How to approach digital transformation

By Anders Björklund

How to approach digital transformation

Executive teams and decision-makers face various options for enacting a digital transformation as technology becomes better and more standardised, with many tools to choose from. While it may be exciting to imagine the possible upgrades you can make to your company, a digital transformation approach will help you be more focused. 

The suggested approach is essentially a structured way to move through the process, how you get from point A, the pre-transformation, to point B, the post-transformation.

These are some guiding questions and additional requirements to help create a viable digital transformation approach and plan.

Why you need a transformation

Like all plans and approaches you create for your company, designing your roadmap begins with that you must identify your purpose. It will help if you start by uncovering your company's challenges that have significantly impacted the success or operations you feel may become more effortless with technology. 

This could be from day-to-day automation tasks like news or info emails or more essential business needs like data collection. 

You may also hope to address multiple challenges at once. For example, say your company has challenges handling customer requests because you use different platforms to store customer data and communicate with customers. Your sales reps may have difficulty accessing a customer's history with your company because they need to sift through numerous records and jump between platforms to find the information they need. This consumes time, and customers may be frustrated by how long it takes to resolve their issues. 

In this case, the answer to why we need a digital transformation is that your customer service team struggles to give your customers the experiences and responses they expect and desire because of long wait times and disorganised data storage. Whatever your reasons are, identifying the fundamental challenges that expose the need for a digital transformation makes it simpler to create the desired goals and metrics that will define your process's success. 

What you need to transform

As I mentioned above, the challenges and pain points you've identified answer why you need to transform. Once you have this, it becomes easier to figure out what needs to be done and what steps to take to overcome the challenges you've outlined. 

You must aim to develop objectives and metrics you can use to guide yourself and your team through the process, including workflows, identifying key stakeholders, and assigning critical tasks. 

You must come up with at least one objective or goal if you have multiple pain points. 

When you have identified and decided the objectives, come up with a time frame in which you should meet them to succeed in your transformation. To continue the previous example, your challenge is that reps don't have access to a summary of client history. Your objective can be that you want a streamlined process for inputting and cataloguing customer information over the year and a maximum one-minute wait time for accessing customer records and data during service interactions. 

With this essential goal in mind, you know what you need to achieve to say that you've transformed your process. Then, it becomes easier to identify the tools that will assist you along the way. 

What you need to change

This question involves researching and identifying the needed technology to transform successfully. Some of these may be transitional tools that help you reach your end goals, while others may be the permanent solutions you implement and use "forever." 

To use the same example as before, you'll want to know the tools you'll need to transfer the data you already have into the tool your representatives will use to access customer data within the specified timeframe. This could mean that the tool you use initially is a simple data integration platform that you'll use to merge existing data from your different sources. After this, you may need a sorting tool that categorises data into relevant categories. 

Finally, this data must be further integrated into your Customer Relationship Platform (CRM), which everyone with customer interactions can access. 

Get company buy-in

A digital transformation initiative affects all areas of your company. Given this, you must obtain company-wide buy-in. You can't just get started and expect a seamless process. This crucial principle comes after the first three guiding questions — inspire buy-in using your previously gathered understandings. 

You must present a clear why statement explaining your need to undergo a digital transformation. Next, the information in your why offers a value proposition to explain the benefits the company (and employees) will obtain from this transformation. Finally, maybe you can share projections you've come up with or a case study based on market research and competitive analysis. 

And, it is advantageous to let your colleagues know it's an involving process. You don't demand that they get on board and deal with it — you want them to participate and contribute. For example, they can pose questions, offer suggestions, or ask about new tasks. 

Research industry and competitors 

As with most new initiatives, it's essential to understand what your competitors do. Conducting a competitive analysis will help you do this, as you'll generate a well-rounded picture of how they're performing. 

Your competitor research shall explain how they handle their businesses if they've implemented and succeeded with digital transformation and uncover areas for your company to outperform them. It's also essential to conduct overall market research to understand what your industry is experiencing to know how you compare or as an inspiration to guide your process further. 

Allocate a budget 

A digital transformation is costly, especially if it's an overhaul of your current methods. So allocate a budget once you understand your purpose and outline how you'll need to change. Your budget should address all possible expenses you'll encounter throughout your digital transformation process, such as software costs for transitional or permanent tools, costs to hire new colleagues, employee training, and allocation of funds for unexpected expenses. 

The unexpected costs section in your budget is the most essential, as a digital transformation is based and dependable on change. In addition, these changes are new, so you'll want to be prepared if any issues arise from adaptation difficulties along the way. 

Create a digital transformation roadmap.

Once you have all the necessary information, the next step is implementing your approach. As mentioned above, that's how you'll get from pre-transformation point A to post-transformation point B. Again, the digital transformation roadmap is the way to do this.

Digital transformation guide

In this guide, you can learn why digital transformation matters, what successful initiatives look like, and how to avoid common pitfalls.

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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