Digital Business Transformation Guide

Digital transformation is changing the way business gets done and also changing business models themselves. With digital transformation, companies are taking a step back and revisiting everything they do, from internal systems to customer interactions with brands online and in-person.

Digital transformation was already well underway before 2020, and to state the obvious, COVID has only accelerated the inevitable. Customers expect a seamless experience and businesses have to figure out how to deliver that in a way that works for its employees behind the scenes. As more businesses begin to build, update, or reimagine their offerings (i.e. digitally transform) to succeed in this new era, the people taking on these efforts play a critical role.

"Customers are not just comparing you to your competition;
they’re comparing you to the best experience they had online."

To enhance digital experiences and modernise your business, ultimately, you want to think about how your business strategy aligns with your operations (people, processes, systems and technology).

A digital transformation framework

Do this by first outlining your reasons for wanting to change and enhance (for example, to stay ahead of the competition) and examining the objects that will facilitate these changes (like your people and processes). Then design a future state by which you'll transform and improve the experience of both your customers and employees. Here's a framework that you could work with to bring about the outcomes you want to see.

CL - Digital Transformation (1)Image: Digital Transformation Framework 


There are 3 key areas that help ensuring that your efforts are successful, when it's a widely accepted fact that most digital transformations fail - here are the ones that you should focus on:

CL - Digital Transformation (1)Image: 3 Key Focus Areas in Digital Transformation


Where to begin

Step 1: Redefine success and mindset

Before any company embarks on a digital transformation journey, its leadership must understand and believe in the value of this change. Companies that reap the greatest rewards from technical improvements recognise that it’s not only technology that changes: It’s also their leaders’ minds and priorities.

What success looks like often broadens with digital transformation as it forces you to explore not only your customer’s journey but also how your people and technology are positioned to truly make that journey happen. Without the drive of leadership, it’s nearly impossible to align your people, processes and technology. 

This change in mindset also applies significantly to legacy systems, i.e. the systems and technology already in place to facilitate a company’s operations. Legacy systems aren’t necessarily bad — they just have a tendency to put people in a mindset that “This is how things are done” instead of asking “Is this system still working for where we are now and where we want to be?”

Often at the beginning of the digital transformation process, when you’re investigating “How things are done”, companies will find themselves in the thick of pipeline jungles, which is a fancy way of saying a mess of systems, integrations and data that no only really owns and are no longer reliable. This is obviously an issue when you’re trying to become a more connected and empowered business. 

For a real life (and excellent!) example, read about HubSpot's transition from the Salesforce CRM to their own. It certainly wasn't an easy decision, but ultimately was a worthwhile one for them. 

This is not to say that all companies need to ditch their legacy systems in a digital transformation. The legacy systems may work with a serious renovation job, or implementing a new system may make the most sense to support a company’s future. The point is that you need to be prepared and open to both options.

Step 2: Create a digital vision of your future 

To create value from investing in technology, companies need to be clear on where the value lies in the first place. Those values tend to lie in the ability to activate key business strategies and better decision-making. In other words, technology systems should support the execution of your business strategy as well as help with all those decisions that your company has to make on a daily basis. 

Let’s consider a real life example - events. With COVID-19, everything has had to go virtual, as we all know all too well. A company with a digital vision for the future would recognise that to connect with people, even as we are able to be in-person more, events will have to be a hybrid of in-person and virtual. By talking to their employees, they’ll know that they need to be able to present information online, give attendees the chance to ask questions, interact and even break into groups. As far as decision-making, there are multiple decisions that have to be made surrounding events: what time, the location, who will be speaking, how long the event should be, catering, where to give product demos under NDA, the frequency of the events, to name a few. 

Beyond this, companies need to dive into the role of their people and processes. Technology clearly makes it easier to execute on strategy,  but if you don’t understand how your people work, you're more likely not set them up to find success with technology - especially if new technology needs adaptability and behaviour changes. When your employees don’t work with the technology to support its strategic intent, things might not go the way you'd imagined. So, put your people first and invest in technology later. 

So before you review your existing technology or pick new technology, a key component of digital transformation, a company needs to create a digital vision of how it operates, which means mapping out its business strategy, its processes and how its people work. 

Step 3: Get buy-in from your people

Putting any plans into action requires that everyone in the organisation is aligned - sales, marketing, IT, product and leadership. If there's anyone we missed out, get them on board too!

At its core, transformation is a 'people' thing. It's driven by people and massively benefits people by enabling a better way of working. Digital transformation, no matter how big or small, will likely help people change how their work week is spread out for admin tasks or give them more time to spend on things that makes them appreciate their work more. On the pathway there, though, people also need to believe in the vision and to get involved.

While technology is about doing more with less, it's important to pair key focus areas with human skills. Your investment in people should be greater than the investment in technology. 

To do this, just remember that strategy and software is only as good as the success it brings to a person at work. If success comes about by shifting or transforming people's days at work, that's where your focus should be - engage your people, improve lives and design a future that works for your people. By making employees happier, that can only mean that they will also be geared up to provide the best experience they can to your customers too.  Ultimately, great transformation can only happen when all the people who use systems are supported and their lives are improved.

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