Digital transformation might sound scary but it is simply about improving the processes in your business through the use of technology.
Business accounts are a great example of digital transformation in business. Not that long ago we were filling out ledgers, then we progressed to spreadsheets and now we use specialist software such as Sage and Xero. Taking this further many have now moved to cloud-based versions of that specialist software.
Digital transformation is about using better technology to improve the way you do something in the business or to solve a specific problem. In the business accounts example spreadsheets were an improvement on ledgers, it sped up the accounting process and reduced errors. Accounts software made the process even quicker and easier, and it often saved money on your external accountancy bills. Cloud solutions solve the problem of accounts professionals being able to work remotely and save money on the infrastructure the company needs.
The Problem With Digital Transformation today
When spreadsheets came along it was easy to see how this technology would make accountancy easier. The problem nowadays is that there are so many potential solutions that it can get very confusing.
That’s where you’ll often need to seek external help from digital transformation experts. These experts will understand a wide range of solutions and be able to suggest the right solutions for you and your issue or process.
A mistake that businesses often make is to think that digital transformation is ‘project’ that will one day be completed. This is not the correct way to think. Digital transformation is a journey, and one that doesn’t necessarily end. There will always be new technology and new solutions. The only thing that’s certain in our modern world is change. And if you don’t change with the world around you you risk your business being left behind.
What's needed for business transformation?
Digital transformations will be different for each company, but the overarching premise is that they use technology to improve operations, culture, productivity, profit, employee experience and customer satisfaction.
Prioritise your business goals or issues
You're not going to be able to solve every issues, or improve every process immediately, so what are your priorities? There are often bottlenecks in a business. Find yours and start there.
Prepare your people
New technologies will often only be as good as the people using them. Prepare your people for change and get buy-in rather than bombarding them with new tools.
Choose your technology.
Once you know what you're going to be tackling and you have your people on board it's time to evaluate the digital technologies available and choose the best solution for you.
Why Digital transformation and why now?
The most obvious answer to this is that the world of work has changed. Whilst business models always evolve over time the COVID19 pandemic saw a huge shift in the workplace. The status quo was no more and there was a seismic shift in working practices. We are only now seeing the new reality.
Overnight companies had to facilitate remote working. Many organisations quickly introduced new digital products and new behaviours for their people. But these were, for the most part, sticky plasters.
The Workplace has changed forever
Just as COVID19 is here to stay, so are the shifts in the way we work. People became used to working from home and the way this improved their work-life balance. They no longer wanted to commute, at least not every day, and they were willing to jump ship to employees who were offering greater flexibility.
This is here to stay and it’s not enough to be able to allow people to work from home. Businesses need to transform the way they work for a new workplace. The office may remain as a hub but if you have 20 staff you now have 20 satellite offices. The quick solutions might work for a quick Teams meeting but now is the time to look a whether existing processes are fit for purpose. Whether legacy systems still meet your needs. You need to be able to manage mobile devices and keep your data safe outside your carefully protected network.
What does this mean for your business?
The workplace has changed, your people have changed, customer expectations have changed. So it would be naïve to think that your old processes, systems and technology remain optimal. Digital transformation is no longer a ‘nice to do’ it is required in order to survive and thrive in the ‘new normal’.
You’re people will be working remotely at least some of the time, they need to be able to access files quickly, work collaboratively, communicate in numerous ways and keep your files and data safe. Do your present systems do that?
Change provides huge opportunity too. If your business processes are no longer optimum than neither are theirs. Your digital transformation strategy can give you a distinct competitive advantage. Successful digital transformation leads to cost savings and revenue growth. It can bring new capabilities to your business.
Digital transformation and workplace modernisation
We believe that your digital transformation journey should be leading you towards something called the modern workplace. ‘Modern Workplace’ is a term used to define organisations who recognise digital collaboration, technology and tools as the way of the future.
Businesses looking to develop a modern workplace will embrace new business models, new technologies, new digital channels and adopt a new organisational culture.
Modern Workplace at its essence, separates businesses who’re seeking positive change, enabled by the benefits of our digital age, from those who’re keeping their heads in the sand.
Becoming a Modern Workplace isn’t a simple process and it isn’t about installing a chat tool for your team. It has to be driven from an understanding within the business’ leaders that digital technology and tools are enablers of productivity and efficiency.
Microsoft 365 – the ideal toolkit for a modern workplace
So, now that you’re beginning to make moves towards becoming a modern workplace… Where do you start?
The great news is that you probably already have a great tool for building a modern workplace.
Most of us use Microsoft 365 to some extent throughout our working day, with popular apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But, Microsoft 365 also has an extensive and diverse range of products and services that you’re probably not aware of, all of which can be adapted and tailored to your business.
These benefits will help you to build a modern workplace, whereby the experiences of employees and customers will be significantly improved. What’s so great about Microsoft 365 is that you can tailor your subscription to the needs of your business, opting for as many or as few services as you like. As such, you will only be investing in tools that directly benefit your business
Here are some key benefits and features:
- Most apps and services are cloud-based, meaning they can be accessed securely from anywhere, at any time, using any device. This is fundamental for effective remote working.
- Business owners and senior leaders can control how apps and devices are used by restricting access and implementing additional security measures (such as multi-factor authentication) – maximising the security of your data.
- Apps can be used to streamline processes in almost every aspect of your business, e.g. for booking meetings, attending video calls, contacting colleagues via instant messages, sharing videos, and so much more.
- Data leakage prevention measures can be implemented across all employee inboxes, helping to identify and block data from being sent accidentally or maliciously to contacts outside of your organisation.
- Email data can be stored long-term (even if emails have been deleted), ensuring that you’re compliant with standard and industry regulations.
- Features can be implemented that enable employees to sign into all cloud-based applications (e.g. Sage, Salesforce) only once per day – boosting the productivity of your business.
Frequently asked questions
Digital transformation is affecting every industry, from retail to marketing to healthcare.
The impact of digital transformation differs from industry to industry.
The scale of that impact depends on factors such as:
- How reliant an industry is on digital technology
- What type of digital technology that industry uses – i.e., hardware or software
- The advancements of digital technology in general, and for that industry specifically
Regardless of the scale of that impact, every company is transforming to some degree.
This answer also depends on a number of factors, such as:
- The industry or marketplace
- Budget constraints
- A company’s long-term strategy
Other factors may also come into play, such as government regulation or legal hurdles. Healthcare and finance, for instance, have more to consider when it comes to transformation.
However, as a general rule, the sooner the better.
Companies should stay ahead of the curve, rather than try to catch up to it.
Digital transformation is not just a case of using digital technology, and often gets confused with similar-sounding terms:
Digitisation is the process of converting information from analogue to digital.
For example, before computers existed, accountants entered handwritten records in paper ledgers and journals. But even after converting to computerised accounting systems, businesses worked in the same way, so there was no change in the business process.
Digitalisation is the process of using digital data to simplify how you work.
For example, accountants can use digitised data to quickly retrieve information on a customer’s credit history rather than having to sift through dusty archives in the basement. But notice how there’s still no change in the business process, just a quicker, more efficient way to carry out the same tasks as before.
Digital transformation changes the way business gets done.
For example, accountants might examine how they work to see how they can improve existing processes to serve their customers better.
As a result, they might decide to introduce a new process to proactively inform customers of outstanding invoices rather than jeopardising cashflow for the business.
A digital transformation strategy is a plan of action describing how a business must strategically reposition itself in the digital economy. It evaluates the current situation and maps the transformational journey to achieve business goals. As customer habits change, so must the way successful businesses operate. They innovate, change operating and business models, and leverage emerging technology.
One of the most important questions is: why digital transformation?
Some of the biggest benefits include:
- A competitive advantage in the marketplace
- Improved technology capabilities and technical capacities
- Business models that are more cost-effective and streamlined
- Innovative, adaptable corporate cultures
The sooner a company can adopt digital technology, transform its business, and evolve, the greater the rewards it will reap.
Digital transformation efforts do have their drawbacks:
- It is not always easy – organizational change requires planning, effort, and support
- Employees and managers may resist change, especially if it is not planned for and mitigated
- Outcomes are not always predictable or guaranteed
- Digital transformation is an investment, sometimes a large investment
Despite these drawbacks, digital transformation is widely viewed as a necessary process in today’s economy.
With the right planning, those benefits will often dramatically outweigh the costs.
Fatigue from continuous change is the top reason why more than 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail.
Some of the other reasons companies fail in digital transformation are:
- CEOs and other Digital Transformation Leaders are often to blame when for failing to define a clear transformation strategy.
- 39% of companies say that the complexity of the current environment and their siloed organizational structure is not aligned to support transformation.
- 32% of companies confirmed too many competing tech priorities, and conflicts of interest act as a hurdle to digital transformation.
- Applying tools and technologies that don’t satisfy customer demands or enable the latest digital business models adds little value.
- The pace and scale of digital acceleration make it difficult for some companies to close the gap on rivals.
- 90% of organizations believe they need new types of talent, and 37% believe that extensive talent structure changes are required for their digital transformation efforts to become successful.
Digital transformation is an on-going process with each project or phase lasting up to five years, depending on the size of the organization and the change.
Experts have always maintained that digital transformation is a continuous process, and therefore it will never end. By the time you complete one transformation project, you will need to address another set of business processes.
It’s impossible for businesses to ‘complete’ transformation or ‘declare’ that digital transformation is done.
In 2018, Gartner proposed a new concept: From Digital Transformation to Continuous Next.
According to Gartner, the formula to achieve success in a continually changing environment (through and beyond digital transformation) is to implement a ContinuousNEXT approach.
CIOs can prepare their organizations by focusing on five imperatives:
- Augmented intelligence, the next step beyond Artificial Intelligence, where humans and machines work side-by-side.
- Privacy and trust, which have become a new source of power.
- Changing Culture in small but powerful ways using what we call Culture Hacks.
- Adopting Digital Product Management as a discipline to help you serve customers better and shift mindsets from projects to products.
- Last an exciting new type of digital twin that goes beyond physical equipment to what we call the Digital Twin of an Organization.