How to take your businesses first steps into Digital Transformation

A commitment to digitally transform your business is not the same as switching one accounting package for another. It’s a journey, partly discovery, partly trial and error.

If you’re looking to digitally transform your business, there are a number of steps you need to take to make your digital transition successful. Here is our advice to help you through your transformational journey.

Activities you need to take pre-digital transformation

A digital transformation journey may take a few years and require considerable investment in management time. Therefore, an evaluation and planning phase of 2-3 months can pay dividends. We asked senior managers to reflect and identify the pre-transformation activities they felt most worthwhile.

Let go of old operations

One of the most difficult decisions is to recognise that ‘doing the same old things, but better’ is not a viable strategy when both customers and competitors are starting to operate in entirely new ways.

Document your current state

In order to move in the right direction, one needs to know one’s point of origination. Similarly, with your business processes. Unless you have a clear idea of how they operate now, it’s not possible to know whether changes will meet new goals or even produce a worthwhile return.

Create a vision that’s flexible and adaptable

Leadership must be prepared for a multi-year commitment to the transformation program. Leadership needs to articulate a clear sense of direction but with the ability to adapt when unexpected opportunities and obstacles present themselves. Do not pin all your hopes on the success of a single component but have other options and alternatives ready.

Be persistence and resilient to setbacks

There is no fool-proof cookie-cutter digital transformation solution. Every companies journey will be unique, with different setbacks and obstacles to be overcome.

Involve those affected in the change process

As previously stated, technology is only one dimension of the changes that will be needed. Staff, customers and suppliers need to be consulted and involved with how your new business model will impact them.

What to do during the transformation phase

This section is drawn from our own study of internal practices related by companies that felt they were achieving success with their digital transformation programs.

By analysing the results from hundreds of companies, we identified 6 factors that are common to those firms who reported success and tangible benefits digital transformation investments.

Create a positive customer experience

Develop an approach to doing business that focuses on providing a positive customer experience, before, throughout and after your transition. Use your online interactions to generate data-driven perspectives, so future market trends and customer needs can be anticipated.

Identify areas technology could be of benefit

As a leader, you should work with your teams to identify where and how digital technologies can be of benefit. Providing a clear vision to guide the changes, supported by a robust but adaptable digital technology architecture. Then implement the changes in with committed members of your team.

Read about how Digital Transformation can serve SMEs in this blog post.

Set goals to encourage teamwork and collaboration

A combination of the problem solving and communication skills is needed for staff to work together in high-performance teams. Moving towards a common set of goals, using evidence-based decisions. Removing barriers of location & time through the use of mobile & digital collaborative technologies.

Analyse core business processes

Divide your business processes between those vital to the firm and those that can be better performed by external specialists. Then redesign any processes that can make use of technologies like AI, RPA, Predictive Analytics, Chatbots, Smart Machines, IoT.

Strategise your business relationships

Join forces with your suppliers, partners, stakeholders & digital native start-ups to draw upon each other’s expertise and technological capabilities. Create innovative and complementary products or services and extend these offerings to reach broader audiences and markets, whilst surpassing the competition.

Implement a digital ICT strategy

Incorporate data-driven analysis to identify new ways for customers to enjoy doing business with you, whilst also reducing costs and minimising business risks.

What should managers focus on post-digital transformation?

There are few organisations that feel they have fully completed their transformation journey. In fact, many argue that a transformation journey never stops because both customer needs and technologies continuously evolve, presenting new challenges and opportunities.

For this section, we have used the ‘Delphi’ method which is applicable when long-term issues (10 to 20 years) must be assessed. It’s based on the collective views of several experts as to what post-digital transformation managers will focus on:

Using social intelligence

Interpreting a 360-degree view of the customer, whether B2C or B2B will be a vital tool for managers. Customers will share their views on how well your product or service meets their needs with everyone. Accessing social media is important in understanding what those needs are, and how you can help them make the best use of your product and service.

Adopting a mobile-first approach

In 2018 over 80% of UK consumers used mobile devices and smartphones for e-commerce. In the same year, £100 billion of B2B trade was conducted via mobile devices. By 2024, 5G networks will provide 4 times the combined mobile data capacity of 2G, 3G and 4G.

With the Internet of Things (IoT), or “smart” devices becoming more and more popular in our homes, soon something as common a PC workstation will seem as old-fashioned as a film camera.

Making Analytics or AI-driven decisions

The analysis of data will become the primary management tool in the 2020s. As digital becomes the engine of commerce so data is its oil.

For many years, supermarket chains have provided and sold checkout data to their suppliers in order to improve their understanding of demand and cut costs. Data will arise as a by-product of your company’s own integrated systems as well as from commercial data brokers.

For interpretive analysis of trends and forecasts ‘Big Data’ Analytics will combine with AI to create ‘decision machines’ that will convert guesswork into certainty.

The evolution of Cloud technologies

The cloud is rapidly growing to become your company’s primary access to everything digital and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Already a means of storage and processing power, it’s also a marketplace for software innovations and bespoke development.

Via Wi-Fi and the cloud, we already use voice to text devices from Amazon, Apple, Google to ask questions and issue commands (smart speakers). The capability of these devices will soon reach the point where they could replace human advisers for some aspects of legal, tax & medical diagnostic advice.

Expanding knowledge

“Knowledge is Power” as the saying goes, and never will this be truer for businesses than in the post-transformation era.

In 1937 H.G. Wells foresaw the advent of a ‘Permanent World Encyclopaedia’ that contained all human knowledge and was available to everyone. No one can accurately state what % of today’s human knowledge is already on the internet, but it is substantial and increasing hourly.

So, to remain competitive, companies will have to access new knowledge, insights and innovations. This will come from various sources including ‘data mining’ for nuggets of knowledge and of course, from employees, partners and associates that are attracted to companies that can provide the right environment for creativity.

Increasing speed and efficiency

As online consumers, we now expect next-day or in some cases same-day, delivery. We expect to instantly access comparative information on a range of alternative products at any time and to read other peoples’ reviews. We expect to have products delivered to a location most convenient for ourselves- home, office, and pick-up points.

Nowadays, if a company has a consumer-safety problem we find it reprehensible if there is more than a day or so delay before recall or rectification. There are no reasons to think that, over the next few years, our expectations will not keep rising. So as speed becomes a key factor in the reputation of a company, the management decision making and action taking must keep pace.

Time is short

Mobile phone payments, smartwatches, and other mainstream devices/services were not available 5 years ago. The same goes for 3D printing, which was largely seen as a toy but is now used by companies like GM to 3D print machine tool parts. These parts used to cost $3000 and take days to arrive, this new method costs $3 for the raw material and takes a few hours to print. An excellent example of how digital transformation can save time and money in the long run.

A Digital Transformation journey for any company can be long, complex and risky, with plenty of excuses to put it off. However, if UK businesses want to compete and thrive in a new global environment, prevarication over digital transformation is not an option.

As experts in IT, communications and cybersecurity, Netitude can work with you to fully understand your business needs and provide the right technology and cloud services to not only enable but accelerate your business growth. Technology constantly changes, and so do your requirements. Our fully managed model ensures we stay in tune with your business, and enable your organisation to use technology as a strategic advantage.

If you would like to understand how digital transformation applies to your business, get in touch with one of our experts today, we’re always happy to help!

CTA: Get in touch to discuss your needs with an IT specialist, today!

Former CIO, Ross Harling, has helped numerous organisations with technology-driven business transformations. He has received numerous Business, Ethical and Environmental awards for his work in this and other fields. Since 2014 Ross has also been an Expert Evaluator for the European Commission on Business and Technology Innovations. 

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Ross Harling Ross Harling

11 April 2019

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