I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a millennial or because I’ve spent most of my working life immersed in digital, but in my mind, there isn’t a choice between sticking with analogue or evolving with the latest technologies for your business to grow and thrive. It’s a no brainer, as the kids would (probably) say. 

It’s not just down to the generation gap that we find ourselves lacking when it comes to deploying a digital-first approach. There’s a lot more to do than simply integrating technology into an existing workstack and leaving it to run on autopilot – it requires constant finetuning, investigating and optimization for it to work on every level. 

You need to create an agile organization where the human and technical elements work together to foster a digital corporate culture that improves processes and productivity, maximizes efficiencies, and puts experience high on the agenda for employees, clients, and the end consumer alike. 

Of course, there’s a wide gap between knowing what needs to be done and actually implementing digital transformation on such a vast scale. I’m fortunate to have led on this in previous organizations, and of course, in my new role, where this is a key focus in helping to expand the SMC digital footprint across MENA. 

I don’t consider myself an expert here, and that’s because I don’t think you can ever truly ‘master’ anything, not when there is always something new to learn or a different way to approach something. However, I do think there are some fundamentals to leading a digital transformation from the ground up and avoid some of the pitfalls that are easy to fall into when first starting out. 

Here’s my four tips to leading a successful digital transformation… 

  • 1. Drive Expansion Through Company Values 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if you have a strong company proposition and brand presence; you simply need to let these company values find a different output digitally. Think about what this looks like from a digital-first perspective, translate that to your teams and get their input, drive that back to the overall strategy and business goals and then break it down into smaller, more manageable outputs over a period of time. 

Nothing will happen overnight and that’s fine, but focus on the small, quick wins that will have the biggest impact, while you work behind the scenes on building the infrastructure and training your teams. The biggest challenge will be getting everyone on the same page to move past traditional methods, but as leaders, it’s our responsibility to highlight the added value that comes through using the right technology to understand clients’ needs, wants and asks. It’s these KPIs that will yield the value. 

  • 2. The Three Ts to Success

Tech, Team & Talent – your leadership should focus on these three things when you are looking to lead the digital transformation of your business. We’ve talked a lot as an industry about this concept over the last 10 years, but I think there’s more to it than just understanding the complexities of continually evolving technology. We shouldn’t abandon traditional media but think about how we can facilitate it for the digital age instead. Moreover, we need to put the importance of a growth mindset much higher on the agenda, and cascade this down to the employees so they embody the same way of thinking. This is also very important when recruiting the right people to join the culture you have created. 

Don’t just focus on theory. Show them in practice. Lead by example. 

  • 3. Invest In the Right Tools 

Not every technology will be right for your business and that’s fine; you need to adopt the tools that make sense for immediate implementation and ones that will help you with long-term digital expansion. Investing here is crucial, especially when it can help you gain knowledge of key markets or fill in any potential gaps to help you plan better. 

Statista and Ipsos are my two non-negotiables here because they show the macro picture for top line decisions and help you drill down into specific areas to identify where the opportunities are for digital advancement. When it comes to deciding your own tech stack, quantify the potential first and foremost. Ask yourself: ‘Will it yield the results I want to achieve?’ Consider if these solutions will give you an inside track to unlocking value and show how by actioning these elements it will have a direct impact on the revenue. 

The bottom-line matters so don’t lose sight of that when every technology is vying for your attention.

  • 4. Leverage Location to Maximize Potential 

Every business has their own set of USPs that they use to compete against others in the industry, but what about the market they operate in? Saudi Arabia has long been positioned as a country with so much potential, but I would argue that the potential is already here, especially with everything that has already been achieved as part of Vision 2030. In fact, The Kingdom has been ranked among the top ten developed countries globally for its robust digital framework, so now we need to build on that, spearheading the development of this within our businesses. 

The transformation is already underway, but we need to keep educating ourselves and others in parallel to really take advantage of the opportunities that are coming from Saudi Arabia.