If you aren’t evolving and growing, you’re dead. It is the unfortunate truth of business. In today’s economy, we hear a lot about the catch-all phrase, “digital transformation.” It is used so loosely; it can seem like a marketing term with practical implications only for the Fortune 500. In reality, digital transformation is helping companies reshape their processes and expand their market opportunity.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the integration of technology into the business, fundamentally changing operations and how you deliver value to customers. For many organizations, it comes with a cultural change that challenges the status quo and causes them to rethink their operations.
Over the last several decades, businesses of all sizes have implemented technology as a way to do the same thing they were previously only faster, better, and with more precision. Digital transformation happens when you use technology to challenge the status quo.
Developing a digital transformation framework.
Successful organizations set a clear business direction and move forward, executing on that vision and roadmap. Without a strategic direction, businesses would focus only on solving today’s problems and struggle to build continuous value. This same methodology applies to the adoption of digital technologies.
Today, technology is interwoven into the fabric of the business. Decisions about new technologies impact not only the specific problem you are trying to address but also create new processes and add to your digital foundation. Creating a digital strategy and framework will help your organizations make decisions that simultaneously improve efficiency and improve business capabilities.
Start with the customer.
Digital transformation has a different starting point than historical technology replacements. Instead of starting with a desire to increase your data center capacity or reduce costs, it often begins at the high level of how do we deliver better service to our customers? What can we do to increase service levels? If we knew more about our customers, would we provide a better experience?
Consumer adoption of technology and comfort with new methods of communication has rippled into the way businesses interact with their customers. Mobile, social media, constant availability; consumers and business customers expect their engagements with companies to be consistent and seamless across all channels. If it isn’t or you aren’t available to take an order when they are ready, you risk losing the sale.
Digitizing your operations.
Better understanding your customer and their needs will frame the next step in the process of developing a digital transformation strategy. As your organization implements more sophisticated ways to understand and engage with your customers, you’ll begin to see the opportunities digitizing your operations can bring. For example, the cloud could enable instant capability in your data center, but also provide the ability to deliver a ubiquitous customer experience. You can eliminate concerns about data availability and always-on accessibility. This strategy can help you improve the customer experience you were focused on as the first piece of the framework, but also dramatically lower costs.
Workforce enablement, worker activation, employee empowerment, whatever you call this stage, it is critical that the people making your business run understand how digitization can help them. For some organizations, this means providing employees with remote connectivity or the ability to connect to the corporate network regardless of their physical location. It could also mean training employees for higher-level work as machines take on mundane tasks. To be successful, your business needs the support of its workforce.
One of the most important facts about digital transformation is that it’s ongoing and iterative. The work is never done. This is critical to remember as you are planning because you need to invest in technology that will integrate well into your existing framework. A primary cause of failure is when companies invest in a powerful new approach that doesn’t work with their current systems.
From the start, you need to remain focused on systems that deliver what you need, offer scalability for the future, and won’t be a headache today. If we think about our second priority in the framework of digitizing operations, you’ll remember the need for information to flow across the business. This provides a clear, consistent view of the whole business and also simplifies operations.
Putting the pieces together.
It can seem daunting or more of a creative exercise, but every business should already be doing internal assessments to identify gaps, problems, and potential threats. This is changing that process slightly to start with the customer and work from here to the technology.
- Understanding the Customer Experience: Start fully exploring the problem you solve for your customers and their experience with your company. What could make it better? What information would enable you to reach more customers or deliver a better experience?
- Digital Operations: As you better understand what would improve your customers’ experience or what you need to expand your market, then you can start to consider what technology could make that happen. The goal is to lower costs and deliver more value.
- Employee Empowerment: You’ve decided what problems you want to solve, where technology can add value, and how you need to think about how your team can help. What training is required for these initiatives? Can you do even more by reallocating resources?
- Technology Integration: Digital transformation isn’t a single experience. You’ll have a mix of legacy and new technology in your business for years to come. It is essential that any new technology integrates with your existing solutions and programs.
Every successful business will need to be digital. The path to getting there should start now. There are lots of ways to get there. A few of these will focus on the specific needs of your business. Digital transformation is unique to each company, and you’ll be a trusted partner to help you along the journey.
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