Retailers! don’t just ‘do digital’, ‘be digital’

A new business book from Rob Laurens sets out a step-by-step process for ‘people-first business transformation’, urging businesses to think more holistically about getting in shape for the future. The book, entitled Get Fit for Digital Business’ and published by Routledge is targeted at retail, hospitality and other customer-facing sectors.

Refreshingly, it puts strong emphasis on how the people within organisations need to be motivated to engage and embrace the breadth of necessary change – and together learn how to ‘be digital’ rather than simply tick a few digital process boxes.

Create more value – together

“Ultimately getting fit for digital is about people – leaders, employees, supply chain partners as well as – first and foremost – customers,” Laurens told Retail Connections. “The goal is to use digital tools and technology more effectively, making it easier for all those people to collaborate and create more value together.”

Laurens’ aim, he says, it to cut out the corporate gobbledegook and jargon around digital transformation and offer practical guidance on clearly set-out stages of the process. To that end he’s provided a framework for leaders to help their teams “get into great shape to survive and thrive in a digital world”.

“If we were to dissect the digitally fit enterprises, we would see fundamental differences in the way they think, act and behave compared to more traditional companies,” says Laurens. “They treat digital as the main event rather than a side-show, the means to fundamentally change the way they work and deliver their product or service. In other words, they are not just doing digital but being digital at their core.”

Face up to the future

Central to the book are these questions: Has your organisation changed the way it works to keep up with the new connected consumer? Or is it still stuck on the digital business basics, losing relevance and falling behind in the race for customers?

Laurens talks about the importance of assessing where you are now, where you need to go and how you can get there. Further chapters then cover his recommended six-step process “that any leader can use to accelerate change, seize the opportunities and counter the threats that digital technology brings”.

Get Fit for Digital BusinessDigital skills in the spotlight

Technology, of course, is the driver of retail’s digital transformation, as AI, robotics, cloud, data-analytics and channel integration reshape how retail businesses function. However, people are still very much at the heart of implementation and ongoing processes. With this in mind, Laurens focuses on the specialist skill sets required, and the talent management that should be in place. The power of cloud, the power of content and the power of the team are all discussed.

The final stage of his framework cuts to the quick of business wins from ‘being digital’. Agility, speed, control, flexibility, balance, coordination – are core characteristics these digitally-focused and empowered teams of people should aspire to, so that great things can be achieved.

Bypass the digital business MBA

For busy retailer leaders who may not have time to complete an MBA in digital business, this book could help them create an enterprise that is more productive and profitable. Readers will also pick up a lot of tips about team leadership in the digital age – very useful when dealing with Millennials and – in the not too distant future – Gen Z-ers. Laurens successfully bangs the drum for the human side of business fitness, seeing it as the muscle behind the technology. “Being digital should also be about happier and healthier colleagues,” he says.

Achieving digital fitness across a business should leave teams feeling and performing better in every department – and that would be a boon for any retail organisation in today’s highly-competitive and fast-evolving market.

Get Fit for Digital Business, by Rob Laurens is published by Routledge.

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