Post By Charlie Heywood on April 25, 2019

The 8 essential steps for digital transformation success

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Digital transformation is the big concept of the moment.

We’re glad to see more and more companies are recognising how it will help them stay competitive in the market. But studies have shown that many are still struggling with the changes that digital transformation brings.

Digital transformation is the big concept of the moment.

We’re glad to see more and more companies are recognising how it will help them stay competitive in the market. But studies have shown that many are still struggling with the changes that digital transformation brings.

Problems include:

  • not having the digital experience, skills or knowledge to take advantage of new opportunities or understand where they can improve old processes;
  • not having a clear vision or strategy in place from the outset (which makes it difficult to stay on track, as well as measure success later on); and
  • having the wrong person lead the transformation project.

All of these issues can derail the digital transformation of a business at any stage. And, unless you’re prepared for them, you risk wasting all that investment into the project.

As the old saying goes: ‘prevention is better than cure’. So today we’re laying out eight clear and simple steps to follow for the best chance of finding digital transformation success.

Make everyone aware of what digital transformation is (and isn’t)

Digital transformation is the continuous evolution of a business through the use of digital technology, and it’s done for the benefit of both the business and the customer. But you need to bear in mind it’s not just about the technology. It’s also a rethink of working practices, involving auditing current processes and methodologies, and identifying areas for improvement.

Like all buzzwords, ‘digital transformation’ is incredibly easy to throw around without anybody knowing what it means. However, because its impact will be felt across the company, it’s essential to make sure everyone understands the term in order to set their expectations of what’s to come and why it’s happening. This will make employees more likely to remain supportive throughout the process.

Collaborate to set your digital transformation goals and create a clear business vision

You need a vision from the outset. Something to aim for and help you stay on track no matter what obstacles you face. This includes clear (and measurable) goals that will help support your reason for embarking on the digital transformation in the first place.

These objectives shouldn’t be a top-down directive either. You want to get the input of everyone in the company, especially those customer-facing employees, in order to find out what’s working for the customers and what’s not—and where can you improve the customer experience, beyond what the competitors are offering, for the benefit of your business.

A collaborative approach to setting your business goals will also help you achieve alignment through the organisation. Which will help you stay united as you plunge into a transformation which will require an investment of time, money and a lot of hard work.

Identify areas where your business can improve to meet these goals

In order to find out how to transform your business for the better, you need to identify areas where you can improve. This requires a thorough audit of everything from working processes and practices, to the technology you’re currently using, and even your organisation’s culture.

This last area is especially important, as it’s the people in your business who will determine how successful the digital transformation is likely to be. They will be the ones who need to adapt and change to fit any new strategy and embrace the opportunities on offer. So if there is a misalignment between your culture and your transformation goals, you will need to address it quickly.

In terms of technological improvements, it’s helpful to study others in your industry (and beyond) who are successfully changing the way they work. For example, this could mean weighing up the benefits of using managed IT services versus the hassle of keeping responsibilities in-house. It could also mean looking at the role cloud services and ERP solutions might play in giving your business the freedom to grow stronger and faster, as well as staying more agile in an ever competitive market.

You can then use all this information to build a roadmap for your digital transformation, which will help you prioritise the work in the day-to-day chaos and make it easier for you to stay on track to successfully meet your objectives.

Hire the right person to lead the project—and don’t be afraid to restructure

Who is the right person to lead a digital transformation?

This can vary from business to business, as it depends on a number of factors. The CEO will often have the authority and oversight, but lack the digital knowledge. While lower-tier managers might have the knowledge, but could be too specialised to properly implement an effective transformation across the whole company.

So your best bet is someone like a Chief Digital Officer who: 

  • Has the authority and power to drive the project across all departments
  • Has enough digital knowledge needed to make the right decisions
  • Is open to trying new things and persuasive enough to encourage others to do the same

As good as this person is, however, they will also need an organisation equipped to support the digital transformation. Which means taking a good look at the talent, skills and enthusiasm available and building an infrastructure around this core to give the business the best chance of success.

Of course, if you don’t already have the knowledge or experience to put these things in place, don’t worry. There are plenty of professional companies like us who are well versed in leading these projects and helping companies transform themselves into more productive, efficient, and digitally savvy businesses. So don’t be afraid to ask for help—it might save you a lot of trouble and present better results in the long run. 

Keep the lines of communication open throughout the organisation

We stated earlier that everyone in your business needs to understand exactly what a digital transformation means in order for them to remain supportive. But this should only be the start of open communication throughout the organisation.

An ongoing process, digital transformation impacts everyone in the business. Some may be affected sooner than others. Others may experience greater change. But everyone will need to adjust how they work at some point—and they may be resistant, which could cause costly delays and other issues.

Communicating with employees before and during the project can help mitigate these problems. It ensures people understand more about why they are being asked to change how they work, and how it will ultimately benefit the company, the customers, and themselves. It removes the fear of the unknown and gives them quantifiable benefits. Which should encourage them to remain more open to adapt.

Break the transformation into bite-sized chunks, with early quick wins to build momentum

Large-scale projects can be overwhelming. You often don’t know where to start and it’s easy to get disheartened by the sheer scope of the challenges ahead. This leads to waning enthusiasm and ultimately a lack of support or will to get the job done.

Breaking the project down into bite-sized chunks makes it easier to tackle. It gives everyone clearly identifiable and achievable goals to focus on and allows people to feel like they are moving forward towards an end goal. For more impact, make sure you give people some quick and easy wins early on, to help stoke their enthusiasm and to build momentum as you head towards the more challenging changes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Digital transformation is based on disruptive technologies changing the way we work and think. So it makes sense that the best outcomes in the process will be those where a willingness to experiment is encouraged.

A lot of the changes you’ll be facing might be new to you, but rest assured many other companies have already tackled them and are finding new ways to get the job done. If you want to stay competitive, don’t be afraid to think differently. Study other organisations who have gone a similar route and get a feel for where you can improve. If it means allowing your employees some leeway to try something that’s not been done before, make sure you support them. You might find yourself with some failed initiatives. But you also increase the chances of hitting upon a seam of new opportunities, improving upon your initial goals, and leaping ahead of your competitors.

Accept this is an ongoing process—continuously test and refine your working

Digital transformation isn’t a one-time event. It’s not something that can be implemented and then walked away from, simply because the nature of digital is that it’s always evolving. Which means you need to evolve with it to make the most of your transformation.

Setting measurable goals early in the process will allow you to check your progress and adjust your strategy at a later date. But the availability of real-time analytics means this can now be done continuously, enabling your business to work as close to maximum efficiency as possible where others will have to endure peaks and troughs.

By building this feedback loop into your digital transformation, you will be able to continually test and refine your working—keeping you ahead of the competition long into the future. 

Want help planning and implementing a digital transformation to take your business to the next level of success? Contact us today to discuss what’s possible and how it could transform your business.


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