Digital Innovation: From the Boardroom to Execution

August 28th, 2017

innovation-8-28-17.pngThe pace of innovation is increasing exponentially. For traditional financial services firms, partnerships with new technology companies are now essential for driving digital change and staying competitive in today’s environment. The move toward a distributed economy and digital transformation is manifesting differently in jurisdictions around the world. The United States and Europe are driving early idea creation, while companies located in the Asia-Pacific region and the United Arab Emirates are gaining strong momentum boosted by a pro-innovation regulatory environment.

Now more than ever, the right investments made in technology and innovation have serious and material implications to the long-term success and viability of a business. Missing opportunities to capitalize on new technology to enhance capabilities, products and services could result in lost market share, reduced ability to participate in upside gains of new business models, inability to capture the customers of the future, and in the worst case, extinction altogether. Institutions that are able to re-imagine their business, maximize investments in technology and evolve their business effectively to harness the current innovation cycle will determine the next generation’s winners and losers.

Typically, firms have approached digital innovation or large-scale technology change projects facing their organization with a “build versus buy” philosophy. Today, with the emergence of innovative fintech companies, which are more nimble and faster to market than legacy financial institutions, the transformation decision has now expanded to encompass: build, buy, invest or invent. Each option must be evaluated in the larger context of the ultimate business strategy and desired outcome. Navigating through the options, complexity and uncertainty to ensure optimal choices are made is no easy feat. Further complicating matters are budgetary constraints, board members who don’t understand how technology can enable the business objectives and turnover of executive leadership driving the multi-year transformation.

Similarly, business change projects have primarily focused on three elements within the organization: people, processes and tools. For digitalization in today’s environment, this approach needs to ensure an agile, actively managed and risk-aware approach around six key elements:

  1. Strategic alignment
  2. People
  3. Processes
  4. Technology
  5. Customer experience
  6. Partnerships

All of these aspects need to align to drive business value and outcomes, which should be orchestrated meticulously for a digital transformation project to succeed. Few companies are integrating and delivering all six aspects well across the dimensions for their digital transformation and innovation projects. Consequently such projects often fail or the desired outcomes aren’t realized due to the high interdependence of the elements working in unison. This results in delays and large investments where the business is realizing value far below expectations, which leads to a loss of board advocacy and support from the business. This in turn leads to reduced future investment that only puts the organization at even more risk. In contrast, successful companies are able to work across those six dimensions seamlessly in a manner that is more efficient, risk sensitive, compliant with regulations, well controlled and enabled by leading technology and data to emerge as the digital leaders of the future.

Technology is the future and the ability to enhance and unlock new capabilities through digital channels can drive tremendous value for industries. Being able to discern value-add investments in innovation that complement the business and preserve the value through the transformation process versus just chasing new shiny objects will be increasingly important to do well. Furthermore, the ability to effectively measure against value drivers such as revenue growth, simplification, speed-to-market and competitive positioning will help to validate return on investment. In reviewing the upside potential, it is also important to be aware of risks and consequences if digital transformation programs are not implemented effectively.

With proper planning and execution, organizations can drive business outcomes, realize benefits and better mitigate risk through digital investments by understanding and implementing digital transformation programs effectively around these six elements.

tcanaday

Tyrone Canaday is managing director for Protiviti.