What is digital transformation? Digital transformation, in a nutshell, digital transformation enables perpetual agility and innovation. It leverages digital technologies to automate processes, create better user experiences, gain more insight from your data, connect people and applications, and harden operational resilience. The results are increased productivity, better customer experiences, and faster innovation that enables you to stay ahead of the competition.
Digital transformation is about creating a culture that is focused on continuous innovation, amenable to change, and encouraged to experiment with new technologies in the digital age.
As digital technology has become a central feature of our world and forced industries to become completely reimagined, digital transformation has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have for virtually all businesses.
The term itself has become omnipresent, but that doesn’t mean business leaders always know what digital transformation really is to their business or how they can make it happen.
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Digital Transformation: Defining it for Your Business
Digital transformation is obviously a useful marketing term, but it can be tricky when it comes to defining what it actually means. The truth is digital transformation means different things to different businesses.
Most businesses will find that it encompasses a variety of these things. For many, it will be about adopting cloud computing and moving away from bulky on-premise setups (enabling remote-only workforces to work on mobile devices). For others, it can mean leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to gain insights from big data.
There are five general types of digital transformation initiatives:
- Experiences: Optimize interactions with users, whether they be customers, the workforce, or other stakeholders within the ecosystem
- Insights: Turn data into actionable insights by aggregating, normalizing and presenting data historically locked in silos
- Platforms: Optimize the location and management of information across an organization or its network while leveraging the cloud
- Connectivity: Integrate applications, platforms, experiences to drive better collaboration, customer experiences and insights
- Integrity: Improve resilience, security, and trust across all internal and external facing business systems and processes with a cyber-minded culture that ensures business continuity and addresses evolving threats
Whatever the specifics, digital transformation requires businesses to consider where their business models can be ‘disrupted’ to be made more efficient, more flexible, and more customer-friendly. It’s a mindset first, and a framework focused on bringing digital enablers to the business second.
Every day we see cases where business leaders feel stuck in their digital transformation journey. It can be very difficult to define what digital transformation is to your business and then make it a reality by shaping the vision and gaining buy-in from your teams.
In a recent industry study, “The State of Digital Transformation”, organizations identified their top digital transformation projects:
- Process automation
- Customer experience management and engagement
- Security and compliance
- Data analytics to improve decision-making
- Migrate systems from on-premise to the cloud
- Integrate disparate systems for better decision-making
Not surprisingly, executives worry their businesses are falling behind in the digital transformation race as they struggle to move the needle.COVID-19 Drove Digital Transformation Forward Like Nothing Else
The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to accelerate digital transformation and make changes almost overnight. They were faced with issues such as supply chain disruptions, time-to-market crunches, and instantly warped customer expectations.
The changes COVID-19 brought about have left the world looking dramatically different, and many business leaders hope that their staff is now more serious about digital trends. However, the challenges around budgeting, talent, and cultural acceptance persist.
Meaningful Technological Transformation Starts With a Clear Business Focus
To tackle those challenges, it can be useful to start thinking of digital transformation initiatives from the perspective of business challenges and opportunities, rather than focusing on the technologies themselves.
This makes transformation more relatable to business-focused staff who don’t necessarily care about the latest cloud innovation but do care about increasing productivity.
Put simply, digital transformation needs a ‘why,’ and this can come in the form of a better customer experience, reduced IT costs, and going after new business opportunities that are currently inaccessible due to technical limitations.
With clear goals in mind, the road to digital transformation suddenly looks much more direct. Now you can focus on aligning your leadership and culture to drive towards them.
What Is Digital Transformation?
We define digital transformation and discuss the transformation projects businesses are undertaking today
Embracing or neglecting digital transformation can be the difference between setting new standards in your industry or dwindling to irrelevance. For many leaders, the very term carries with it an almost existential dread and a do-or-die dilemma. This has led many to take bold action and allocate significant resources to the ambiguous task of digital transformation, with varying results.
Technological Transformations: Timing Matters
Using the employee experience during COVID-19 as an example, let’s consider the mixed fortunes of digital transformation in this area.
Business A was fast to adopt remote work at the onset of the pandemic because it already had the infrastructure in place to deal with a rapid shift. They had already started to allow hybrid and remote work, so had thought about the impact on employee engagement.
Business B, however, had not considered the possibility that they would someday be forced to enable remote work for their staff. When their hand was forced, they suffered disruptions to business operations and lost revenue. When they finally got their remote work capabilities online, staff were resistant to the change, untrained on remote working tools, and slow to come back to productivity.
This is just one example of how digital transformation can truly be a make-or-break in a given situation that the outside world throws at us. We could throw dozens more at you related to operations, finance, supply chain, and whatever else your business needs to do to survive and thrive, but you get the point.
How to Implement Technological Transformation in Your Organization
Now that you have a good idea of what digital transformation is, how to approach it, and why it’s so important, let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how you can make it happen. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-tested methods you can follow to get on the right path and begin making changes.
Align Staff to Shared Goals
First, let’s talk more about culture. Over time, the CIO and technology team have become more integral to business processes, which has shifted the culture of many companies to one that is more aware of the digital innovation going on around them.
This is a positive development, but really capitalizing on this awareness means getting all staff aligned on a unified mission towards technology-enabled goals.
The result of powerful business and IT alignment can be building out new capabilities that transform what the company is capable of and redefining its place in the market. Doing that requires a strong focus on innovation across the business and a commitment to overcoming the resistance to change that can arise from long-time staff and risk-averse stakeholders.
Of course, risk needs to be managed, but it must not be over-managed. Companies that allow by-the-book staff to snuff out the intrapreneurial spirit in their ranks will eventually learn that trying to cut out risk completely is the riskiest move of all.
Allow Room for Innovation
You should also be careful not to make your digital transformation project overly structured and generic.
True innovation requires some flexibility and breathing space, and you don’t want to get bogged down in the bureaucracy of building new teams, communicating too much, and endlessly training and reskilling staff. There is a place for all those things, but it’s only a part of the business strategy.
Modernize Your Infrastructure
After culture, you need to think about technology. Trying to drive digital transformation with outdated tools and systems is a fool’s errand, and at some point, you will need to put together a solid plan to modernize the IT infrastructure and a roadmap for building on that modernization as time goes on.
Adopting present-day cloud architectures can create an explosive path to further innovation.
Monitor Your Progress
Any business that is serious about digital transformation tracks the success of its investments and projects. You need to assess whether you’re moving in the right direction, using progress towards key business goals as the benchmark.
If you are seeing positive movement, congratulations. Even if it’s premature to call it ‘transformation,’ you know you’re on the right path and can keep going.
We’ve Defined Digital Transformation, and Now it’s Time to Realize Your Dreams
Hopefully, you’re now raring to go with your digital transformation strategy and ready to become a star in your company for inspiring the adoption of revolutionary technologies.
At Netsurit, we help businesses across the United States and South Africa with digital transformation every day, and we’d love to learn more about your unique journey. Contact us today so we can share our wisdom and help you create a winning digital business.