How to create a sustainable digital enterprise

The two key issues facing businesses today are easy to identify

The first, COVID-19 has accelerated an already pressing need for digital transformation, forcing many organisations to introduce hybrid working models at breakneck speed. Secondly, beyond the pandemic, there is a growing realisation that our planet is under threat from an increasingly urgent climate crisis. This makes a more sustainable approach to business absolutely critical.

There’s no question that taking steps to address these challenges should be the top priority for forward-looking companies. In fact, decisive action is needed – and it is needed now. But organisations should avoid tackling digital transformation and sustainability as separate agenda items. It is mutually beneficial to address them in tandem. Both profit and green credentials can be improved through an overall reduction of waste and optimisation of energy efficiency.

A company-wide strategy is needed to make this a success. But IT teams will play a particularly significant role in assessing their organisation and enabling sustainable digital transformation to create future resilience. This involves balancing the needs of profit with people and the planet.

So how can you, as a digital leader, go about this?

Sustainable digital transformation in action

Before embarking on a sustainable digital transformation initiative, take stock of the current state of your organisation, and the relative success of any previous efforts. This is essential for effective goal-setting – you must have a firm understanding of baseline levels in order to evaluate the results of any changes you make. Measurement is also crucial because it allows you to demonstrate the business value of your efforts. In turn, this enables you to secure buy-in at board level, which is a prerequisite for projects of this nature.

Once you have a firm grasp of current performance, it’s time to look more closely at the digital business ecosystem. In most companies, digital is the life blood. It has roots in the fabric of the organisation that grow out into service and supply chains that support business processes. It also enables interactions and facilitates meaningful customer relationships that retain loyalty year after year.

So assess how your data is structured, stored and accessed. All while ensuring all are optimised to minimise environmental impact, as well as providing maximum value to the whole organisation.

Deliver an eco-friendly experience

As customers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, it makes sense to provide them with an online experience that enhances your green credentials across all front-stage digital touchpoints and make it easier for consumers to make the right choices. Consumers and investors alike are ever more willing to vote with their wallets and abandon companies that don’t care about the planet, so becoming a genuinely green company is crucial for survival.

But remember that digital is also omnipresent as part of the physical customer experience: it’s the mobile app with integrated loyalty schemes that serves up contextual offers to customers based on their preferences. It includes the digitisation of customer service through automation and intelligent services such as chatbots.

Using methods such as service design, you can map out the full end-to-end experience. This not only helps you to create optimal experiences for your customers and build better operations to support their interactions; you can also avoid any unintended consequences and mitigate waste.

Fix back-end inefficiencies

Behind the scenes, digital encompasses your broader estate including technical infrastructure, web hosting, data and artificial intelligence (AI). There’s a wide range of areas for you to examine and identify inefficiencies – then rectify them.

With the exponential rise in technology innovations: AI, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, blockchain and more, data can be used to expose insights that underpin new opportunities and solutions to existing problems. The combination of the critical application of data and adoption of new technologies can shape business practices and help to create a sustainable enterprise.

On the other hand, the inefficiencies of legacy data strategies and data management approaches, which prevent data from being used to its fullest potential, are both an organisational and environmental drain. Your IT team should aim to re-architect data collection, storage and interrogation in the most sustainable and least energy intensive way possible.

This involves bringing the latest thinking to data, enabling it to work better across the enterprise through a combination of viewing data as a product alongside democratisation through data marketplaces and self service. By giving employees on-demand access to data and insights you can increase product and service innovation, which drives up revenue while increasing operational efficiency and reducing operational costs.

Key takeaways

The convergence of digital transformation with sustainability is an imperative for all organisations and should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Digital technology provides the platform to reshape the art

of the possible, inspire new innovation, and enable people to collaborate on the most pressing issues known to mankind. It is the platform needed to facilitate environmental sustainability.

Digital transformation in itself can sound like a daunting task – combining it with sustainability seems even more so. But it doesn’t need to be. Simply identify major issues and decide which of the component parts to tackle first, based on your strategic imperatives and the greater needs of the climate emergency.

A ‘do nothing’ approach will not work for your business, the planet or the people on it. By adopting a more progressive attitude, businesses can emerge from this process stronger, more agile and more sustainable than before.

About the Author

Lindsay Ratcliffe is Chief Product Officer at Kin + Carta Europe.

Featured image: ©Malp