Welcome to The Week in Digital Transformation, our weekly round-up of news, ideas, research and trends from the realm of digital transformation.

This week, we look at some of the savvy moves that IKEA has been making to transform itself digitally, and consider where its business model might evolve in the future. We’ve also got the results of a study which found that the vast majority of digital leaders are behind on mobile, but don’t think that this is impacting on their digital transformation efforts.

Plus, Gartner’s VP of Research believes that CIOs need to hack the mindset of their organisation to achieve digital transformation, and ISACA board member R.V. Raghu argues that clarity and a focus on security are key to digital transformation.

The digital transformation of IKEA: From smart home products to self-driving cars

We open this week’s digital transformation roundup with a case study from a major retail brand: IKEA.

“When you look at the changes Swedish furniture giant IKEA is implementing in its operations, it’s clear that they aren’t satisfied with the status quo,” writes Bernard Marr in his profile of IKEA’s digital transformation for Forbes this week.

Marr goes so far as to say that “IKEA is transforming into a tech company” with the steps it has taken towards digital transformation. While I don’t think that IKEA’s core business model will shift away from retail any time soon, it has made a number of savvy moves to acquire and invest in cutting-edge digital tech that stand its business in very good stead for the future.

Those moves include:

Acquisition of TaskRabbit

Everyone knows about the frustration and pain of having to assemble IKEA flatpack furniture – and so does IKEA. That’s why its decision to acquire gig economy start-up TaskRabbit last year was so clever. TaskRabbit is a service which allows you to hire someone to carry out jobs that you aren’t able or don’t have time to do yourself – anything from repairs to shifting heavy items, DIY to building furniture.

Huge numbers of consumers were already hiring TaskRabbit workers to help them assemble IKEA furniture, and now IKEA has brought this service under the IKEA brand, allowing it to offer assembly alongside its furniture. As IKEA’s marketing states: “You can do it yourself – but you don’t have to.”

Smart home products

IKEA is getting ahead on the smart home revolution by offering products to outfit a smart home, including smart kitchen appliances, smart lighting, and smart plugs.

It’s a smart (haha) way for IKEA to ensure it doesn’t get left behind as homes become more connected: it wants to be the brand that provides everything you need to outfit your home, now and in the future. Marr notes that the reviews on IKEA’s smart tech suggests they aren’t yet the most sophisticated or reliable on the market, but the fact that IKEA is producing them is an important first step.

An array of smart lighting products by IKEA, together with a smartphone and devices to control them.

Smart lighting products by IKEA (Image: IKEA)

Samsung’s Home Marketing Director on the future of smart homes & IoT

Self-driving vehicles

In 2015, IKEA launched a research hub and exhibition space known as Space10, which serves as a venue to bring together and showcase designs for futuristic new products. Last month, Space10 showed off a range of concepts for self-driving cars, which built on the idea that self-driving cars in the future could become more like living spaces, co-working spaces or entertainment venues. The wider public can experience these concepts via augmented reality using the Space10 app.

The innovations on show at Space10 are the biggest indicator of how IKEA’s business could evolve and expand in future beyond the walls of the home. However, it isn’t a complete departure, as IKEA is still planning to offer furnishings and living spaces, just of a more mobile kind. As of yet, the company has no plans to manufacture self-driving cars, instead confining itself to what’s inside them.

Study: 84% of digital leaders are behind on mobile

To those of us who work in – and write about – digital marketing and technology for a living, the idea of companies not being up to speed with mobile can seem incredibly backwards. We’ve only been talking about the importance of mobile for years – and mobile traffic is officially dominant over desktop, meaning that it’s where your consumers are.

Yet in relative terms, mobile is still a fairly new channel (compared to the lifespan of desktop, as well as stalwarts like television and print), and many businesses do still struggle with it. A new study commissioned by Dropsource, released on Tuesday, found that 84% of business leaders aren’t confident in their approach to mobile, with 59% feeling somewhat behind and 25% feeling extremely behind.

More than two fifths – 41% – of respondents believe that their lack of mobile strength negatively impacts their competitiveness in the market. The study also found that many digital leaders fail to follow through on mobile projects, with 46% of leaders having abandoned at least one project over the past four years. Of these projects, 23% were abandoned due to insufficient budget, and 19% due to unreasonable expectations from executives.

In spite of this, an overwhelming majority of respondents to the study believe their organisations’ digital transformation efforts are in a “mature” stage. Ben Saren, CEO of Dropsource, stated in a press release that this points to a “fundamental misunderstanding of how crucial mobile is to a mature digital transformation strategy” as well as a “resounding lack of mobile best practices”.

Digital leaders must wake up to the fact that bold innovation is required for digital transformation to truly succeed, and that starts with shifting the narrative. Today’s technology allows for much easier adoption of development tools and methods – they just have to reach out and grab it.”

-Ben Saren, CEO of Dropsource

Why CIOs need to become “cultural hackers” to promote digital transformation

This week, Gartner held its annual Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida, where top CIOs and senior IT executives gather to discuss the trends shaping the worlds of IT and business.

During the Symposium, Gartner Research Vice President Graham Waller took to the stage to talk about the role of the CIO in digital transformation. In particular, he emphasised that the most important tool that CIOs need to upgrade is not hardware or software: it’s their brain.

The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Loftus explains that, in Waller’s view, companies need to adopt a growth-oriented mindset for digital transformation: an outlook that looks for opportunities, is open to uncertainty, welcomes teamwork and collaboration, and is willing to take risks.

Waller believes that it is the responsibility of CIOs to get employees on board with this mindset, and the best way to do so quickly with the minimum level of effort is to become a “cultural hacker”.

The write-up of Waller’s talk goes on to lay out the four rules of cultural hacking, along with some examples of ways that CIOs can adopt and encourage a growth mindset, instead of a fixed mindset. Some of the suggestions are a bit cheesy – like replacing the phrase “Here we go!” with “Here we grow!” – and can be taken under advisement, while others are inspired, like asking direct reports in a meeting to share a key problem they didn’t have an answer for in a bid to prompt discussion.

Church of England scoops up digital transformation awards

In a previous Week in Digital Transformation round-up we looked at the transformation of the Church of England, which among other things, created an Alexa Skill aimed at helping people to find nearby churches, learn about church figures, pray, and learn about Christianity.

At the time, we reported that the Church of England had been shortlisted for multiple awards in the CorpComms Awards 2018, including Best Corporate Website and Best Use of Digital. This week, we learn that the Church has taken home five prizes at the recent Digital Impact Awards: Best App, Best Website, Best Use of Social Media, Best Use of Digital for its Alexa Skill, and Digital In-House Team of the Year.

The Church of England went up against major brands like Argos, Nationwide, Debenhams and Warner Bros to win the awards. The recognition will no doubt be a big boost to the Church of England’s image as a modernising, digital-first organisation, as well as immense validation for its digital transformation efforts, which began in 2016.

The key to digital transformation: Clarity and focus on security

R.V. Raghu, a board member at IT governance organisation ISACA, makes the case in HelpNet Security this week for why clarity and focus on security are a (key) requirement for successful digital transformation.

(Okay, he doesn’t outright use the word “key”, but I’m going to count it anyway).

“As someone who has been fortunate enough to sit ringside as enterprises transform digitally,” writes Raghu, “it is interesting to note that clarity on several fronts is often missing, making digital transformation fraught with perils and increasing the probability of failure.”

He notes that clarity from the board and senior management as to the “why”s and “what”s of digital transformation is crucial, as well as an understanding of the value that will be delivered to all stakeholders, especially the customer. “This may seem intuitive, but this alignment is often not discussed in detail,” says Raghu, “and poor articulation of what this alignment means in practice leads to failure. Clearly articulating what this alignment means at various levels of the organization goes a long way to ensuring success.”

Raghu goes on to note the importance of the transformation of business practices (rather than simply applying technology to existing business processes), as well as the need to thoroughly test technology and understand how it intersects with industry.

Finally, Raghu argues for the need to give security its due in the context of adopting emerging technologies such as AI, the public cloud, and Internet of Things. In order to mitigate risks as they arise, he asserts, organisations must adopt an appropriate mix of security policies, practices and technologies throughout their digital transformation efforts.

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