Digital transformation is now pretty much universally accepted as the way forward, for businesses of all kinds. Yet many organizations don’t make the logical connection between “transformation” and “change.” A shift to digital requires major cultural and technological alterations -- both within the enterprise, and in its interactions with the world at large.
Some businesses fail by trying to force the process, rather than taking a systematic approach that also involves change management, and gaining support from all the stakeholders involved. Even companies with a comprehensive strategy for their digital transformation projects often make the critical mistake of starting too ambitiously.
The truth is that for digital transformation to be successful and sustainable, it’s necessary to phase it in gradually, and gain momentum for the process by achieving some quick wins. Here are some key ways of doing just that.
Know What You Want Your Digital Transformation To Achieve
A strategic approach to digital transformation starts with knowing what you want or expect that transformation to achieve. Begin with an assessment of the current state of your organization, by bringing relevant stakeholders together to identify the challenges facing the enterprise, and precisely what makes it tick. Knowing your objectives and understanding the potential obstacles that must be overcome will enable you to plan a more successful path to digital transformation.
A small “discovery project” like this will usually take from one to four weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the organization involved.
Identify What’s Most Important To Achieve These Objectives
Having established your key transformation objectives through a small discovery project, you can now begin to develop a business strategy for accomplishing those goals. A number of tools and templates are available for administrators with limited experience of such strategic planning.
For example, the Business Model Canvas provides a more holistic view of the enterprise, for organizations just starting out on the road to digital transformation. And tools like Porter’s Five Forces and Blue Ocean Strategy can help identify gaps in the market where new products or services might fit.
This planning stage may typically take one or two weeks.
Get A Single View Of Everything That’s Important
A holistic view of the enterprise will enable you to put the spotlight on methodologies and products that need improvement, and those which are hampered by poorly integrated processes or technologies.
Visualization and business modeling tools can assist in this, with real-time analytics to gain insights from data across the enterprise, and customizable dashboards offering a single view of the organization that can be modified to suit the methods and working practices of stakeholders from different business units.
Get Support For The Initiative
Stakeholder support is critical -- both in making the resources and talent available for implementation, and in gaining positive participation from all levels of the organization. In this regard, it’s important to become aware of which populations will be affected by changes in operations, and the effect on various stakeholders (through system downtime, movement of physical infrastructure, etc.) as the transformation proceeds.
It’s also necessary to create accessible and reliable lines of communication, for brainstorming, disseminating information, and receiving feedback.
Create Awareness And Prepare For Change
As digital transformation proceeds, some disruptions to working environments and accepted ways of doing things will inevitably occur. An effective communications network (which you will have established while drumming up support for the initiative) and a comprehensive strategy for change management will enable you to identify early on the people and processes who will be affected at each stage, inform them of the implications, and empower you to mitigate those effects.
Map The Customer Journey
Of course, digital transformation isn’t solely an internal process. The changes will affect how you interact and do business with customers and suppliers. Developing a customer journey map covering all transactions (marketing and before sales activity, to after sales support) will enable you to identify the best ways of handling each part of that journey, and which aspects of your operations will benefit most from digitalization.
Customer journey mapping can help to establish whether your digital transformation is focusing on the right areas -- and it’s a process that can be completed in only a few days.
Set Up A Pilot Project Or Prototype
Business stakeholders love tangible results, and it’s possible to deliver some through the successful completion of prototypes or pilot projects.
For product or software development, putting together a minimum viable product (MVP) or minimum lovable product (MLP) can give early exposure to the results of your digital transformation, and point the way toward future developments. Feedback from customers or beta testers can provide the information you need to make performance or quality adjustments, so that the next iteration of the product is greatly improved.
Using Agile development techniques, a well-designed software prototype can be delivered within two to four weeks.
For hardware or service delivery, a proof of concept (POC) will allow you to build and demonstrate a viable version of your project, which can be tested and assessed by relevant buyers or stakeholders. A proof of concept also enables you to test the validity of your initial idea, identify the ideal materials and resources required to deliver it, and produce a viable budget for the scheme.
Pilot projects at the proof of concept stage may take about four weeks to complete.
Use Templates And Automation
The use of shortcuts and pre-defined solutions can also assure you of some easy hits in your digital transformation process. Automated systems and scripts can take much of the guesswork (and potential for human error) out of the picture. For example, applying automated real-time analytics to incident management can help put the spotlight on recurring issues and possible failure patterns within the system. Your incident management tools can then create automated resolutions to prevent the problems from occurring again.
Quick-start analytics templates containing pre-packaged user interfaces (UIs), algorithms, and data models may be used to create rapid-response analytics apps for managing and extracting insights from the various data streams generated by your digital transformation activities.
The key to gaining easy hits and early success along the path to digital transformation is to keep projects small, contained, and viable. While each of the recommendations outlined above can deliver quick gains in the short term, a combination of several or even all of them can contribute to long term success with digital transformation.