Today, digital transformation is ubiquitous. And, because of COVID-19, the requirement of organizations to continually adapt to new technologies has accelerated. Businesses are expected to do this on both organizational and industrial levels so they can keep up. McKinsey has stated that “Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap at both the organizational and industry levels,” with executives “expect[ing] most of these changes to be long lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.” Therefore, for businesses to stay competitive, digital transformation is a necessity, but it is not something that should be tackled haphazardly. For changes to stick and to make a true impact on the innovation and competitiveness of an organization, a strategy is required as is buying in across the organization. This article will outline six components that are required for a successful digital transformation strategy to take shape.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Digital Transformation Strategy?
- Why Do I Need A Digital Transformation Strategy?
- How to Create An Effective Digital Transformation Strategy?
- How Has COVID-19 Affected Digital Transformation?
- How Can We Help?
What Is A Digital Transformation Strategy?
A Digital Transformation Strategy is the process of leveraging tools and technologies to align them with business goals and future opportunities. It’s an integration of current process optimization and outdated process transformation. While digital transformation (DX) strategy is heavily associated with technology, the latter is not the most important part. In fact, there are three core fundamentals in a digital transformation strategy: people, processes, and technology. Without the three collaborating, the journey would be fruitless.
The term “digital transformation” is familiar to most. For the public, it’s a transformation from analog to digital. For business owners, it’s a transition their organization undergoes to stay competitive. It’s common for business owners to be hesitant to implement a digital transformation strategy because it means changes for their organization. In addition, it can be scary to not understand exactly what that process will look like. Digital transformation has become more prominent in recent years, largely due to the massive migration to remote work during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Still, the motivation to implement digital transformation for businesses has always been there.
Many SMBs have been reluctant to go through the process because they assume that digital transformation is only applicable to bigger organizations. However, all businesses, no matter the size, should implement digital transformation to maintain a competitive advantage. While there is more than one definition of the term, many agree on one: digital transformation strategy is a digitizing process – from manual to automated, from outdated to current, from complicated to simple. It’s the process of optimizing business efficiency, and a transitional journey a business should go through to stay relevant in the market.
Many business owners think that digital transformation is an outcome when it’s really about the journey. It’s a chance for businesses to plan and realize their long-term and short-term roadmaps. These roadmaps must be created with business goals in mind. The roadmap then acts as the essential foundation of the digital transformation journey.
It would be a mistake to think that a business only goes through ‘one’ journey and is finished. This is because technology and people continually change. There will always be better methods to optimize processes. There will always be room for people to utilize technology for greater innovation and productivity. What works now may not work in the future; that’s why the digital transformation journey is done in phases and must continue as businesses aim for new goals along the way. Digital transformation is a significant undertaking that will be challenging for companies of any size. However, when done properly, it will result in businesses that can keep up with a fast-paced digital future and whose goals align with their client’s needs.
Why Do I Need A Digital Transformation Strategy?
Business owners may ask, “Why does it matter if I have a DX strategy or not?” and most experts would respond with something along the lines of, “It matters because it’s a survival issue.” For a business to survive, it’s imperative to start and continuously implement digital transformation. Business owners may feel that they’re falling behind in this regard, but it’s never too late to start.
Developing a digital transformation strategy is important because it ensures an impactful, measurable, and concerted effort toward key business goals. What happens when a business goes through a digital transformation with no strategy in place? If there is no strategy or plan, there is no clear way to achieve the end goal. On any journey, a map is needed to indicate stops, requirements, and progress checks. This is the same case with a digital transformation journey; when there is no path, there are no milestones or checkpoints of achievement.
For a successful digital transformation process, buy-in is required from the rest of your organization. Start with a cost-benefit analysis and provide tangible examples of what the outcome will be. Take cloud-based storage, for instance; current cloud-based storage is subscription-based, and the software is always up to date. It comes in a single, non-aging package with a monthly or annual fee. This is easier to manage than buying a CD or software package that needs to be repurchased and reinstalled every year. Let the software provider do the work for business owners as the product updates and works in the background.
As a business owner, you can also propose the idea of optimizing business efficiency in your business. Why should it take five people to complete one process when the entire thing can be automated? Time-consuming processes (for instance, onboarding documents) can now be completed with automated software, saving time. As another example, instead of printing documents for signature, we can now send out the digital copy for signatures and have it stored in the cloud with maximum security. This will save time, reduce the possibility of losing the document, and lower the administrative burden for employees.
Another goal could be to elevate the customer and employee experience. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams ensure employees can easily connect and collaborate to complete projects. For instance, SharePoint enables file sharing and news. OneNote can be used to write meeting minutes and projects. Meanwhile, Teams meeting rooms enable hybrid meetings with coworkers and clients. These tools can be leveraged to make tasks easier to complete and make everyone’s lives easier. Through digital transformation, employees and customers can have a seamless experience with technology while saving time and money to achieve their goals.
The world is constantly digitalizing. E-signatures are in and printed documents for signature are out. Power BI is a business intelligence tool for powerful visual reporting and data analysis. Gone are the days when Excel is the only tool you need to stay relevant. Today, businesses must stay up to date with technology to remain competitive.
How to Create An Effective Digital Transformation Strategy?
#1 It Starts With Discovery
Every organization has different digital transformation needs. Every business is unique in its current state and desired end state. And that’s why the discovery aspect of the digital transformation process is one of the most crucial. It’s important to do a deep dive into what the business needs and the gaps that exist before a plan of action can be developed. Otherwise, without a clear understanding of the pain points and what the end goal needs to look like, the solution won’t consider all the possible requirements. Internal organizational groups must be engaged as they are the key users who understand where gaps may exist in the organization. These groups are best able to understand the pain points of the business and which areas are going to have the biggest impact if improved. Information is gathered through working groups, interviews, and surveys.
SysGen is a great example of the discovery and exploration process informing your digital transformation strategy. We conduct a comprehensive assessment to understand the digital maturity, infrastructure, and processes of the organization. For example, is your server old and does it require replacement? Or would cloud work better for your organization? Are your applications working for you? Which Microsoft licensing does your business use, and could you benefit from using upgraded applications such as Power BI?
Through this discovery and exploration process, possibilities are uncovered such as tools that can help the business improve processes while saving time and money. For example, could Microsoft Forms be used instead of clients writing their information by hand on a document that must be scanned and inputted manually? Could Power Automate be used to trigger a flow of processes for when a new employee starts at an organization so that the required forms are sent, and the right people contacted about employee onboarding?
The purpose of the discovery aspect of a digital transformation strategy is to ensure the big picture of the organization is determined while understanding how the smaller pieces and processes bring it to life. The major goals of discovery are to determine the fundamental and agreed-upon pain points that need to be resolved after the engagement is complete, while also realizing the opportunities available to the organization through technology adoption. What are the current issues that, in a future state, would no longer exist? What does the organization have the potential to become post-adoption? Pain points dictate the major issues that need to be worked upon but agreeing on these issues can sometimes be a challenge because of the different experiences employees have within the organization.
#2 Involve The Right Decision Makers
To understand the current organizational situation and the desired digital transformation end state, the right people must be at the table to provide their perspectives and the pain points they experience. Digital transformation is a people issue and, therefore, it’s important to involve those who will be impacted by the changes during the decision-making process. Here are some of the decision-makers to include in the process:
Subject Matter Experts are those with in-depth product knowledge and are the most active users of applications and processes. For example, if the recruitment process requires significant administration work, be sure to bring in the HR Manager. You should also loop in others who ensure the HR process runs smoothly in everything from application development and posting to data collection.
Everyday Users are those that periodically use the processes and applications in question and who would be impacted by the decision to change technology processes and applications. Their understanding of how applications impact their work is important in adjusting for a better future.
Leadership is the leaders of the organization who manage employees and set strategies for the business. Not only is their investment in digital transformation integral to its success, but their mentality of believing in continual change for the growth of the organization also ensures the success of the company. Their influence on employees and the growth of the organization is paramount.
#3 Change Management Integration
One of the most important aspects of digital transformation is ensuring change management is implemented throughout the lifecycle of the entire process. Employees and decision-makers need to be involved and engaged so that they are aware of the various changes that will impact their work daily, and so that they can learn the new and improved way of doing things. Ultimately, digital transformation is about people. It is important to minimize the amount of disruption as much as possible during digital transformation. While it cannot be eliminated, reducing the amount of disruption to an employee’s daily role is ideal, and that’s where strategy comes into play. Providing training courses and user groups gives employees the tools they need to hit the ground running when it comes to the implementation of digital transformation. Empowering project managers or team leads also provides clarity and context for the changes to come and provides a destination for employee engagement and questions. Taking ownership of their respective modern workplace areas including sites, teams, and documents is one of the critical metrics for adoption measured.
Communication is also paramount to successful change management. The key is to start early and to be consistent. In the case of change management, over-communication is your best bet for a successful digital transformation. Creating channels for employees to reach out with questions or concerns helps support change adoption and provides employee confidence in the changes that will be occurring.
With digital transformation, change should become the behavioral norm within the organization. It should not be defined as a project with a beginning and an end. Today’s world is constantly evolving, and technology will continue to change at a rapid pace – therefore making change a constant in your organization and a foundation of your culture. This sets your organization up for success.
With technology being the tool at the core of digital transformation, it’s important to ensure that your business is using the one that works best for your needs. A key part of the digital transformation journey is to dive deeper into the application options and discover how they can be leveraged to work for businesses. It is imperative to choose the tech solutions that scale with the business’ long-term strategies to make sure that the transformation process will yield desired results. Choosing the right technology requires understanding the business needs, vetting the various technologies available, and choosing the one that will serve the end goals of your business best.
Microsoft’s software ranges from Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Forms to Power Automate, Power BI, and more. Microsoft Teams, in particular, has experienced exponential growth during the pandemic, having become the chosen communication and collaboration platform in many workplaces. With its ability to integrate with almost every other Microsoft software and expand into Teams rooms, the platform is a primary player in the process of digital transformation. SharePoint and OneDrive possess native integration with Teams by default, and both are key tools for storing data for external and internal use. Microsoft Forms is often used in conjunction with these applications to collect data and information. The Microsoft Power series (Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents) is the next level for automation processes that can work with Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Forms to ensure seamless automated processes. These tools are at the forefront of digital transformation outcomes.
When a business goes through the digital transformation journey, the strategy must be planned. It should also be implemented in phases, so it does not overwhelm all parties involved. According to Richard Rumelt, an Emeritus Professor of Business and Society at UCLA, for a good strategy to take place, there must be a battle plan for action with guiding policies, diagnosis, and coherent action. During a digital transformation process, the current business must be understood, and the pain points identified. Then, any progress from the plan must be tracked all while reaching the end goal. Decision-makers who work with digital transformation teams then will receive deliverables such as an adoption plan (how businesses measure success and what a successful adoption looks like, such as the migration plan from the in-house folder file system to OneDrive), a communication plan (communications documents such as emails on Teams), and/or training plan (cybersecurity training for employees) throughout the process. These deliverables ensure that the project is on the correct trajectory.
#6 Execution And Operations
Once the strategy is in motion, business owners and the digital transformation team must understand progress through reporting and forecasting while offering potential future solutions as the business evolves. This part may be the easiest part of the journey, but only if the implemented strategy is well-planned. All parties involved should monitor progress and any obstacles that may arrive.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Digital Transformation?
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses to go through the digital transformation strategy faster than previously thought possible. This resulted in many businesses being without proper strategy and governance in place. Therefore, experimentation and testing for many were no longer optional, and there was no time for the strategy of the future state – survival mode was the only solution.
Businesses had to scramble to implement mobile solutions for their employees and run cybersecurity measures to ensure their business continued to run. Unfortunately, this survival mode may cause some chaos for them further down the road. Incidents such as hacking attempts, a lack of proper governance in cloud-based file storage, a disconnect in communication and collaboration, and/or an overall lack of organization are some of the issues businesses might experience due to premature adoption of digital transformation methods.
As the pandemic continues, it’s eye-opening to see how some businesses function without digital transformation tools. For example, some companies may still use a physical filing system, and a lot of time is spent looking for documents in filing cabinets. Not to mention, files may be placed in the wrong location or stored in a separate facility due to space limitations. In addition, some employees may not have access to the most updated versions of data, so duplicated or conflicting information is a reoccurring issue.
Instead, digitizing data and information and storing it securely within SharePoint or OneDrive is a superior way of file storage. SharePoint allows organizations to maintain a single source of truth to avoid duplication. Sharing the files seamlessly for future reference or collaboration is also possible using OneDrive or SharePoint links, so employees won’t need to physically move the files. Engaging digital transformation experts to ensure strategy, along with the correct implementation, ensures a successful DX journey.
How Can We Help?
The key to a seamless digital transformation strategy journey is to ease the business into change. Phases and gradual adjustments are preferred over massive overhauls, as this allows employees to adapt to change slowly over time without becoming overwhelmed. SysGen’s Digital Advisory team can help business owners and their employees to understand technology while making it accessible to everyone. The Digital Advisory team is composed of experts in the field who are experienced in key technology tools such as Teams, SharePoint, PowerBI, and automation. They can help businesses implement a solid governance system for a properly planned strategy and subsequent implementation.
When it comes to a digital transformation solution, the time to start is now. Once leaders decide to embark on the journey, their business can proceed towards a future state of innovation and growth. You can find SysGen’s Digital Advisory services in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Vernon, and Kelowna. Connect with our team about protecting your organization with an informed and effective digital transformation strategy today.