Digital Transformation Has the Big Guys Nervous About the Little Guys

Innovating quickly during a digital transformation is essential for businesses to stay alive in the face of competition.

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By Elizabeth Gore • Nov 11, 2016 Originally published Nov 11, 2016

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With a digital revolution afoot, remaining agile is of the utmost concern for every company. The competition is fierce, and many leaders are nervous with new startups born each day that aim to disrupt the status quo. In a bid to keep up, legacy organizations have been forced to pivot, either by acquiring agile startups or building new teams in house to create cutting-edge solutions.

An astounding 78 percent of businesses believe digital start-ups will pose a threat to their organization either now or in the future, and nearly half of global companies say they don't know what their industry will look like in three years, according to new research from Dell Technologies.

One thing is certain: soon almost every business will be required to have software development expertise, which won't be an easy shift for some. It seems that every company, no matter what industry, is now a technology company. How can entrepreneurs stay competitive, when the outlook is uncertain and new players are emerging every day?

1. Find the right partners, invest in the right talent.

In today's fast-paced business world, other companies aren't your enemies… they are potential partners. Instead of working against them, keep an open mind to working with them. While you can hire the right talent to drive innovation, it can be more cost efficient to partner with a company that has the expertise, talent and model that your organization lacks.

Related: Key Digital Transformation Challenges CMOs Must Overcome

Take Ford, for example. As Ford improves the connectivity of its new vehicles, it's not going to invest all of its dollars building divisions that make its in-car apps and infotainment systems work properly. Instead, Ford invested in cloud software company, Pivotal, to leverage its expertise and ensure the car's apps provide a much smarter, user-friendly driver experience. Companies can't afford to manage every aspect of the business in-house. They need to be realistic about their strengths and weaknesses and seek help when they need it. But companies also need to encourage creative thinking as they shift toward software solutions.

2. Have an open innovation model.

Around six in 10 companies are unable to meet customers' top demands, such as better security and faster 24/7 access to services and information, according to Dell's Digital Transformation Index. How can companies innovate quickly? By accomplishing small, focused goals -- sprints, with short iteration cycles of a few weeks at a time -- to develop and deploy new features. Teams remain fluid, using open software platforms so that anyone can take on tasks, and engineers react in real-time and reorganize as needed. Operating this way will push forth new developments at lightning speed, and the constant experimentation and decreased bureaucracy will foster more creative thinking overall.

Related: What Small Businesses Need to Know About Digital Transformation and Disruption

3. Put your customer's trust first.

But innovating to provide a uniquely personalized experience isn't enough in today's digital world, given the number of security breaches we've seen in recent years. Companies have to work hard to win the customer's trust and keep it, and those that fail to do so quickly lose the business to competitors. Ensuring the right security solutions are in place is crucial, yet only 31 percent of businesses today have demonstrated trust and transparency to customers, according to the Digital Transformation Index. There's a huge opportunity to make progress in this area, as pressure mounts from customers, competitors and the C-suite to be more transparent and secure.

Related: The How-To: Managing Change For Your Company's Digital Transformation

Most business leaders today have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to becoming a transformational digital business, but I'm optimistic that our most incredible innovations are on the horizon, as leaders recognize what's required to truly make progress. The little guys are pushing the big guys to innovate. I like it! With the right talent and proper security in place, coupled with a model that allows for experimentation and invention without bureaucracy, we'll begin to see a digital revolution for companies across every industry.

Elizabeth Gore

President and Chairwoman of helloalice.com

Elizabeth Gore is the entrepreneur in residence at Dell, where she drives initiatives that support Dell’s goals around helping small and medium businesses scale and prosper, fueling the expansion of global entrepreneurship, thereby creating jobs that will drive the world economy. Gore is extending Dell’s global advocacy efforts to raise entrepreneurship to the public policy agenda, encouraging policies and practices that support and enable entrepreneurial growth globally through #EntrepreneursUNite. Gore also chairs the UNF's Global Entrepreneurs Council and previously served as the first ever EIR for the UNF as well as vice president of global partnerships.

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