The world looks different than it did three to five years ago. Digital technology, and the way we use it, has completely changed. We’re living in the era of digital transformation, and it’s widespread across countless industries.
IT managers and CIOs are rethinking their pre-pandemic strategies because it’s widely believed that companies that place the customer experience at the heart of their efforts own the future.
If you’re unsure as to whether your business needs to ride the wave of digital transformation, it may be best to start with a definition of what digital transformation is. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds.
What is digital transformation?
In a nutshell, digital transformation focuses on the integration of digital technology into business processes. Not just in one area of a business, but as a whole.
Digital transformation requires a shift in how a business operates and delivers value.
According to Rodney Zemmel, global leader at McKinsey Digital, "digital has been accelerating in just about all categories" for consumers. This is an indicator that habits are changing and consumers are willing to try new forms of digital technology. There’s a willingness to learn and adapt.
This little tidbit of information is important because it challenges businesses to experiment and try new things — knowing that some endeavours will fail, while others will succeed. This applies to all business processes, from customer relationship management to supply chains and human resources.
Consumers are ready and open to your company moving through a digital transformation. If anything, it’s almost expected that medium and large companies have implementation plans in place.
After all, this is the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
What is the difference between digital transformation and digital innovation?
Innovation and transformation are practically buzzwords, but there is a difference between digital transformation and digital innovation.
One key point of differentiation is speed.
Transformation takes time. The company is shifting from one process to another involving new technologies.
With innovation, sparks fly, and creativity is in full bloom. Innovation is a new, novel idea that makes its way into the company’s strategy.
An example of digital transformation
One place all Canadians can see this shift happening is in the Government of Canada’s embrace of new technologies. They built on Canada’s Digital Government Strategy and introduced Canada’s Digital Ambition.
According to the website, the purpose of Canada’s Digital Ambition is “To enable delivery of government in the digital age for all Canadians. This will be done by providing modernized and accessible tools to support service delivery that expresses the best of Canada in the digital space.”
That statement gives us an idea of why the government is putting digital transformation to work. The government realized that the foundation for its programs and services were 20 to 50 years old and needed to be overhauled.
Five tips for approaching digital transformation
Transformation takes time, planning and project management. Here are five tips:
1. Clearly outline your objectives
Ask yourself, what does digital transformation mean to my company and my employees?
The lens you use to look at digital transformation depends on your sector.
As an IT manager, you will need to work with various levels of leadership to create a comprehensive outline with actions and expected outcomes that not only make the best use of new technologies, but also people.
Like with any game plan, it won’t work if your digital transformation goals are poorly communicated, unclear or you don’t have buy-in.
A good start might be to download Gartner’s IT Roadmap for Digital Transformation as a guide.
2. Spark a culture shift through leadership
When we think about leadership, the image of a digital leader rarely surfaces. However, this role is paramount!
Artificial intelligence tools, freelancers, in-person staff working with hybrid and remote employees (and vice-verse) is a lot to juggle, and everything needs to operate in concert.
Creativity and agility are two of the strongest skills a leader can have given the transitory nature of the modern workplace. Many may think the role of a company’s IT department is to lead the charge on digital transformation, but to get the strategy off the ground, strong leadership and effective change management are needed.
Support from the top down will power your digital shift through to completion.
3. Develop a cohesive strategy
It’s one thing to have goals, it’s another to have a strategy that can be easily integrated into systems and processes.
One of the many challenges businesses face when trying to implement a digital business strategy is their area of focus.
While a strategy takes more time than one-off upgrades, take the holistic route and roll out your digital transformation plan across your entire company. It should seep into every system and process.
4. Agility and adaptability reign
The pandemic prompted many companies to overhaul their workplaces by embracing emerging technologies and giving employees more control over how, when and where they work.
It also caused ventures to rethink how they sold to, and served, customers.
Check out the examples below to see how pandemic-related agility moved many companies into a phase of digital transformation, fueled in part by machine learning and automation.
5. Invest in your people
If you invest in your people, your people will continue to invest invaluable time and energy into your company. Look at your team and aid them in their upskill journey. The opportunity to gain new skills will make them more engaged and open to change.
How to measure the success of a digital strategy?
Strategy and metrics go together. Here are five questions to help you define your metrics and measure against them as you work through your digital transformation framework.
- What’s the return on our digital investments?
- How has our digital transformation strategy improved employee productivity?
- What is the response from our customers? Have our efforts improved the customer experience in any measurable way?
- How reliable are our systems and processes?
- Is the company seeing an uptick in revenue from the integration of digital technology?
Examples of digital transformation
Technology can often be seen as a barrier to trial. For many businesses, digital technology advancements, when paired with extraordinary circumstances, transform those barriers into bridges.
Take a recent project by Trillion, a Canadian provider of offerings for advanced metering infrastructure, for example. The company set out to create a smart meter for Canadian water usage much like the smart electrical meters installed in homes across Canada.
Last September, Trillion replaced the outdated water meters at a townhouse complex in the Don Mills region of Toronto with wireless metering.
Data from these meters are read by transmitters and sent back to Trilliant every six hours. Once processed, the usage data is sent to Provident for billing.
The innovation, entirely reliant on new technology, puts an end to the need for wired meters, which are difficult to run through existing basements. It also solves for the line of site issues many wireless meters have by placing a wireless access point on a street light poll in the middle of the complex.
Here are a few more examples of some of the major digital transformations that have occurred in Canada over the last two years:
- Brick and mortar businesses adopted an ecommerce strategy to accommodate online sales and curbside pick-up, automating business processes along the way. For many companies, these changes were critical to keeping the business running. It also elevated their post-pandemic readiness to embrace new technologies.
- It’s agile and flexible. Two key components that helped businesses restructure their operating models.
Fitness and mental health apps
- When gyms and fitness studios closed, people turned to YouTube, various applications that offered personalized workout routines or virtual classes via their local gym. Others purchased a Peloton.
- Noting a surge in requests for mental health support, human resource departments looked for companies that were offering virtual assistance and created packages for employees.
Personal service apps
- When Canadians were advised to limit their trips to the grocery store to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, personal service apps increased in popularity. Through apps like SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Instacart, people had their groceries delivered. Their favourite dishes from their go-to restaurants were brought to their doorstep.
Digital transformation recap
The most important part of digital transformation is your plan and how you measure its success.
- Clearly outline your objectives
- Spark a culture shift through leadership
- Develop a cohesive strategy
- Agility and adaptability reign
- Invest in your people
- Return on your digital investments
- Impact on employee productivity
- Customer satisfaction
- Test the foundation for your systems and processes
- Increase in revenue
Remember, a digital transformation strategy is fluid. It’s built to change as technology changes. Stay agile!
The information contained in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an endorsement or advice from GoDaddy on any subject matter.