There’s no denying that the digital age is changing the way in which we do business. It is a major driving force for change and for growth across a wide variety of industries. It puts businesses at the centre of a vast interconnected network, giving them unparalleled direct access to a host of consumers at home and overseas. It also makes networking much easier, opening the floodgates for a range of opportunities for collaboration, co-branding, coaching and mentoring. However, it’s entirely possible for a business to have a healthy presence in the digital domain without undergoing a true digital transformation. This then begs the question…
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies into all aspects of your business’ operations. It is not as simple as having a website or adopting a healthy presence on social media (although these are certainly important aspects of business in the digital era). It requires the digitization of your processes, record keeping and customer relationship management utilizing appropriate digital tools and platforms. In an increasingly fast-paced and competitive landscape, digital transformation is integral to the survival of enterprises which have yet to embrace fully digitized processes.
However, for digital transformation to work it cannot be considered a simple add-on. It requires nothing short of a top-down reorganization of your processes if it is to be successful and viable on a long term basis.
Here we’ll look at some of the ways in which digital transformation goes beyond the digital…
Employees, training and procedures
Digital technology is just like any business tool. Employees need to be comfortable and confident in integrating it into their regular duties. Whenever a new digital solution is implemented in the workplace, it has understandable repercussions for the organization’s workforce.
For starters, the integration of digital solutions can ease pressure on frontline employees. For example, integrating chatbots on your website can perform rudimentary customer service functions potentially reducing the workload of receptionists or customer service telephone operatives. Organizations then face a choice. Do they retain and retrain these employees or does the integration of this technology make them redundant? If a software solution allows employees to spend less time answering the phone, are there extra administrative responsibilities that frontline employees could bear?
While digital tools can streamline operations and make them quicker and easier, there is inevitably a period of adjustment that needs to be carefully managed. Employees must be given appropriate training in the proper use of relevant technologies and this must be ongoing in order to maintain peak efficiency. Training and the adoption of new operational methods can be disruptive and business owners and CIOs alike must be wary of the human resource implications of digital transformation.
Business and workplace culture
In order for a digital transformation to be effective, it needs to take place in a business and workplace culture that is conducive to change, innovation and challenge. Notice the distinction between business and workplace culture. It’s entirely possible for you to espouse your commitment to innovation on your website yet have a workforce that is set in their ways and resistant to change.
Of course, it’s understandable that an unconsciously competent workforce may be resistant to the notion of learning to do their jobs all over again. Nobody likes to feel as though they have had their competency taken away from them. Nonetheless, it’s vital that enterprises have an infrastructure in place that nurtures a proactive attitude that is open to innovation and change. One of the easiest ways to do this is leading by example. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for digital transformation and employees will take you much more seriously when you delineate the ways in which it will benefit them.
What drives digital transformation? It’s certainly not the fact that businesses relish change. Let’s face it, for most enterprises change is both disruptive and expensive. What drives digital transformation for most is a necessity. In an increasingly fast-paced business landscape that changes so fast it can almost seem amorphous if you’re not faster this year than you were last year you lose your edge to your competitors.
Agility trumps everything, and as such digital transformation is bound to have a far-reaching effect on your business strategy. As former FCC CIO David Bray told The Enterprisers Project in 2016;
“Agility trumps everything else. Personally, I don’t commit to any organizational effort that takes longer than six months because the world will change in that period of time dramatically. You need to have stopgaps along the way so that you can reevaluate and pivot if you need to, along that six-month effort. One should have a long-term plan that exceeds six months, yet commit to deliverables in six-months or less along the way”.
A big part of digital transformation is keeping your finger on the pulse and pre-empting how new technological advances will influence consumer trends and operational procedures alike.
No business can afford to bury its head in the sand. When adopting digital technologies, a useful starting point is to look at the ways in which your competitors are doing the same. How have their operations been changed by digital technologies? How have they used said technologies to enrich the customer experience, facilitate better customer relationship management or make their employees more accountable for their performance?
Are there opportunities that your competitors have missed that you could capitalize on? Are there things that they are doing well that you could do even better with a few subtle tweaks? Digital transformation will have a profound effect on the way in which you conduct your competitor analysis.
External service providers
Digital transformation applies to more than what you do in-house. Indeed, it may involve relying increasingly on outsourced service providers. While increased outsourcing may represent substantial overhead costs, these normally pale in comparison to the cost of implementing and maintaining aspects of their digital infrastructure over which they do not need complete autonomy.
This may stick in the craw of entrepreneurs who have thrived in business by doing things their own way. Sometimes one of the most important things you can do when implementing a digital transformation is to take a leap of faith.
When you think about it, the “digital” part of digital transformation is really just the tip of the iceberg!