Digital transformation is a buzz word that's starting to get thrown around a lot more these days, yet as with many terms within our industry, you don't exactly walk away knowing what the hell it means just by hearing the term.
So, in order to shed a little light on the topic, we here at Revenue River have decided to help define this overly vague term while giving our thoughts on why it is so relevant to the majority of businesses and their digital marketing strategies. From there, we'll detail out a list of things to consider when looking to successfully execute a digital transformation of your own.
In short, digital transformation is the end result of a digitalization process where an organization leverages technology to drive increases in effectiveness, efficiency, and visibility. Organizations often look to gain the above benefits from digital transformation efforts either by replacing manual processes or outdated technology that doesn't communicate with each other or automate efforts.
Why It's Relevant Today
Even though digital transformation effects all sizes of companies, much focus has been put on the transformation processes and technologies associated with enterprise-level organizations. While the need may have been greater for these larger companies at the beginning of this movement, small to medium-sized organizations are now seeing the need to begin their own transformations. These businesses are seeing pressures from their customer bases to not only be online but to also drive efficiencies within their businesses that bring down costs/prices and meet user experience expectations. As many of these business are finding, achieving all of these things can really only be done through technology and automation. Ultimately, these market pressures are forcing SMB's to evolve or risk becoming obsolete.
While an increasing number of businesses have accepted the need for some sort of technology within their processes and structure, many are either limiting their reach within the organization or simply maintaining manual processes where technology could automate. The reason for this comes down to a number of different factors ranging from a lack of education or buy-in from management to poorly conceived and implemented transformation plans that failed to consider key elements connected to customer/market needs, proper technology and data integrity, and overall organizational buy-in. For the former, education is key and full buy-in is absolutely necessary to drive the success of any transformation. For the latter, working as a team or with experts versed in the process is vital when it comes to properly mapping out a successful transformation.
Things to Consider/How to Successfully Execute Digital Transformation
With market pressures pushing businesses to transform in the digital era mixed with leadership teams that are unprepared to navigate transitions like these, we've put together a number of things that should be considered by any business looking to successfully execute a digital transformation.
Understand the market direction and consumer expectations
Whenever an organization makes a big move, market research and consumer feedback should always be considered. Ask yourself the following questions to help you understand how a digital transformation might be viewed and accepted:
- Do you know for sure that your consumers are asking for things that would only come from a digital transformation?
- Are they ready for major changes in the way you do business via technology?
- What exactly are they looking for and what are their expectations of how you should provide that to them?
Research the technologies that can help within the transformation AND drive growth beyond
Knowing what technology you can and should use for yourself currently and how they will work together in the future to help you continue to grow is extremely important. Ask yourself these questions when looking at potential solutions:
- What technologies are out there that can solve any specific business cases while still being flexible enough to work well with other areas of your business?
- How can you utilize specific technologies to centralize your data and activities?
- What can you automate to drive your team's efficiency and effectiveness?
Perform cost-savings analysis on tech investment versus efficiencies/capabilities gained
Knowing that customers want something and what technology can help you solve it is good, but you still need to take a business-minded approach to this implementation. Ask yourself the following questions before you take this to your bosses:
- How much will the implementation of the new technology that you've selected cost you?
- What's the price of the tech now and through renewals?
- Are their onboarding/training costs?
- Will you need to bring in experts to configure or customize it at all?
- Who from your team will you be dedicating to the successful implementation of this new technology and how much of their time will it take up?
- When can you expect to have the new technology fully implemented and your team fully trained on it?
- How much time will this new technology save your team on a regular basis and what will they be doing with that time instead?
- What new capabilities will this new technology allow your team to do and how will you get the most from it?
Get executive buy-in through education
You can't implement digital transformation alone and you need the people who will sign off on the expenses and changes to be on board, obviously. Ask these questions to help you understand how best to approach your decision-makers:
- Who are the organizational decision-makers that would be required to sign off on such a large project?
- How do they approach decisions like these?
- How technology-savvy are they and what is their level of comfort when it comes to technology and automation within the workplace?
- How can you bridge any knowledge gaps in a way that showcases the need for this transformation?
Limit planning and decision-making to a "digital counsel"
Decisions within a digital transformation and after it has been implemented should not be made by people who are unfamiliar with the technology or its structure. Building out a digital counsel will help establish some structure for decision making that will ensure success. Ask yourself these questions:
- Outside of just the executive team, who from a leadership position within your organization would be effected by this new technology, either personally or through their departments?
- Can you establish a "digital counsel" of these leaders who meet regularly to discuss the structure and use cases of the new technology before, during, and after its implementation to ensure the continued success of the technology within the organization?
- Can you establish this as a legitimate function within the organization so that it is clear how decisions are made within the new technology landscape established through this transformation?
Project manage the shit out of it
No organizational change of this size will be effective without solid project management. Ask yourself these questions to understand if you're ready to manage the whirlwind:
- Do you have a professional project manager who can approach this implementation in a way that mitigates as many risks as possible and navigate through issues related to new technology and process adoption?
- Do you know what steps to take first in implementation?
Implement in phases to avoid major disruption
You don't eat an elephant all at once, you do it one bite at a time. Ask yourself these questions to help you prioritize which bites you should be taking first and how you go about doing so:
- What are the core pieces of technology or process changes that need to happen first?
- Do you know what order of priority different elements of this transformation looks like and do you have a timeline for when you expect to implement, test, and refine each phase?
- Have you considered how this timeline will effect the day to day for both internal employees and external customers and stakeholders?
Measure efficiencies and effectiveness gained, make tweaks along the way
You're implementing major change for a reason and that is most likely related to driving measurable results. Don't forget about that fact and be sure to ask yourself these questions so help you understand how you should go about tracking your progress and success:
- How will you measure success and how often will you review those measurements?
- Who will receive updates on progress like this and how often?
- How will that review structure allow you to be proactive in changes to your plan and timeline when things don't go according to plan?
Digital transformation is a beast of a process for any company, big or small. Without a full understanding of what the process is, why it's important, or what to consider when performing one, you're left with a very slim chance of successfully navigating it with your company. It makes sense that something so transformative within an organization has a high risk of failure, but we believe here at Revenue River that with the proper considerations and approaches, any organization can tip the odds in their favor and realize the major benefits.