The Five Success Factors for Digital Transformation in the Waste and Recycling Industries

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Meeting digital challenges head-on—to stay relevant and competitive in the industry—requires a substantial transformation of the waste management and recycling business, whether it is municipal services or private haulers.

The cost of waste management is going up, and up is the only direction we can expect it to go in the foreseeable future. Meeting this challenge will mean optimizing efficiency and automating processes: a digital transformation. And success in this transformation to more digital business operations depends upon being able to deliver excellence in five distinct areas.

The Demands of the Market
Rising prices alone are reason enough for waste collection and recycling organizations—and that applies to cities and towns serving households and local businesses as well as private haulers providing specialized services—to look toward making the business of waste management more efficient. But rising costs are not the only challenge for the waste industry. The demands from customers for an excellent and seamless service are also increasing.

The value proposition for the private hauler, for instance, now needs to be the delivery of a strong, digitally-centric service to remain competitive. The digitization of operational processes and services to customers is what can help solve the very real problem of catering to an evolving marketplace while still keeping costs low. These days, both residential and commercial customers expect a flawless digital experience in most other aspects of their lives, so the waste collection and recycling process is no different. Meeting these challenges head-on—to stay relevant and competitive in the industry—requires a substantial transformation of the waste management and recycling business, whether it is municipal services or private haulers we are talking about. Changes in how the business operates are never without challenges that are daunting for an organization. And the digital evolution of the customers themselves means that the question for organizations is no longer when to start the digital transformation. The answer to that is already an unequivocal ‘now!’ The only real question is where to start and what to accelerate.

The Five Success Factors for Digital Transformation
That being said, digital transformation is still more of an evolution than a revolution, and a successful transformation is one that follows the step-by-step process of implementing the best solutions for where the business is at right now. The Digital Transformation Model1 is based on five of the most important operational drivers of the digital transformation process. Delivering excellence in these five areas of the organization provides an excellent foundation for the success of any digital transformation.

#1: Leadership and Culture
The type of leadership and culture needed for a successful digital transformation can be described as that of a winning team, one in which people are given the space and opportunity to do their best work.

#2: Employee Engagement
An organization can drive digital excellence by making sure employees are fully engaged in the process.

#3: Value Chain, Partners and Trends
Having an in-depth understanding of what the digital trends are in the industry and collaborating with partners and suppliers who are best in class allows an organization to focus on transforming those processes that are most critical for the success of the business.

#4: New Technologies
Critical to digital transformation is the ability to implement and make optimal use of the new and emerging technologies available right now to improve business operations and performance.

#5: Business Intelligence and Data Science
As automation and digitization begins to generate useful information about processes, customers and services, using that data to inform and guide decisions is the next step in a process of continuous improvement.

Digital Transformation Monitor
Research Participants were asked to rate their organization on a variety of statement that measure progress on the five elements of success in digital transformation. The average score on the 10-point scale was a mere 6.3. This barely-passing grade clearly indicates there is much room for improvement in the industry.

Digital Transformation Process
The results of the survey show that leaders in the waste management industry clearly understand the importance of ‘soft’ factors, such as leadership and employee engagement, in making the transition.

The digital part of the digital transformation is the real challenge: Unlike the softer aspects, like leadership, it is exactly the ‘harder’ technical aspects of transforming the organization, as in using Business Intelligence (BI) and data science or applying new technology, that forms the biggest challenge. When it comes to the application of emerging technologies, 60 percent of respondents gave themselves a falling grade. Average scores for business information were slightly better, but nearly half (45 percent) still gave themselves a grade of unsatisfactory. Legacy systems are the greatest barrier to successful digital transformation. For 54 percent of organization surveyed, it is the problem of legacy software and systems that creates the greatest barrier to full implementation of the digital transformation.

The 2018 Digital Transformation Benchmark Report

For our 2018 Digital Transformation Benchmark, we surveyed organizations in the waste management and recycling industries in various geographical locations to uncover how the most successful are using technology to radically improve their performance, and which technologies add the most value for efficiency and productivity in their day-to-day operations.

The survey asked these key questions:
1. How do waste management organizations innovate and stay relevant?
2. What steps are waste management organizations taking toward digital transformation?
3. Which technologies are waste management organizations most interested in?
To read the full report, visit //

By Mark Abbas