial planning and investment management is not merely about charts and graphs, numbers and data. Rather, when an investor thinks about their money and savings, it is inherently an emotional undertaking. The advent of so called Robo-Advisors may end up being somewhat of the soup de jour for many investors since their services center around technology and whiz-bang solutions; they don't make the human being behind the money the centerpiece. We believe the Robo-Advisors' technology is merely a means to the end -- not the end itself. There's no doubt that some investors will be happy with the service of pure Robo-Advisors, but if our hunch is correct, they won't see mass adoption of their solution.
Another facet to the rise of the Robos is the fact that our industry has largely failed to deliever quality solutions at a fair price. Yes, financial advisor of today who has been around for 5,10, 20+ years, I talking to you! We have left ourselves vulnerable to disruption due to the fact that many of us have gotten complacent and failed to up our game and the value we bring.
Focus on Innovation
Today's companies are finding that in order to embrace the digital age, they must focus on innovation. That means many different things within the company culture--but first and foremost, it means that there must be resources for employees who have the ideas and the drive necessary to create that innovation throughout the company. In order to create digital transformation and innovation within your company and across your industry, you must have:
- Employees who are committed to innovation and digital transformation throughout the company.
- Time in order to focus on critical projects.
- Money written into the budget in order to implement changes as necessary.
- Materials and space dedicated to those innovation plans.
Business Strategy: The Digital Version
If you're ready to push your company to full digital maturity, you must have a business strategy that is centered around the digital age. A key part of full digital maturity is a business plan that links your objectives back to digital strategies--that is, taking advantage of the digital tools available to your company and within your industry to move your business plan forward. It's not about jumping in the latest digital trends, especially if you have a poor understanding of the tools currently available in your industry. Instead, it means deepening your understanding of the digital tools currently at your disposal, understanding how they work within your industry, and creating a strategy that implements the tools that are useful to your business. Tools that aren't useful to your business are discarded, rather than being implemented simply because of they're there.
The main point here is that you need to weave digital into every component of your business - where applicable - and not have digital as a subset on its own, called 'Technology.' Those that continue to view digital technologies as a necessarty evil, rather than a strategitc and tactical lever, are doomed to failure. There must be a conserted effort at the very highest levels within and organization to identify, plan, and implement a sound digital strategy in every nook and crany of the organization.
The Key to Digital Maturity: Flexibility
As you move into digital maturity, you'll quickly discover that there's one concept that is key: flexibility. Without flexibility, your company will be unable to take advantage of the many changes currently taking place within your industry and within the digital world.
Your business goals remain consistent; your strategy for reaching them, on the other hand, remains flexible in order to allow room for the changing trends throughout the industry. Creating a company culture that embraces that flexibility will ensure that the company is prepared to embrace digital trends as they arise, keeping you on the cutting edge of the changes within your industry.
Many companies that are early to the digital game will find themselves making short-term solutions rather than taking advantage of long-term planning. True digital maturity, however, doesn't mean simply using the latest and greatest tools or simply understanding the latest trends. Rather, it means developing a deepening understanding of the technology currently available, how it's used by your existing employees and customers, and how you can create a strategy that will allow for continuing development in the coming years.