Digital transformation, and the increasing need for businesses to develop a digital workplace, has been subjected to significant scrutiny from C-suite executives within the first half of 2020. Just three years ago, only 47% of companies within the Harvard Business Review said that their organisation had a formal digital strategy. Over half of the respondents had created only partial strategies and some even had no strategy at all.1
In recent years we’ve seen that companies – and even entire industries – which do not prepare for a digital future will simply be left behind. With the advent of Apple’s iPhone signalling the start of the true smartphone era in 2007, taxi companies failed to recognise the impact it would have on their sector. Importantly, they did not leverage the opportunities this new technology provided and have been made virtually obsolete by organisations that have.
In 2009, the idea for Uber was born on one snowy night in Paris. The following year the first Uber rider requested a trip and travelled across San Francisco. In 2011, the company began to offer services in Paris before moving into the field of food distribution - offering ice cream delivery across seven cities within the United States. By 2018 this one organisation had processed ten billion transactions and transformed into the world’s largest transport provider, operating across a total of 24 countries.
This isn’t to say that a digital strategy guarantees this level of success. However, with the fourth industrial revolution presenting the digitally savvy with considerable opportunity, those that don’t develop them are certain to lag behind competitors that do.
Why does your organisation need a digital transformation strategy?
Much as it always has, technology is constantly improving. Evolving to meet new demands, as well as to bring new efficiencies to long-established needs. It can be easy to fall in with the old adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”, and it’s easy to understand why.
Generally speaking, people dislike change. In fact, nearly half of front-line workers report that they prefer to retain status quos and familiar working environments.2
If you fail to take advantage of the opportunities new technology can bring, you deprive your business of considerable opportunities and competitive advantage. While keeping the status quo can feel safe, it actually represents quite the opposite. While your costs and efficiencies are not growing, others who take advantage of the various benefits of digital transformation, such as automation and streamlined processes will be able to work more efficiently and attain higher cost-benefit, both for themselves and their markets long term.
It’s also worthy of note that whilst your technology may not change, cybercriminals are consistently finding new ways of exploiting it. In recent years this has led not only to increases in the number of attacks, but also the costs faced by businesses that are targeted. Even outside the cost and efficiency savings you can make with technological evolution, simply staying up to date with the latest security practices and products is vital for your business’s safety and regulatory responsibilities.
A successful digital transformation strategy will help your organisation in a number of ways. For users who resist change and even risk-averse C-suite decision-makers, the meticulous planning and risk-mitigation built into this type of business strategy can provide comfort. When stakeholders know that all steps shave been carefully considered, it’s much easier to achieve buy-in at all levels.
Whether designed to allow you to offer your employees more flexible working, protect your organisation from cybercrime, making your organisation more efficient or anything else, a digital transformation strategy is a potent means of driving improvement across a broad array of functions. If you don’t have one already, creating one is almost certain to be the most important thing you do in 2020.
The first steps in creating your digital transformation strategy
Creating a fully-fledged strategy can be a daunting task. Without knowing where to start it can often feel unattainable. Your first steps in creating and executing your digital transformation strategy are vital and will have a significant impact on the creation and success of associated projects.
The first step in the plan is simply identifying what outcome you want from your digital transformation. This could be something as simple as cutting costs or offering more flexible working for your employees. Remember that these are the wider goals which you are looking to achieve, rather than detailed points for each.
Once you have created your list of transformation objectives, the next step is to identify the actions which will get you there. For example, if your ultimate goal is to offer more flexible working, one action may be to improve your business applications and move your servers to cloud hosting. Another is to create secure remote access or replace static office equipment with portable docking solutions. While creating this action plan, you should also look at which technologies will help you to realise your objectives.
After creating a clear action plan, find out what your organisation needs to make it happen. This could be mistaken as simply identifying the technology involved, but in reality, it goes much deeper. If one of your goals is to attain government contracts, for example, one action could be to attain ISO 27001 accreditation. Rather than just technology, you’ll also be looking to identify any processes, policies, procedures and people you need to fulfil the action plan criteria.
You’ll also need to establish your costs before any project work takes place. One of the advantages of your fully-fledged digital transformation strategy is that, with clear goals and actions identified, you’ll have a much clearer view of required budgets. At this point, it’s vital to ensure that the project will bring sufficient returns in order to justify the expenditure.
Create a Timeline and Project Team
The creation of a timeline and project team are the last tasks in developing your digital transformation strategy, but are equally as important as everything which has come before. Your project timeline should include realistic deadlines for each action that will allow you to fully plan tasks that rely on each other or that could be actioned at the same time.
In addition, when assigning your project team, you’ll be able to identify responsible and accountable personnel for each task. Working together, with this one plan, each member of the team will be aware of their duties and deadlines, as well as the responsibilities of their colleagues, and how tasks tie together.
Finding your strategic partner
Creating a digital transformation strategy can be a tough task. Without knowing the latest advances in technology and best practice, even the research needed to have a firm grasp on the available options is typically too substantial a task for all but the largest organisations. This is where external partnerships can be vital to businesses, allowing your C-suite to focus on ongoing business tasks.
Digital transformation consultation services offered by strategic partners such as ROCK can provide a vital insight into the options available. These services ensure that your organisation is able to enact transformative and impactful change through the use of technology, working with you to guide or entirely create your digital transformation strategy.
Tips for creating a digital transformation strategy
Whether working on your own or with a strategic partner, there are a few things you should be mindful of when creating your .digital transformation strategy.
Ensure you gather feedback from users at all levels of your organisation
It’s vital that you achieve buy-in from users, and this is especially important for those who will be working with the systems day to day. These are the people who will have a firm grasp on what needs to change, and also which systems are working well. As a result, they are positioned perfectly to add significant value to your strategy.
Much like a high-rise building, if you build a digital transformation plan which is absolutely rigid, a strong wind can break it entirely. Each strategy will need to flex at times, to keep up with changing requirements as well as emerging intricacies that may affect budget, timescale and risk. Building this flexibility into your plan will ensure that it can adapt to new information, rather than fall apart.
External input can be sourced at any time
When creating your transformation strategy, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are at all unsure of the direction or viability of the strategy it is always worth seeking assistance from a strategic partner. It doesn’t matter if the strategy is partially complete, or completely non-existent, a good partner will be able to guide you from any point.
Involve business resources from the beginning
When creating your plan, you should build a team that includes specialists not just in technology, but also members of your finance team, and c-suite decision-makers. Including these team members from the beginning will ensure that when you have to consult with them during the project, they are already up to speed and have all the information they require to make informed and decisive action.
Ensure your digital transformation strategy is complete before projects begin
As obvious as it may seem, it is vital that you ensure there are no elements left to chance, leaving no need for ad-hoc actions added through the project. Your digital strategy will be one of the most important plans you make, and you should have every step detailed before any transformative actions begin.
Without a digital transformation strategy, organisations run the very real risk of being left behind in an increasingly digital world. In order to ensure your business has the best opportunities for growth and prosperity. It is an invaluable resource and following the steps above is one of the most important tasks your organisation can undertake.