Technology is continuously evolving, creating an ever-shifting landscape for businesses to try and stay competitive.
The high-powered technology you invest in today could be rendered obsolete five years from now, causing hesitation in key decision-makers and stakeholders. However, the cost of staying the same tends to outweigh the costs associated with initiating change in dramatic ways.
Initiating a digital transformation is essential to prevent stagnation. However, it takes a strategic, scalable approach to ensure you don’t outpace your means for sustainable growth.
Here is what you need to know about navigating a digital transformation in your organization.
What Is a Digital Transformation?
A digital transformation is the replacement of archaic technologies and protocols with a newer alternative at a high-level overview.
Unfortunately, we live in a fast-paced digital society where “archaic” could be defined as something from just 10 years ago. This rapid evolution puts businesses in a precarious position. Do you invest heavy resources in advancement or risk being outpaced by the competition?
It is important to understand that a plethora of focal points falls under the digital transformation umbrella. Your company’s digital transformation could look dramatically different from your competition’s, or the industry as a whole. It all depends on when your business last implemented changes, how the company is evolving, and your future goals.
Your digital transformation could focus on financial improvements, from new revenue streams to transaction processing technologies. Or, it could address customer relationship management tools and AI-driven supply chain platforms. Regardless of your focal points, strong strategizing and change management are key.
Here are six tips for successfully navigating a digital transformation.
1. Audit Your Business and Clarify Goals
Before making any changes within the organization, it is necessary to review the existing tools, processes, systems, and protocols. Prepare to conduct an audit on your business to outline what is currently working and what areas offer opportunities for improvement.
It is essential to take a company-wide approach when conducting this audit, connecting with key stakeholders and frontline workers.
For example, your Chief Supply Chain Officer will have very different insights into current processes than the foreman on the production floor. Yet, those different perspectives are equally as powerful when navigating a digital transformation.
It is also important to look at what tools are in place, how they interact with each other, and how gaps are currently bridged. Does your accounting system talk to your inventory system, or is data inputted manually? Are reports accurate, or do they require a customized solution to aid in reconciliations?
Understanding your current challenges will create the foundation for prioritization and goal setting to take forward to a consultant.
2. Work With a Digital Transformation Specialist
You don’t need to complete the auditing process to hire an intelligent digital transformation company, but having some initial feedback and goals will help drive the relationship.
The benefit of hiring a digital transformation specialist is to help set priorities and create a road map for the journey ahead. They can create a structured yet customized approach for your company and help streamline the process by improving productivity and aiding resource management. While the idea of a digital transformation sounds entirely technical, a lot of human resources and change management strategies have to be navigated as well.
When vetting a digital transformation specialist, look for someone with proven experience with various successful companies. Prioritize a specialist who understands that the human aspect of a digital transformation is equally as important as the technological changes.
3. Prepare Your Business for Change
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of a digital transformation is change management at a human level. Humans are naturally resistant to change — it is a form of self-preservation. That is why it is crucial to get employee buy-in at all levels from day one.
First, focus on getting leadership on board. Not only do leaders drive change in the organization and understand the need for it at a higher level, but there is also a natural trickle-down effect.
Consider creating an engagement team that incorporates high potential and foundational employees at all levels. This team will help showcase even footing and ownership of the process while influencing other employees to embrace the changes.
Remember that the goal isn’t to prepare your employees for this change; it is preparing them for ongoing change. A digital transformation is ever-evolving. Implementing adaptability, innovation, and discovery as a core component of your business will create a resilient company culture that is ready for anything.
4. Create a Clear Action Plan
Once you have your goals set and your team in place, it is time to create a clear action plan. Prioritize which issues merit the most immediate attention.
Work with the digital transformation specialist and cross-functional team to highlight which areas need to be optimized and which need a complete overhaul.
Determine which projects need complete focus or have contingencies and which your teams can complete work in tandem. Take some time to set milestones, KPIs, and actionable steps for progress tracking. Finally, assign names and project managers to improve buy-in and accountability.
5. Prioritize Clear Communication
Getting employees excited and sparking that initial boost of enthusiasm for the road ahead is the easy part — but what about when the going gets tough? Transformation isn’t linear. There will be setbacks, frustrations, and pivot points that will impact how people perceive and interact with the process.
Prioritizing clear communication and empowering employees to give feedback is critical for long-term success during a digital transformation. It is an essential aspect in reminding people why these changes are necessary and why the status quo is no longer sufficient.
Most importantly, be transparent and own mistakes at a leadership level. No one expects perfection, but they do expect accountability.
6. Stay the Course
As mentioned previously, a digital transformation never truly ends. Your company must continue to adapt as technology continues to evolve. However, it is important to stay the course and complete one aspect of the transformation as planned before moving on.
It is a common occurrence for vendors or salespeople to introduce a newer, better solution while you are implementing the change you’ve highlighted and already dedicated resources to. They play off the fear that your new technology is already obsolete and that your competitors will be ahead of you.
Remember to block the noise and stay the course. Perhaps your competitor will capitalize on the newer technology — but it will still take the entire navigation process to implement it.
Change is never easy, but always necessary. By enlisting the help of an intelligent digital transformation consultant, setting clear goals and milestones, and focusing on a human approach, you can successfully navigate a digital transformation in your business.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.