Rather than jumping head first into technology solutions, retailers should concentrate on another crucial first step––great leadership.

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

Bart Mroz, founder and CEO, Sumo Heavy

We’re entering the new digital age where work is becoming automated and technology is disrupting traditional business models. Retailers are facing demands from today’s digital customers as the way they shop changes rapidly, and shifting from traditional buying modes to multichannel transactions, the success of which are highly dependant on the quality of the customer experience-focused transactions.

According to an MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press report, nearly 90 percent of more than 3,700 business executives, managers and analysts from around the globe say they anticipate their industries will be moderately or greatly disrupted by digital trends.

Rethinking operating processes and shifting to digital automation is now crucial to staying ahead and meeting the needs of digital-first customers. More than 80 percent of digitally maturing companies plan to develop new core business lines in the next three to five years in response to digital trends like virtual and augmented reality, and many retailers are straining to deploy technology as fast as they can to keep up.

To lead digital transformation effectively, managers must encourage a culture that fosters collaboration and innovation.

But therein lies the problem.

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Digital transformation is not solved by throwing various technologies at every challenge, hoping to become more efficient in the process. Many leaders are struggling to transform their businesses without understanding how to evolve their leadership capabilities in the digital world of work.

Technology is merely the means of transformation. Rather than jumping head first into technology solutions, retailers should concentrate on another crucial first step––great leadership. True digital transformation requires developing innovative business models rather than automating processes or implementing trendy technologies.

A typical problem with management rapidly deploying technology is that it tends to be chaotic and messy. This approach to digital transformation is often uncoordinated, resulting in poorly implemented changes.

Fifty-one percent of senior executives believe it’s critical to implement digital transformation in the next 12 months. This sense of urgency, driving fast deployment and quick increases in IT budgets has left many brands without a proper sense of direction. Truly transforming an organization will require a clear framework, and only the CEO and management can establish this foundation.

To lead digital transformation effectively, managers must encourage a culture that fosters collaboration and innovation. The executive suite has to have a clear plan for the future and a way to put the company on the road toward delivering on that vision. With a unified vision and framework in place, every part of the team, from product managers to engineers and the high-level executives, can start working together towards a common goal. If the organization embraces and establishes a culture of digital change, they will then have the capacity for innovation.

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Connecting the lines of retail technology teams and IT organizational silos will empower changes in thinking and practices for the whole team. Because the lines of management are also blurring, better communication required more than ever. A team that is on the same page will become a more agile organization that can remain competitive in today’s changing retail landscape.

As with every industry in this digital era, it’s important for retailers to embrace change. However, it requires more than just technology for true digital transformation and the ability to deliver new  value to customers. Strong leadership coupled with collaborative teamwork that inspires and sparks innovation will yield significant business results.

Poor leadership and communication can undermine the transformative effort. Don’t let mismanagement be your downfall on your digital journey.

Sumo Heavy is a digital commerce consulting firm based in New York and Philadelphia.

 

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