How to Reshape Your Company Through Digital Transformation

Whether B2B or B2C, customers now expect seamless digital interactions. Any delay in service is viewed as frustrating and unacceptable  and, however strong the brand, customers will only put up with slow service for so long before they move to a competitor with a smarter offer.

In order to expand business opportunities and improve operational processes, every business should be looking to adopt a digital mindset. A recent survey conducted by Smart Insights found 34% of business already had a digital transformation programme in place, with a further 31% looking to launch a programme imminently. However, it seems Europe, in particular, is lagging behind: just 5% of manufacturers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea) are digital champions, according to a recent PwC study.

Many businesses delay the process due to fears around upfront investment costs and disruption to services. However, if this reluctance ends up costing a loss of business, the reasoning begins to wear thin. The tangible economic gains relating to efficiency, productivity, increased revenue and investment should be motivation enough for companies to consider their journey to digital.

The dawn of Industry 4.0 means that almost all sectors can benefit from a digital transformation.

However, companies should be wise to a few golden rules to achieve the most from the process.

The ‘Whole-Digital’ Approach 

The first way to make the most of your digital transformation is through the ‘whole-digital’ approach. This approach aims to convert all business operations to digital systems, rather than converting one-by-one over a period of months of years, and enables businesses to deliver a competitive process that leaves no gaps in service for customers.

For example, if you convert your warehouse supply chain system into a digital process but the finance department that processes payments are still using manual, paper-based invoicing, the efficiencies for business operations will only be partially realized. By converting all elements of the warehouse supply chain at once, simple integrations can be made at each stage to automate many more stages of the pipeline.

Full integration offers better oversight of systems and processes and reduces the risk of error- insights which are harder to spot when technologies across the business don’t connect. Additional software solutions and smart algorithms can also be applied, reducing the amount of time analysts need to manually sift through data. By taking this approach, businesses can hope to create greater efficiencies more quickly and catch up with digitally-native companies.

Maximizing the Return on Investment 

Companies worried about the high upfront costs associated with new digital technologies would be wise to understand how the process can actually generate savings in the long-run.

If applied to business operations correctly, upfront costs can be recouped in as little as one year, through an increase in overall productivity. Further savings can be gained by ensuring employees work on the specialist tasks that fit their expertise, no longer wasting time on fiddly processes and paperwork. Studies also show that digitally-savvy companies are better able to attract and retain top talent, all of which will impact the success of the business over time.

However, before rushing forward with a new digital plan, companies must be sure to plan carefully and wisely. Overambitious transformation ideas might sound exciting, but risk wasting time and money in the long-run. The best digital solutions fit the needs and the size of the company.

The Power of Change Management

Managing change always requires work and digital transformations are no different. The importance of keeping both employees and customers engaged and up to date with changes linked to the project should not be underestimated. In fact, companies that prioritize internal engagement can expect to see a 47% higher return on investment overall.

Company employees are the ones who will be facing the changes, daily, so their buy-in is essential. Clear communication and strong leadership helps to smooth the process as staff adopt new ways of working. Businesses should look for digital integration tools that support their existing infrastructures to reduce the impact of new development tools and processes.

Any changes to customer processes must also be planned and communicated well in advance to minimize disruption and the risk of disgruntled clients. By letting digital experts take care of the transformation process, your company can focus on the human elements of staff and customer satisfaction.

Planning for Industry 4.0 

Each industry will face specific challenges around business operations, data protection legislation and service delivery. Finding the right partner who understands the nuances of your industry should be the first, most important step on the journey to a digitally-minded company.

Why Most Small Businesses Will Fail at Digital Transformation—But Not Yours

In a recent survey of 1,267 CEOs, Vistage Research found 61% of these leaders plan to increase their technology spend in 2019 compared with last year, predominantly on business applications.

CEOs’ top four reasons for investing in technology:

Streamline operations (63%)

Improve employee productivity (54%)

Get ahead of competitors (41%)

Respond to customer demands (41%)

As these CEOs understand, technology can create a real competitive advantage. So why is it that many SMBs struggle to realize the full potential of their investments in technology?

It could be because 49% of them haven’t developed a digital-first technology strategy. For the 51% that have, it may be because they don’t know how to leverage that technology to meaningfully transform their businesses.

If you fit either one of those descriptions, here are some insights from our report on what you can do to change that.

Three steps to getting started with digital transformation

Step 1: Rethink analogue processes

Digital transformation is about more than buying technology. It’s about adopting a digital-first mindset—saying goodbye to analogue, human-optimized workflows and designing new ones around the capabilities built into systems and applications.

How could you reimagine interactions with your customers to create better brand experiences? Where could you automate repetitive processes or mundane tasks to improve accuracy or give employees more freedom to create, connect and collaborate? Tackle questions like these in small groups, with the people involved, and you may be surprised at the solutions that emerge.

Step 2: Revisit system integration

The process of selecting, integrating and implementing technology is challenging. Almost half of CEOs (47%) rely on external IT consultants or contractors to support the multitude of decisions they face.

All your systems and applications—from CRM to ERP to billing—need to be seamlessly integrated so they can provide a single view of your operations, people, customers and finances. Only then can digital transformation really take shape.

Step 3: Realize a change-management strategy

It’s natural for people to resist change, especially when it could threaten or expose how they work. Make it easier for your employees to adapt to new data or workflow systems by developing a change-management strategy based on these eight tenets:

Seek alignment among senior executives. This helps coordinate communications about changes so employees can understand and embrace the new system.

Set clear standards and expectations. Defining expectations from day one helps everyone feel informed and accountable.

Outline milestones and metrics. Create a roadmap that clearly defines dates, utilization assessments and business metrics.

Develop a buy-in strategy. This encourages key stakeholders and cultural leaders to become ambassadors for the broader organization.

Establish a marketing-communications strategy. Every project phase should have its own overarching message of strategic value.

Train your employees. Provide professional development for every employee to advance their competencies and skills. As best practices emerge, share them.

Reach for quick wins. Establish a sense of momentum by making these visible and continually sharing progress towards the end goal.

Recognize key employees. Doing this along the journey reinforces desired behaviors and helps unlock buy-in beyond management.

While these tried-and-tested steps will get you off to a great start, true transformation is never easy. But with a long-term perspective and the right mindset, you’ll stand the best chance of success.

5 truths about digital transformation

Get used to this pace: Technological advancements will only get faster. Blockchain, artificial intelligence and 5G networks are already ushering in the next seismic wave of change. While you’ll always be under pressure to keep up, a clear strategy will help you to direct your investments well.

Expect to spend: It’s not a good idea to short-change investments on business-critical infrastructure, applications and IT talent. Accept the fact that quality technology comes with a cost—the alternative is automating chaos.

Transformation will be hard: IT projects will usually take longer, cost more and be harder to complete than you think. The shift to digital-first thinking and transforming ingrained processes will test you, your team and your employees in unexpected ways.

IT carries risk: Using data to better manage your customers, employees, operations and financials does come with risks. Cybercriminals are working relentlessly to exploit vulnerabilities in your digital security. A digital business is all about your data, so protect it as vigilantly as your cash and investments.

It’s still about people: Technology can do amazing things. But it’s only powerful when it equips leaders and managers to make better decisions, enables workers to be more productive, and facilitates deeper connections with your customers. These are the things that propel a digital-first company into the future.