Going Digital: a trend or an imperative
By Jala Azizova, Veyseloglu Group of Companies
Watching classical movies from the 1960s and 1970s is like travelling back in time. A cinematic masterpiece is meant to touch your soul, but these films also allow you to feel the atmosphere and see the life-style of people half a century ago. Flicking through channels the other night, I came across one such iconic film from the 70s: in one of the episodes a main character spoke on the phone – one of those wired fixed-line telephone devices that look hopelessly antique now. This brought back some vivid childhood memories and a strong sense of nostalgia. But then my smartphone beeped to bring me back to reality - I found a work-related message from a colleague…
Within one lifespan we have seen a truly fascinating transformation and technical progress. What seemed like a fascinating depiction of future in the science fiction novels in my childhood, is now indeed a reality. Technical progress has changed our lives beyond recognition – the way we interact and – perhaps more importantly – the way we work. To say that most businesses have gone digital and now sell online will be an understatement of huge proportions.
What’s the fuss?
The fuss is plain to see. Let me break it to you: you need to transform – technologically – in order to secure your future as a business. This may sound too banal or generic, but the truth is that only flexible and effective businesses will be able to withstand stiffening competition and constantly changing geopolitical landscapes. Just look at what’s happening in the Black Sea region. Who would have thought ten or even five years ago that we, as a mankind, would be concerned today about potential food shortage and a danger of famine?
The alternative to what is now known as a Digital Transformation (DT) is that you’ll be gone. Forever. Condemned perhaps to a few shots in a film that someone may or may not watch fifty years from now. That is, if you get noticed to be somehow filmed in the first place. Going digital, therefore, is not a business trend or fashionable attempt to appear innovative and forward-thinking. It’s a necessity. Almost like air to breath and food to eat for us human beings. Same goes for businesses: in order for companies to survive and move forward they have to transform – today. In fact, they should have started yesterday. If not earlier.
… what are we up to?
We at Veyseloglu Group of Companies (VGC) realised quite some time ago the need to evolve and go digital. The scale of such transformation, though, is indeed mind-boggling. Just imagine: we have well over 19 thousand people working in various businesses, from retail, to logistics and distribution, to production, to back-office support and admin teams. To initiate and carry out digital transformation at a company of such size and complexity required vision and determination. And a bit of courage, perhaps. Not to mention, diligent planning and stacks of patience. Yet, we decided to sail along…
…why do we need it?
I have already made this point: it’s a make or break sort of thing, I believe. There are plenty of definitions of digital transformation and why companies go for it. I won’t start explaining the obvious, nor do I want to sound like pontificating. Needless to say, you can google up both the actual term – DT – and its purpose. I can only share my personal observations and reflections.
I will put it this way: for us at VGC, digital transformation is not simply a buzzword or a wish to stand out from the crowd. We know too well that plenty of other companies and businesses in Azerbaijan already started this journey a while ago and covered quite a distance by now. What compelled us as a company to start this process is the realization of a simple fact: we have to transform if we want to be perceived as a progressive business. In fact, not just deemed as progressive, but be truly progressive.
We have recently been quite busy formulating our strategic objectives and in the process have developed a clear vision and purpose – one that serves our customers, our partners, and our employees. Based on these reflections, we decided to kick-start a large-scale transition towards a more effective and progressive way of working. Digital.
…what does it actually mean?
As I said, one can easily look it up for themselves. There are about two dozen various definitions and explanations online of what the term ‘digital transformation’ actually means. Go ahead, just google it up. In a nutshell, it’s a way or a process of using technology to optimise the ways of doing business to drive growth in new and already existing markets. But then again, this description can be different for every organisation because every business is unique.
As a company we are acutely aware of the fact that changes related to use of digital technology can be seen in all aspects of human society. Therefore, we have to reflect these changes in the way we work and approach our customers. Mind you, customers are what all businesses are preoccupied with. For us, though, it’s people who are at the heart of our business objectives. That is, the main focus of our digital transformation is on realignment to bring in value for our customers and our own employees. The people, that is.
Evolve or perish….
Corporate slogans aside, as a business we should constantly think of becoming more effective, more competitive and – excuse the banality – more sustainable. This idea serves to support the following premise: we at VGC understand that digital transformation should allow us compete more effectively in an ever-changing digital economy.
We are primarily a retail business. We interact with customers on a daily basis, serving tens of thousands of consumers across the nation every single day. We, therefore, genuinely think that at the heart of digital is customer experience – in a wider sense of this expression, and not just mere shopping and paying at the till. Many retail companies are increasingly aware of this, and industry leaders are constantly developing sophisticated digital transformation strategies to achieve just that – enhance the consumer experience.
Going digital isn’t just about reducing a document flow and becoming paperless. You can use digital solutions to analyse various data that is captured during a period of time. Using such data-driven insights can understand our customers better, and assist with better decision-making and sometimes even rethink business strategies. This will all pave ways to a higher return on investment.
We at VGC have defined several company values that we strive to practice – in our work and even personal lives. These are universal humanistic values such as fairness, integrity, collaboration with our fellow humans and resourcefulness.
Incidentally, digital transformation clearly overlaps with our stated values. Just think about it. Going digital creates an opportunity for unity throughout the organization, as the documents and business processes become accessible for all and transparent. When you find everyone aligned to a common purpose, interaction and cooperation with your colleagues gets smoother and rather seamless.
Another of our company values that I stated above is being innovative. Mind you, I deliberately used the term ‘resourcefulness’, as innovation has become a bit of a catchphrase that often carries very little meaning. But here’s another banality for you: anyone who follows the business world will confirm that businesses thrive and proliferate when they are fueled with innovation. In the last few years, nearly 70 per cent of companies rank agility – another buzzword for you – among the top three considerations for their business operations.
Needless to say, increased agility leads to increased profits. We are a business after all…..