Are you getting Nokia'ed?

By Riyaz Ladiwala, SVP - Digital Transformation, Edelweiss Broking Ltd.

In the September of 2013, Nokia, one-time world leader in mobility and handsets, announced its sale to Microsoft in a deal valued at USD 17.7 bn. The above words were spoken by the CEO, Stephen Elop, during the press conference that followed the announcement. The words echo the heartbreak of thousands of employees who created Nokia, took it to great heights only to find that in the long race of digital transformation, they lost and came up last.

Digital transformation is interesting in more ways than one. It’s exciting, heralds new ways of doing old things, and creates new businesses, new opportunities and tremendous value. However if not understood well (or embraced), it spares no one and has the potential to wipe out existing organizations (like Nokia), individuals and even careers. 

Looking back in history (probably in the last 10-15 years), there are the usual suspects when it comes to case studies about digital transformation (Kodak, Barnes and Noble). There are the disruptors, and then there are disruptors (for example, digital wallets which disrupted payments could soon be disrupted by banks through the newly launched UPI). Nokia was not the first company that got disrupted, nor will it be the last. So what really went wrong?

An analysis offered by Ziyad Jawabra on LinkedIn offers an interesting insight. He notes that while Nokia technically did nothing wrong, it was their refusal to change and learn new things that ultimately lead to their demise. Jawabra wrote: “They missed out on learning, they missed out on changing, and thus they lost the opportunity at hand to make it big. Not only did they miss the opportunity to earn big money, they lost their chance of survival.”

Jawabra stressed that if a company doesn’t embrace change and constantly learn new things, it will eventually be eliminated by new competition down the line. He wrote: 
• The advantage you have yesterday will be replaced by the trends of tomorrow. You don’t have to do anything wrong, as long as your competitors catch the wave and do it RIGHT, you can lose out and fail.
• To change and improve yourself is giving yourself a second chance. To be forced by others to change, is like being discarded.
• Those who refuse to learn and improve will definitely one day become redundant and not relevant to the industry. They will learn the lesson in a hard and expensive way.

Like all things common sense, in hindsight, the above lines seem to be the most natural thing to do to avoid being eliminated in the race. But often there are hurdles, which come in the way of change and adopting digital transformation. Here are some steps that you can take to ensure that you have a better shot at succeeding in the game of digital transformation.

1. Organization structure: Traditional organizations are built on structures and hierarchies which can hinder free flow of information and ideas. To adopt change, ideas need to be encouraged, applauded, and evaluated. And yes, definitely rewarded. This brings us to the next point.

2. Culture: Culture is an important catalyst for change and adoption of new ideas. Digital transformation works well when company culture supports change and adoption on new ideas. A company culture where people go beyond their job descriptions to achieve what they truly believe in, is good for the customer is a company where digital transformation will flourish. Such ideals have been fostered by companies like Google, who famously offers “20 percent time” to employees, where they’re allowed to take one day a week to work on side projects they’re passionate in. This perk has brought forth innovative creations like Gmail and Adsense.

3. Avoid becoming a victim of one’s own success: Too often we find companies who are unwilling to risk what they have today (success in traditional business) to achieve the big idea which is fuel future growth. Perhaps this is one reason why companies like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Jabong came from nowhere to capture the e-commerce space, but incumbents like Shopper’s Stop and Pantaloons did not make a mark in the space.

4. Hire well, hire right: The world of digital transformation requires skills which are different from conventional functional skills in old age companies. The right kind of people, doing the right kind of job, the right way and delivering the right kind of results is the ideal scenario. Today most of the companies are faced with a talent challenge. There are not enough, qualified, experienced and motivated people out there doing what they truly believe in and bringing in results. Digital transformation requires people with the right kinds of skills, attitude and experience for it to happen. Ensure that you hire right and continuously invest in your people to keep them up to date with the latest tech developments.

Here’s saying cheers to your digital transformation journey. Avoid getting Nokia’ed! 

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