How to assess your organisation’s digital maturity, honestly
We know that digitally mature businesses are more resilient and generate more value. A 2021 study by BCG found that six months into the Covid pandemic, companies with a high level of digital maturity had increased their value by an average of 23%, while lesser mature organisations had managed growth of just 7%.
But how do we assess this – and how realistic are businesses about where they are on their journey of digital transformation?
In my experience, it’s something that is all too often over- or underestimated. A lack of understanding of precisely what can be achieved using digital initiatives can lead us to believe we’re more advanced than we are. This is particularly true in industries that are just beginning to get to grips with the possibilities of digital transformation.
Similarly, it can be easy to overlook the value of progress that’s already been made or skills that have been developed, leading to an underestimation of how far we have come.
Making an accurate assessment is critical if we want to identify priorities for investment, as well as set realistically achievable targets and expectations. So, let’s take a look at some of the methods we can use to gauge how far we’ve come, in order to understand how far we’ve got left to go.
What is digital maturity?
There are many ways to define it but a simple definition is that digital maturity is a measure of how well-positioned a business or organisation is to leverage technology to affect growth and positive change.
Far from simply referring to the infrastructure and tools we have at our fingertips, it encompasses the skills, mindset and attitudes of the business leadership. It also refers to the extent to which we have established a culture of technology and data awareness throughout the wider workforce.
Digital maturity also refers to a level of agility and nimbleness to leverage technology to adapt to changing market conditions, customer behaviours and emerging trends. We might think we’re pretty great at using technology to do what we have to do now. But are we also ready for what we might have to do tomorrow or further down the road, in what may well be dramatically different circumstances?
The Covid-19 pandemic is an obvious example of a time when this became a hurdle for a lot of companies. They may have been well-equipped for business as usual but were challenged when they had to continue to do it with a remote and widely distributed workforce.
Another core component is the extent to which our organisation is “data-driven”. A data-driven organisation uses technology to make decisions, based on information that’s collected and analysed. The most highly mature businesses use data collected from the ever-growing number of connected devices that comprise the internet of things (IoT), simulate products, processes and business models using digital twins, and automate day-to-day decision-making using artificial intelligence (AI).
Digital maturity also extends to the experience that we provide to our customers. Today’s consumers expect businesses to provide friction-free, connected touchpoints that make every stage of the customer journey as pleasant and accessible as possible. This covers making buying decisions, taking delivery of products and services, the user experience itself, and how we implement after-sales support and customer care. Digitally mature organisations deploy technology to ensure a smooth journey at each step, as well as to automate the identification of pain points and the delivery of solutions.
Finally, cybersecurity and threat awareness is another critical component of digital maturity, sometimes overlooked because (unwisely) it isn’t seen as part of a business’s core digital activities. But no business can consider itself digitally mature without a robust strategy to assess and respond to cyber threats.
How do we guage digital maturity?
To assess our organisation’s level of maturity, we can break down the process according to the elements we’ve already identified. Then we honestly answer some questions that give us an overview of where we sit with each one.
How good is our ability to integrate digital infrastructure into our operations, and to assess options when it comes to procuring and deploying platforms, tools and other infrastructure?
To what extent have we adopted emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and automation? What processes do we have to keep abreast of trends and ensure we’re not left behind when new technologies disrupt our market?
How quickly can we react to changing business conditions? If another event as disruptive as Covid-19 were around the corner, do we have technology solutions in place that would help us adapt to it?
Do we make decisions based on accurate and careful analysis of information or are a lot of our targets and strategies based on guesswork and gut feeling? Can the organisation use data-driven innovation for the products and services it offers, as well as customer experience (for example, by offering personalisation at scale) and to improve operational efficiency?
Digital skills assessment
Do we have the knowledge and abilities in our teams to efficiently leverage the technological opportunities available to us? What training and upskilling initiatives are in place? Does our recruitment outreach position us as a destination for potential hires with the skills and experience to further drive digital transformation and maturity?
Identify each stage of the customer journey – from the buying decision to eventually becoming a lifelong customer – and then assess to what extent we’re using technology to provide the most enjoyable, effective and hassle-free experience we possibly can.
Cyber threat awareness
Is cybersecurity integrated not just into our technology strategy but our business strategy as well? Do we have top-to-bottom awareness throughout our organisation of the dangers posed by hacking, phishing, data thefts, social engineering and simple bad practices such as using unsecure passwords or transporting unencrypted data?
When conducting the assessments themselves, here are some points to consider:
- Decide whether you will carry out the assessment internally or commission external expertise to provide a balanced overview.
- Ensure each element of digital maturity is assessed by the same individual or team, to ensure consistency.
- Define the criteria you will use, such as key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess each element, to ensure they are measured accurately and consistently.
- Compile reports that compare and contrast levels of maturity across each element, in order to highlight best practice and areas for improvement.
Remember that this is not a one-time exercise – as with digital transformation itself, monitoring and assessment of digital maturity is an ongoing process that should be measured over time to track key performance and KPIs.
Facing future challenges
If done properly, the process of assessing your digital maturity can become an important tool to foster a culture of continuous, iterative improvement across each element of your business’s digital strategy.
All of the questions covered here are ones that most business probably do – or at least – should, ask themselves. But the difference here is that we’re doing it in the context of gaining a holistic understanding, specifically, of our digital maturity.
Developing this understanding is a critical part of any business digital transformation journey – after all, we have to know where we are before can work out how to get where we’re going! Armed with this knowledge we can start to put together a clear roadmap for success.
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