The term digital transformation has, unfortunately, become tech jargon. But now, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, companies across all sectors have to start their digital transformation journey quickly to cope with the new demands of remote working. The Government’s renewed call for people to work from home has only given this acceleration another gear shift. Digital transformation can no longer be at the back of business leaders’ minds - it is now a necessity, particularly as office workers of all positions and levels don’t want to go back to the office five days a week again.
However, this message of necessity has no substance unless businesses are guided on how to undertake this journey. For IT service providers such as CANCOM it comes naturally, but this may not be the case for businesses without the in-house expertise.
So, the question is; how do businesses digitally transform, and what does a successful digital transformation journey look like?
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How to see the wood for the digital transformation trees
Every business’s digital transformation journey and road map will be customizable and unique to them, but it is advisable to keep in mind three key pillars:
- Discover and assess
- Design and plan
- Build and transform
Discover and assess
Before investing money and embarking on the journey, it is crucial to take stock and analyze precisely what is required by the business. What needs to be transformed, and how? Is it the technology itself, or would the business benefit from automating manual processes, for example?
The next step is to consider what, specifically, in the IT department needs to be transformed digitally. Does the entire infrastructure need to be updated, or is it just a few processes that would make the department more efficient and relevant to today’s working environment?
Assessing the environment in which staff are working is also essential. Of course, many people are now working remotely, or splitting their time between the office and their home. Investing in technology that is fit for purpose among today’s landscape is key.
As they say, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. First and foremost, analysis must be carried out to provide an overview of what is required and how.
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Design and plan
Once it is clear what a business needs and how these requirements will be met, the digital transformation path can begin to be embarked upon.
First, we recommend laying out the transformation strategy itself, and the cloud adoption strategy (assuming cloud adoption is going to be part of the digital transformation of a business). The architectural design stage also needs to be mapped out here, essentially strategizing which infrastructure, or new technologies will be built into a business’s system.
But also within this stage comes an important part – building the business case. Without board-level buy-in and justifying the cost required to transform digitally, the journey ends here.
Build and transform
And now the final stage, the building of infrastructure and the eventual transformation of the business.
Key aspects of this stage include piloting the proposed transformation actions, the installation, configuration and stress testing of different technologies. This will hugely aid the eventual transition to the new systems.
Assessing and building in cybersecurity measures is advisable here too, as more devices continue to operate outside of the office. This naturally increases the cyberthreat landscape and number of threats the business faces. Investing in endpoint solutions that protect devices in and outside of the office is critical.
And finally, once the business has been digitally transformed and new processes have been put in place, staff members must be thoroughly trained on the new systems, to maximize the capability of such processes. The success of the transformation lies in its uptake, and how well it is bought into and used by all members of the staff that it affects. To ensure thorough and broad adoption, businesses must place emphasis on change management. Buy-in throughout the whole business is crucial. Change can be challenging, but if it is embraced, companies will find that IT projects are far more successful.
Measuring the digital transformation’s ROI
As it’s not necessarily a tangible metric, it can be hard to measure the return on investment (ROI) of the transformation journey and its success. However, numerous considerations can help determine what the ROI is.
Firstly, setting out objectives for transformation - it could be to improve the customer experience, the company’s infrastructure or staff productivity, for example. Secondly, outlining the costs of implementing the transformation strategy is essential – as is knowing what the outcomes of that financial outlay are. This will provide a reference point and clear performance indicators when measuring ROI.
Of course, setting realistic goals is important in the first place; stage one of the journey, discovering and assessing, should provide guidance on setting achievable targets. And when implementing new systems, there are different metrics that can be detailed in order to measure their success. For instance, if trying to improve end user experience, tackling common pain points experienced by external parties such as slow load times and application response will help reach the overall goal. If IT systems offer a rapid response, end users won’t feel frustrated by the operating system.
It’s vital to focus on staff training, especially the people most likely to be interacting with the new tools and systems once in place. It would be a disaster if goals, such as increasing productivity by a certain percentage, weren’t met because employees weren’t maximizing systems to their full potential through a lack of knowledge.
And finally, as with any other aspect of a business’s operations, never stop measuring! Continually measuring the ROI will give a holistic view of what areas need to be improved – and help justify the initial investment.
More than just jargon
We have entered a time where digital transformation is arguably more crucial than ever before, if businesses are to adapt and operate alongside the pandemic – and beyond. It can no longer be seen as just jargon, with its significance fading into white noise.
And while the process can seem daunting, sticking to the key principles of discovering, planning and building will make traversing the path of digital transformation much simpler. It can seem like a daunting task, but, with analysis and strategy, it can be achieved, whatever the goal. Ultimately, the end-user must always be front of mind, and transformation geared towards improving their experience. The shiniest, most elaborate IT project could be delivered, but if end-users can’t utilize it, then ultimately, the project has failed. Transformation, at its core, must deliver positive outcomes.
Mark Skelton, CTO, CANCOM (opens in new tab)