• Adopting digital is just the beginning of the journey, companies must shore their efforts up with three important ‘next steps’.
  • Embracing innovation, blending tactics with strategy, and focusing on people and culture will set business up to ‘transcend’ to the top of their peer group.
  • Seventy-six percent of the top digitally enabled companies realise significant value from new, digital ways of working.

If you championed an enterprise-wide digital adoption initiative, you’re probably familiar with the prickly feeling that creeps in afterward. Congrats! It works. Bells. Whistles. But will people use it? It turns out only 36 percent of companies get widespread adoption of new digital initiatives, according to this year’s PwC 2020 Global Digital IQ research.

You read that right. Nearly two out of three companies rolling out strategic digital initiatives don’t achieve adoption at scale. That means kissing ROI, widespread change, and increased profits goodbye.

The kicker: Adoption is the starting line. The real payback, and return on investment, comes after — that’s where the magic happens.

We’ve studied thousands of companies and their digital behaviours. But this year’s Global Digital IQ helped us identify a small group generating payback in all aspects of digital. We’re calling them the Transcenders, and they certainly don’t fear change. If this were high school, they’d reign as prom queen, star quarterback, and valedictorian all rolled into one. They make up the 5 percent of the 2,380 companies we surveyed who see results from their digital efforts in all areas measured — from growth and profits to innovation, customer experience, and retaining talent.

Transcenders also get widespread adoption of new digital initiatives 72 percent of the time. They’ve grabbed the holy grail for any company trying to become a digital organisation: mastering what happens next.

Take a page from the Transcenders’ playbook. It’s time to think big-picture. Because after adoption, these are three things that need to happen next:

1. Allow employees to spend
more time on innovation

What Transcenders think: Innovation is work.

What everyone else thinks: Innovation is a nice concept — a cool buzzword — but focus on the task at hand. The rest will fall into place.

Most companies don’t make time for innovation, assuming genius strikes somewhere between back-to-back meetings, demanding assignments, and endless emails.

But if you choose initiatives, tools, and training that build purpose and make it easier for people to adopt and feel included, you’ll begin to see all employees — from the greenest to the most experienced — gradually spend more time on innovation. Don’t you dare fight it. If you stifle creativity, you’ll drain the well of potentially brilliant, money-making ideas. Instead, create ways for any employee to bubble up ideas, and when they’re good, act on them to reinforce this culture.

It works. Here’s proof: Richard Montañez was a janitor at Frito-Lay when he got an idea that became one of the company’s most successful products: the flamin’ hot cheeto.1 3M scientist Spencer Silver invented the Post-it after developing a sticky substance to keep bookmarks secure,2 and Ken Kutaragi was an employee at Sony when he dreamed up the Playstation after toying with his daughter’s Nintendo.3

For the Transcenders we studied, 84 percent say their employees spend more time innovating. Everyone else? Just 61 percent.

2. Focus on the strategy, but
don’t forget the tactics

What Transcenders do: Strike the perfect blend of strategy and tactics.

What everyone else thinks: As long as the work gets done, who cares?

What if people never pushed the envelope and clung to doing things the way they’ve always been done?

Would something as simple as communication still take months? Imagine writing a letter, sending it off, praying it wasn’t lost in the mail, and waiting weeks for a response. Now apply that idea to how you do things at your organisation.

Not pretty. Dare to imagine how the work will be done in the next month or decade. Let your people flex their strategic muscles by focusing on the future (the strategic) while completing what they must do (the tactical) and finding better ways to do it (strategic again).

Call it a 70/30 split. Strategic elements steer you toward digital Shangri-La, but tactical elements power the engine that gets you there. Take middle managers, those responsible for meeting goals and quotas. They need the freedom to retrofit the proverbial ‘engine’ so it works perfectly for them and drives people to strategic goals.

The payoff is significant. Throughout the past three years, Trancenders experienced 17 percent higher profit margin growth than other companies.

3. It’s your job to drive change
maintain focus on culture

What Transcenders think: My people are my superpower.

What everyone else thinks: I’m running the show, not the floor.

People matter. If they aren’t at the centre, not only will your culture suffer, but you can wave goodbye to adoption — and beyond. If you don’t make it happen, or put proper mechanisms in place, forget positive cultural shifts. Forget innovation.

When you believe that digital transcendence never stops, and focus strategically on becoming a digital organisation — not just doing digital — you know employees are your best asset. So treat them that way and reinforce the right actions to champion behaviour change. Mimic the Transcenders: mandate collaboration, act on ideas from everyone (don’t just collect them), invest more in your people, and employ digitally savvy leaders. Set the right tone, and employees will transcend the single-function mindset. Make it part of a digitally-focused strategy where everyone is connected and moving forward.

The payoff: better customer and employee experiences — and less resistance to change. Just ask the Transcenders: 89 percent say they don’t get pushback on new initiatives. And they’re 200 percent better at attracting and retaining the right people compared to other companies.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll start to see a shift, a gradual tide change in which people are excited to innovate and looking toward the future. That’s when you’ve moved beyond adoption. If it sounds like a lot — creating a workplace centered on these three pillars — there’s ultimate payoff. An impressive 76 percent of Transcenders realise significant value from new, digital ways of working. Everyone else? Just 44 percent.


Digital Pulse David Clarke


David Clarke

David Clarke is a former partner and was the global chief experience officer for PwC.

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