Investment in digital initiatives is expected to reach $2.3 trillion by 2023 (IDC).
Digital Transformation, often referred to as the fourth Industrial Revolution, provides improved productivity, greater efficiency of operations and better customer experiences, so it is essential for businesses to embrace the process to remain competitive.
Initiatives are expected to add $100 trillion to the world economy by 2025 (World Economic Forum).
Likened to eating an elephant, Digital Transformation is impossible to do all at once and needs to be broken down into manageable pieces.
- Set objectives
Before you automate or upgrade any of your business systems, you should have a clear idea of what your goals are for this process. A comprehensive IT strategy creates a solid foundation for carrying out digital transformation.
Objectives should be realistic, meaning achievable within your timeframe and budget. An example of good objective-setting in digital transformation can be found with General Electric, a leading company in the energy sector, who wanted to increase the efficiency of their wind farms.
They developed their ‘Digital Wind Farm’ technology, using real-time analytics to deliver 20% efficiency improvements for their turbines, translating to an estimated $50 billion for the energy industry.
Bear in mind that your priorities may change as the transformation progresses. Your objectives need to be flexible to allow for adjustments if necessary, whether for innovations in your sector or changes within the business.
- Secure buy-in from stakeholders
A successful digital transformation can require significant investment, especially if you are initiating a company-wide infrastructure overhaul. A reason for digital transformation failure is opposition from stakeholders; a survey found that CEOs and the board of directors were the biggest barriers at 37%.
To secure the necessary buy-in from stakeholders, you need to demonstrate how the digital transformation will benefit the business as a whole. This means showing how the objectives can be met and how each department will benefit from improved systems.
You should ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of exactly what is involved in the transformation process, and what is required of them at each step. This will help to avoid any confusion or conflict as the project progresses..
- Ensure the plan is aligned to business goals and vision
The aim of digital transformation projects is to improve business performance. It is therefore critical that the technology solutions you choose are tailored to your specific business goals.
For instance, sports brand Nike wanted better ways to promote its products and connect with customers. As social media began to gain popularity in the late 2000s, Nike capitalised by adjusting its strategy to incorporate these platforms. By allowing consumers to vote on designs and share their experiences with Nike products, the company gains a valuable source of information that it can use to identify trends for product development and provide better customer service.
- Make sure you get everybody involved
Digital transformation is an ongoing process that requires continuous collaboration between employees throughout the business, not just IT professionals or managers. 70% of large-scale projects don’t reach their stated goals, with a lack of employee engagement named as a leading cause for these failures.
71% of managers state the workforce is important to the success of digital transformation. Therefore, reviewing the impacts of changes can help determine whether the transformation is helping.
For example, have employees been able to complete tasks more quickly? Have any workflows changed, requiring them to learn new processes? Do they feel empowered by these new tools or are they frustrated by having to relearn things?
In the case of Nike, moving from paper-based design to digital not only helped cut costs but appealed to younger designers, giving the company a broader scope for design work.
- Understand and mitigate the outsourcing risk
Digital transformation is often a huge undertaking, requiring careful planning, technical expertise and significant resources.
With technology advancing at a rapid rate, even internal teams can struggle; a survey found that 89% of IT heads were increasingly relying on advisors to navigate a changing technological landscape.
In this case, outsourcing aspects of the transformation process can help mitigate risk. External partners can give your business access to the latest technology and industry expertise, while having the resources available to handle large-scale infrastructure upgrades.
However, it’s important to choose a partner that’s right for your business. Cyber security is a critical part of digital transformation, so businesses should consider external partners with the latest certifications and a proven track record in data security.
Beyond that, any external partner should understand how your business operates and align with your vision, ensuring they develop the most suitable digital transformation strategy.
Digital transformation is a necessary undertaking, but can be daunting for businesses undergoing massive changes.
This is often a long journey with no quick fixes. However, by engaging all departments and ensuring a unified vision for your future technological capabilities, your digital transformation can be a success.