Digital transformation has turned into a ubiquitous concept that businesses can no longer afford to look away. The world is going digital at a lightning speed, making it imperative for business establishments to upgrade their skills, processes and technological know-how to this changing model. The fact that digital transformation emerged as a top concern for CIO Agenda in 2017, according to Wall Street Journal report underlines the imminence of the situation.
Leveraging digital technologies to improve business operations and organizational setups is the focus of businesses right now. If you too are considering a digital transformation initiative for your business, here are five questions to consider for making desired progress in a prioritized and strategic way:
1. Why do you need digital transformation?
‘Just because everyone is doing it’ is not the best reason to undertake a digital transformation process. It is important for an organization to understand why, if at all, they need to go through it. The best approach here is to identify the end goals you want to achieve by going digital – whether it is improving product quality, customer experiences or internal processes – and then work backward. This is particularly important for businesses, where digital processes do not directly tune in with core KPIs. Having your end goals in sight right from the onset will help you determine the outcomes of your digital transformation initiative.
2. How will you substantiate the value of your digital transformation initiative?
Well, this is one of the basic questions that must govern almost every business decision you take but is especially crucial in the case of digital transformation. You must have a clear idea as to how you plan to measure the success of your digitization plan, and for that, knowing how the concept fits into your business strategy is of paramount importance. Once these parameters have been established, the process of monitoring and gauging value of other relevant indicators, not just during the process of digital transformation but also beyond, becomes simpler. This will also save you time, effort and money in layering on technology in areas that don’t really require it.
3. Are your key stakeholders on board?
Digital transformation isn’t a small project but an extensive overhaul that will impact every single department and person associated with your business. As with every other big project, unexpected difficulties may crop up along the way. The project may get delayed or the budget may overshoot. If all your stakeholders aren’t onboard or fully convinced about the need to go digital, they may decide to pull the plug on the project. Working on your buy-in is essential to make sure all leaders and stakeholders – business partners, financiers, and shareholders – fully understand the importance of such an initiative and are committed to taking it to its logical end.
4. Have you found the right people to execute your digital transformation?
Whether you are simply revamping a website, building a new one, working on automated marketing, digitizing customer experiences, or doing it all in one go, you need the right kind of experts to get the job done and done well. Which brings up another poignant question – whether you want to hire people to do this job for you or outsource? The answer to this depends entirely on the kind of digitization you have in mind and the resources available at your disposal. If you are an established business with a long-term digital map in mind, building a core team of digital professionals is better suited. On the other hand, if you are a startup with limited resources, outsourcing may be a more practical option. Whatever your choice, you need to focus on striking that intricate balance between experience, skill and in-demand roles. There are a lot of talented professionals in the marketplace, you just need to pick the ones whose wavelength resonates with your end goals and larger KPIs.
5. Are your employees prepared for the change?
When a business undergoes a digital transformation, a lot of operational aspects are bound to change. This may mean that your employees will need to upgrade their skills and learn new processes. You cannot expect them to throw their existing work habits right out of the window and embrace the change instantaneously. A digital transformation will kick-in in the true sense only when you evolve a strategy to inform, educate and help your employees cope with the change.
Just the way every business has its own distinct identity, each digital transformation initiative is unique too. Be that as it may, these five key questions can prove vital in helping you define and execute a digital transformation that works best for your organization.
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Businesses have encountered several technology waves, starting with the mainframe revolution in the 1960s to the decentralized computing wave of the 1970s, and from the advent of PCs in the 1980s to the rise of client servers in the 90s. The cloud and mobility represent the latest evolution of technology.
Such digital disruption is now a fact of life for almost all businesses. Enterprises no longer confront a question of “if,” but rather concern themselves with the “when” and “how” of digital transformation. A recent KPMG and Harvey Nash survey reveals 62% of IT professionals opine their business was already being disrupted or would be disrupted within the next two years. However, only 27% of respondents confined the presence of an enterprise-wide digital strategy.
Digital disruption is much more than co-opting new technology to the business. Businesses need to create entirely new competencies and co-opt it to incumbent legacy cultures and operating models. Here are four major questions to ask, to smooth the transformation process. These four questions also constitute a basic checklist for the digital transformation process.
1. What are the objectives of the Digital Transformation?
Embarking on a digital transformation journey is doomed to fail unless the enterprise has the end in mind, and defines a coherent strategy upfront. Implementing new technologies for the sake of it, or just because everyone else is doing so, is an exercise in futility, and may end up counterproductive by disrupting the well-entrenched ecosystem with nothing to gain in return.
Have a clear idea of the processes where digital transformation is to set in, and how the transformation would improve the process, add value, and how the intervention would make the lives of the stakeholders, from employees to customers, and from managers to owner better.
Some of the processes where digital intervention can automate the process, or make the process seamless and more accurate include form modeling, document integration, report generation, role-based accessibility and user assignment and reassignment, email notifications, task prioritization, and more. However, the possibilities are endless, limited only by imagination.
2. How much Customization will be required?
Most businesses face an issue of integration when they indulge in digital transformation, especially when the transformation involves multiple pieces of commercial software. Off the shelf software, for any function, be it operations, HR, Finance, data analytics, CRM, or any other function, will never suit enterprises perfectly. Seamless workflows will require customization as a rule.
Successful digital transformation takes place when the enterprise knows the extent of customization required. They audit the existing state, have a clear-cut idea of the desired state, have a roadmap to transform from the existing to the desired state, and map the software to the journey, to make sure the software works for the business.
A related consideration is the time-frame for the migration. A Successful digital transformation process progresses as per a predefined time frame, making sure the change does not disrupt business operations. A related challenge is slow down of operations when the new digital systems set in, owing to the learning curve. A well thought out digital transformation process factors in the delays associated with the learning curve, and pre-empt contingencies which may cause the business to screech to a grinding halt when the new software goes down to a bug.
3. How to Quantify the Value of the Digital Transformation Initiative?
Today’s businesses are driven by profits or returns on investment. The top management or owners support all change initiatives, including digital transformation initiatives based on the value it creates to the enterprise.
At the internal front, digital transformation generally makes internal processes seamless, increasing productivity and efficiency. At the customer facing end, digital transformation makes things easier for the customer, unlocks new possibilities, enable customers to buy or contact support in a much better way, and offers flexibility. However, even when the value created by the digital transformation is obvious, it still has to be quantified and made explicit. The harbingers of change need to not only know about the technologies to implement but also how to measure the value created by such initiatives. The end goal of digital transformation is to boost revenue, profitability, and investor value. Some of the factors which can be measured to link the digital transformation to such ends include inventory, human capital productivity, asset utilization, and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Tracking some intermediate indicators, such as sentiment and engagement is also handy.
Today, several tools make quantification easy. Nucleus Research estimates every dollar spent on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system implementation returning a whopping $8.71. Forrester’s Total Economic Impact (TEI) tool enables enterprises to quantify the potential benefits enterprises gain by implementing a stack of technologies that communicate and work together, integrated by a framework of operational transformation methodologies.
4. How to Orchestrate the Change Initiative?
Regardless of whether the initiative is a digital upgrade or digital transformation, it is essentially a change process, and change requires strong leadership.
Implementing the digital transformation requires a well-defined team with a narrow scope and a cross-functional mandate. The harbingers of digital transformation need to make a tough call on the team.
Many of the team will resist change, accustomed as they are what they have always been doing. The digital transformation initiative requires clear cut consideration on how to implement change in the least disruptive way, and chalk out strategies on how to overcome resistance to change. Training the rank and file for familiarity to the new digital processes, and factoring in a learning curve are the basic requirements, but there is also a need for clear-cut communication on why the digital transformation initiative is being carried out, and the benefits it will bring about. Most often, the digital transformation initiative will be inevitable to keep pace in the highly digitally charged world, and for the firm to stay competitive. Today’s tech-savvy customers also demand heavy digital initiatives to be satisfied.
Estimates of digital transformation failures range from 66% to 84%. It requires a method to preempt the process from descending into madness. Roping in a sound tech development partner, competent in the digital technologies you want to adopt, and backed up by the resources and talent to implement a cutting edge digital solution, is the best way to embark on a digital transformation initiative.