“Digital transformation” – everyone wants it, but not everyone is sure why exactly. Like many a fad, your brain doesn’t always have time to engage before the deed is done.

Before we dive in, let’s agree on some definitions. Digital transformation is:

  • Different for every company. On a basic level, it’s moving traditional and manual processes online in a way that is more efficient, scalable and favours growth.
  • However, it’s not just about the tools, digital transformation implies a top-down reinvention. Most companies use digital processes today, but it’s often a case of just replacing an offline process rather than approaching the processes completely differently.
  • So really digital transformation is about thinking differently. In an age where companies pay a lot of lip service to differentiation, still too many aren’t working on a plan for digital transformation.

So, here are seven easy steps to make sure your business isn’t getting a mullet it’ll quickly regret…

1. Focus on your business strategy

Many digital transformations aren’t so much transformation as sticking a piece of plaster over a leaking pipe. Quick fixes and shortcuts are placed over previous quick fixes and shortcuts until the processes are either unmanageable or only comprehensible to a select few. Worst of all, they rarely support your business strategy.

Instead of focusing on empty words like “innovation” and “agile” – focus on what an ideal process would look like from beginning to end. 

2. Compare it to your existing process

Coming up with an ideal process will almost certainly highlight issues with your current system. Take a note of all the blocks currently preventing the process from working efficiently.

From these you can create a list of objectives, and a brand-new roadmap.

3. Get senior buy-in

Digital transformation is only possible if it comes from the top. If you want everyone to get on board, your c-suite needs to be committed to change rather than clinging on to old processes. This is often the trickiest step, as there are inevitably team members committed to the status quo.

Don’t skimp on discussions and training – these will be essential to convince even the most sceptical members of your team. You need to have a strong handle on “Why” you are creating digital transformation if you want to convince others in turn.

4. Identify the right technologies

With technology evolving at lightning speed it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by choice. Consider the following factors before making your choice:

  • User-friendly. Will the technology require significant training to be adopted by your team, or is it easy to use? If you want it to be used, you need to remove every obstacle. This may seem negligible but if you spend $$$ on software that no one can understand, your money has been entirely wasted. 
  • Security. Does the software have decent security certificates? Will you be able to trust it with your sensitive data?

One essential piece of advice is to forget about the holy grail of software. An overarching piece of software that will solve every issue with your business does not exist, and if it does it comes with the following issues:

  • Takes years to implement
  • Costs a fortune
  • Impossible to leave 

Instead, pick the best solutions for different areas. Most new technology operates today with an open API-based framework that allows for compatibility between software solutions. This should be a consideration when looking at any new technology: does it play well with others?

5. Empower your team

Having identified your blockages to digital transformation is also likely to highlight missing skillsets in your team. Whilst hiring fresh blood is one option, it’s not the only one.

Remember that talk of digital transformation can make people feel fearful about losing their jobs. An alternative to hiring new people is to reframe the process as an opportunity to upgrade the knowledge and skills of your team. 

Listen to their concerns and their issues with the current process – they are your most valuable source of information and should be at the heart of the transformation.

You should democratise software adoption. Your employees will be aware of digital solutions in their area of expertise: give them the opportunity to use the best tools they can find

6. Break it down into manageable steps

Sure your digital transformation project is ambitious, but can you break it down into smaller steps? Shaping your roadmap to transformation this way makes it easier to tackle.

elevator to success digital transformation7. Adopt an agile frame of mind

Much as I hate the word “agile”, it does sum up quite neatly the spirit of digital transformation. Digital transformation goes beyond technology, it’s about creating an adaptable ecosystem, one that can change when it needs to without bringing the whole house down. Use software, test software, experiment with software, with your employees driving the change.

This is what Galen Gruman terms the “fungibility” of business:

Fungibility means the ability for something to be changed. That’s not the same as the ability to change something; fungibility is an intrinsic characteristic, not a force imposed by an external source. Transformation is the act of making substantive change; fungibility is the intrinsic ability to be substantively changed. – Galen Gruman

Essentially, forget about giving your digital transformation a completion date. The mindset of transformation resists completion: it’s an ongoing process into which new technology and your team’s feedback will play a guiding role.

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