By now, most of us have heard of the idea of digital transformation and how critical it is to the longevity of our business. Yet, despite all the hype, there is little discussion on what digital transformation really means, or advice on real-world steps on how to get there. In this article, we're going to tell you in simple terms what all the fuss is about as well as what steps are required to move your company to a digitally transformed state.
Digital transformation; what’s it all about?
At its core, a digital transformation is all about a creating a unified technology platform that reinvents the entire organization. No matter what department, no matter what process, all data and analytics are focused on one thing: business improvement. The key benefit to digitization is the accelerated way in which a business can adapt to new changes and opportunities.
Steps to move toward a digitally transformed state.
Digital transformation isn’t just another project on your IT roadmap. Nor is it simply about adopting new technologies. Instead, digital transformation should be thought of as a shift in philosophy within your organization. This might sound daunting, and indeed you can get lost in the technical details. But the process can be broken down into these four simple guidelines.
1. Scope of digitization
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the digital transformation of a business is in the actual scope of the work that needs to be undertaken. This isn't only about improving efficiencies in one or two areas of the business. Nor is it simply focusing on improving the business from a single viewpoint -- such as customer experiences. Instead, the scope must encompass the entire business from top to bottom. What this means is that you need to identify advocates of your digital transformation journey within every department of your organization. It's these subject-matter experts that will be responsible for flushing out the processes and procedures that will eventually be digitized into a larger, unified technology platform.
2. Start from scratch
When beginning the digitization transformation process, it's easy to take the processes and procedures that are in place today, and simply work to migrate them onto more advanced technologies. Instead, the better decision is to allow your subject-matter experts the flexibility and creativity to ask themselves "if I were to recreate this business process today, what would it look like?". More than likely, your current business is built on outdated and inefficient processes and platforms. This becomes a great exercise in finding and eliminating weak spots in current business practices. It also helps to identify systems, data and technical skill sets you’ll eventually need to obtain.
3. Build your transformation platform in parallel to production
As you move down the path toward digital transformation, you'll likely find that the technologies and updated processes to run your organization will negatively disrupt current operations if they were simply shoehorned in throughout various stages of the migration process. That's why it’s recommended that digital transformation systems be built in parallel. That way, you can fine-tune and thoroughly test new business processes from end-to-end. And while this may not be completely feasible for some, complete parallelism should be considered the brass ring with which to achieve. Fortunately, technologies such as virtualization, containers and cloud computing make this step far more attainable than ever before.
4. Design for continuous improvement
The fact that we're discussing the necessity to completely transform your current business should be a clear indication that whatever business platform you end up building, it needs to be built with the ability for continuous improvement. The goal of digitizing and unifying all aspects of the business is that it becomes not only more efficient and capable of performing advanced analytics, it must also be flexible to unforeseen changes. Current business systems must be able to be modified to adapt to business changes. Remember, once the business is digitized, any new strategies, goals or pivots in the business will need to be accounted for from an technological standpoint. All applications and infrastructure should be built with API's that allow for data to be easily moved and changed. After all, this is about data collection and analytics. As long as data collected is pliable for use on future systems and for future uses, that will effectively futureproof your platform.