I am Into Digital Transformation. Wow, Let’s Talk. What?

Off lately I have been meeting a whole lot of people in the ecosystem in Dubai who tell me they are into digital transformation and I get excited about the growing opportunities that is therefore getting created given Middle East is still a few years behind when it comes to knowledge and understanding of the digital eco-system. Though some of the best experiences of digital consumer journey, globally, are brands originating from here.

I get excited given MEA is still way behind the APAC region leave alone developed markets like US however the moment I get into conversation with such folks I realize how misguided their whole interpretation is of what digital transformation is all about.

That worries me because these are the people shaping what their respective organisations aspire to be in the digital world and I wonder how competent organisations land up recruiting some of the most compromised talent you could think off when there is no dearth of money to go and hire the best from different parts of the world. I am not saying that they aren’t doing that but if you are serious of building a business online then it is an investment for the future and therefore talent becomes the most important aspect given the millions and billions one is expecting from going traditional to online for example. There is risk too, not every business can go online and I want to bring that out in this article.

What does it to take?

1) Talent
2) Capital
3) Expertise
4) Commitment
5) Shared vision

Before I write on the above, let me clear what I believe is Digital Transformation.

You don’t transform bits and pieces, you just transform in total. This effectively means that digital transformation is a long continuous process of changing the way your organization works. Right from the organization’s business to its processes, to its activities, to its operations, everything changes. This change also means redundancy or upgradation of knowledge and in companies where you have had people from the yesteryear generations the change is slow. Therefore, identifying what can change now and what is continuous but time bound is a strategic call the organization needs to take right at the board level keeping in mind the dynamics of the organization’s business and its model. It needs vision at the top to begin with and needs absolute clarity and relentless communication right below, barriers that existed needs to be broken and this can only happen when the CEO is involved in the transformation of change given the impact it will bring for society at large.

You are changing how you did business, you are changing the way you are addressing the consumer, you are changing the way problems are going to be solved, you are basically changing everyday walk of life and this isn’t no easy job so let’s be clear boys and girls digital transformation is how you are changing everything that is going to impact what you are about to accelerate and if you don’t know what it is going to be then I am sorry, you are not the person to be piloting the plane.

First up it must be customer centric then their experience, which gets translated to getting them to focus on product and service offerings through innovation to then making it available at various digital touch points, which becomes your placement for distribution to then market it digitally, acquire customers digitally to fulfilling it digitally all the way back to corporate control and governance.

Digital transformation is huge and that requires the five points I mentioned earlier.


Will you find the right talent? Off-course not, how on earth will you find the mix of retail and digital trading for example? There is a dearth of talent and the ones that exist are not wanting to join some experiment leaving a secured job. So, what do you do?

You look for hustlers from the digital domain. They might not have the retail experience but they may know the customer LTV processes that are digital. There might be some who would know how to acquire some customers, there might be some who would know how to retain a customer. Bring a mix of all these hustlers, put a leader who is experienced and patient with this millennial lot and see the magic brew. They start feeling the power of ownership because it’s their business then, each one of them have a task to achieve and let the leader direct what the tasks should be keeping in mind the organizational objectives.

But if you put someone who is an SEM expert to that of a lead role then god save you.


This board has spent significant years in expanding to where this business is. It has taken time, investments and failures. The patience you showed building brick and mortar for 25 years has been immense, so keep that patience on for maybe 5 more years because what you’ve achieved in 25 is about to be doubled in 5 but if you expect that to happen in 1 then you should practice running the Mount Everest till you master it before demanding it here.

So, capital is critical and transformation is investment and not cost, end results are profits so make sure you know the difference right at the start before you get into digital transformation.


Your business expertise as a CEO is priceless that will be the greatest value you bring in during transformation. Because it is you who is going to drive this to a success and make no mistake digital transformation’s success is fully owned by the CEO.

Results post transformation is team work but the ownership of success is in one person’s hand and that is the CEO. Let me clarify why? Because it is the CEO who is not only going to identify the resources but it is he who is also the one who is going to plug the gaps and know, which are the ones that are immediate and which are the ones that are time bound but continuous. It could take up to 5 years for large organizations to transform fully.

Banks and government organizations are great examples that have transformed fully in matured markets. Traditional retail didn’t, which is why you have Amazon, Flipkart, Souq etc of the world which have become multi-million dollar businesses. Macy’s on the other hand is tottering to become a destination digitally likewise with say a Target. That is because they took longer in making the right decisions in their journey of digital transformation and it is also because the old leadership was old and traditional and could not foresee what the future of shopping is like.


Let’s make no mistake, if you embark on digital transformation then there is no half measures like I mentioned in the beginning. You might take time but the transformation is not in bits and pieces, it’s in total.

So, there should be absolute commitment from the board and back the CEO who is involved in the whole process. It must be relentless and absolute.

Shared Vision:

This is a very critical aspect for the C Suite group. You must be able to communicate to everyone right up to the peon and security as to why you have embarked on what you have and they should know what they need to embrace.

So, detailing is extremely important at every level and the processes can’t have any gaps whatsoever because even hustlers need to know their boundaries so that they don’t go overboard. Because that would be a mess.

Look all you guys and girls who meet me now and then and tell me you are into digital transformation and can’t have a conversation on what you do, focus because let me assure you, you will be out of the job sooner than later!

Written by Rammohan Sundaram,MD & SVP C1X, APMEA

Read 2023 times Last modified on Friday, 15 September 2017 04:58
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