By Antony Biondi, Head of ECM
We’ve been hearing about digital transformation projects for many years, mostly in negative tones. The Boston Consulting Group report that 70% of digital transformation projects fall short of expectations, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste for the many that have tried and failed to deliver meaningful digital transformation within their business.
So why is it that 56% of businesses are speeding up their digital transformation efforts, according to research by Crown Records Management? The unfortunate answer to this question is that the increased requirement for remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered investment and innovation in digital transformation like never before — with IT teams forced to get remote systems up and running in days rather than months. Project failure was not an option.
However, things are not quite as simple as it first appears. While 90% of large (2500+ employees) UK organisations believe they are digital, smaller companies have not yet taken the same digitisation journey. Is this because only large enterprises need cost savings, increased employee productivity, and growing compliance and regulation?
No — the issue is that businesses often don’t have the resources to explore how to execute a digital transformation. Quite frankly, they don’t know where to start.
Thankfully, we are here to help with three simple steps to get your digital transformation journey underway:
Step 1: Accept The Challenge
Digital transformation requires many changes — in operations, IT systems, and the way people work. Most humans are cautious beings and often resistant to change. A digital transformation project might seem like a massive leap into the dark, but the first step is simply accepting the challenge.
The decision of whether to accept that challenge and go digital often comes down to one straightforward question:
What are the impacts of NOT going digital vs What are the benefits of going digital?
If you’re struggling to define the benefits, sometimes it helps to look at the risks of inaction. What will happen if you don’t go digital?
- Your competitors will move further ahead and leave you behind
- Your staff will become frustrated with inefficient processes and systems
- It will limit your company’s ability to innovate and adapt to changing business scenarios
- It will increase the likelihood of manual errors, process inefficiencies and wasted time and effort
If the benefits outweigh the impacts, your business needs to go digital. At this stage, don’t worry about how you will go digital; focus on the fact that you have realised that your business needs to go digital — you have accepted the challenge.
Step 2 – Map the Journey
With the decision to go digital made, the focus shifts to identifying precisely what needs to be done to achieve that. The critical thing to remember here is that the transformation is a journey that doesn’t need to be done all in one go.
This step in the process can and should take some time. We need to understand a series of factors that affect the journey and how your business takes it. In this phase, we need to:
Explore and define the business objectives
- What are the specific benefits of going digital for your business? These need to be defined and shared with all the key stakeholders.
Map the existing processes
- Exploring how documents and data flow through them, where human interactions are involved, and which areas frequently act as bottlenecks.
Map the future processes
- Identifying which processes will have the most impact, which could provide quick wins, how technology can rethink specific processes, the gains that can be achieved, and most importantly, how staff will be affected by the new process.
Identify potential technology solutions
- Which tools and techniques can help address the specific digital business objectives of the company. How will new technologies interact with existing tools, and what will the impact be on staff and processes.
Many businesses fall into the trap of doing these steps in the reverse order — starting with a technology or software product that they want to deploy and then retrofitting the needs of the business around IT. This is absolutely the wrong approach and will only lead to failed projects, budget overspending, misaligned expectations, and ultimately a complete waste of time and effort by all. Start with why the business needs to do this, and everything else follows behind.
Step 3 — Transformation Time
Then the excitement happens. Taking the plan, communicating it with the team, and executing it is when the magic happens; however, you know what to expect by doing the necessary amount of upfront thinking, review, and planning. The execution of the plan is relatively straightforward — yes, there will be challenges and hiccups, there always are. But this is the part where your digital transformation journey begins to gather a head of steam. Enjoy the excitement of the new ways of working, embrace the change, and look forward to the benefits, but remember, digital transformation is not a project – but a journey.
You never really finish a digital transformation — there are always more processes to digitise, new team members to onboard, and changing business requirements to deal with. But as a digital organisation, your business will be in the perfect position to face those challenges head-on, adapt accordingly, and move forward with confidence.
Digital Transformation – As easy as 1,2,3
Being digital is a prerequisite for any organisation to compete in the modern business environment. In the UK, research shows that the larger the company, the more digitally advanced they typically are, but digital transformation is not just for global enterprises. The COVID pandemic forced many companies to implement the ability to work remotely, and Crown research identified that 66% of UK companies believe that the pandemic made their c-level executives fully recognise the importance of digital transformation. But digital transformation is a journey, and remote working was just the start.
By following the best practices above, companies of all sizes can break down the challenge of beginning the next phase of their digital transformation into three simple steps. And once you start the journey, you’ll never want to stop.