| 5 min read

8 Steps to Begin Your Digital Transformation Journey

Written by Rich Vercesi

Probably the biggest buzzword around at the moment, digital transformation is permeating every business, in every industry.  It’s unavoidable; digital technologies are changing the world in monumental ways and, as a result, organisations now have no choice but to embrace these technologies and evolve if they want to stand a chance of surviving the next few years. 

But, according to a recent survey, only 8% of respondents considered their company fully digitised, 31% stated that they take on digital transformation projects on an ad hoc basis, and another 31% shared they were still working on their plan.

Clearly, despite the global drive towards digital, the majority of businesses still have a long way to go on their digital transformation journey. The important bit is making a plan and starting because, whilst the future of technology may be uncertain, one thing is certain: doing nothing is the biggest risk when it comes to digital transformation. 

 Simply put, it’s no longer a case of ‘if?’, but ‘when?’

And whilst digital transformation is unique for every company, there are some important steps that everyone should consider as they begin their transformation journey:

 

1. Determine what ‘digital transformation’ means to your company

One of the most difficult things about digital transformation is the fact that there is no one, universal definition of what it is. Ask 10 CEOs, CTOs or CIOs what it means to their business, and you will get a different answer every time. This isn’t surprising, considering the fact that there are so many technological advancements available, and that every business has different customers, clients, and needs.

So, bearing this in mind, the critical first step when embarking on a digital transformation journey is to establish exactly what it means for your company.

Look at the bigger picture and take into account your challenges, maturity, industry, competition, value chain, customers, ecosystem and any other variables that influence your business. Use this information to define what digital transformation means to your organisation in its own specific context, why you need it, and what you are trying to achieve.

 

2. Assess your current capabilities 

Once you know why you need to digitally transform, and what it will look like for your business, you need to take stock of what digital capabilities you currently possess. Examine your tech stack, your technologies and your employees; anything and everything that is used to make your business what it currently is should be considered.

It sounds simple, but the majority of businesses will make their digital transformation strategy without considering how their organisation is currently operating, which can leave them vulnerable to either over or under transforming…

 

3. Establish how you will go digital

With both your objective and capabilities established, you will be in a good position to evaluate the various digital transformation alternatives that exist for you.

Ranging from front-end transformations such as products and customer experiences to back-end transformation such as cloud and IT infrastructure – or solutions that transform both – there are a wide number of options to consider when building a digital transformation strategy. For example:

  • Redesigning products to have a digital component such as IoT
  • Building digital ecosystems by harnessing Big Data, connectivity and the cloud
  • Transforming operations and factories using automation, machine learning, or 3D printing
  • Building a strong IT infrastructure in order to provide a central digital nervous system for your organisation
  • Evolving your customer experience to take advantage of digital technologies and include features such as chatbots or online booking

Your strategy might be a combination of internal and external transformations, or it might just be one small change. Regardless, it is always important to remember that any digital solution is a means to an end; always keep your end goal in mind when setting your digital transformation strategy to ensure you are bringing value to your customers and your business and not just adding new technology for the sake of it.

 

4. Get the right buy-in

Once you have a digital strategy and solution thought out, it is imperative that you obtain executive buy-in. Doing so not only shows your commitment to digital transformation but is critical to getting your project off the ground and running – and to ensuring investment.

It might seem a relatively straightforward step in comparison to building out an entire digital transformation strategy, but it might take time to get the right buy-in so its key that you put this in motion as soon as possible once you have a solid plan in place.

 

5. Create a roadmap 

With the right strategy, and the right buy-in, you need to look at your digital transformation plan practically and build an effective roadmap. You can’t change everything at once, and you need to have a comprehensive plan of how your transformation will actually work.

What will you change first, what will have the biggest impact and drive the most value, and what is an unavoidable blocker to progression? Building out a roadmap to establish when everything should and needs to happen, how your business will progressively change, and what your digital transformation looks like over a certain time period, is essential.

 

6. Ensure you have the right skills in place 

When considering the reasons for the failure of digital transformation projects, one of the main ones that comes up time and time again is a lack of skills. It’s hardly surprising, considering the fact that digital transformations are normally dependent on cutting-edge and emerging technologies, that businesses might not possess the expertise and skills necessary.

Indeed, in the 2017 State of Digital Transformation report, 31% of respondents noted that a lack of digital talent and expertise presented a real challenge to the success of their transformation initiatives. Echoing this, in a survey of 1,200 human resourcing and talent executives, 54% believed that the digital talent gap is hampering digital transformation and competitiveness in their firm (LinkedIn & Capgemini).

Clearly, when planning a digital transformation project, businesses have to focus on hiring the skills that are essential to driving their transformations forward. In fact, failure to do so has even been shown to definitively lead to project failure and negative revenue

 

7. Prepare the entire business

Communicating your plan and vision for the company is just as important as coming up with the strategy. Indeed, it has widely been acknowledged that successful digital transformation is as much contingent on a cultural change within a business as it is a technological change.

If the value of a transformation is not communicated well, the company may not obtain intrinsic buy-in from employees which could act as a hindrance later on in the journey. Provide employees with transparency, a clear structure and plan, and adequate training to prepare them for the digital transformation.

 

8. Begin your digital transformation 

A pretty simple step – start executing on your plan! Ensure you remain committed throughout; companies that have had successful digital transformations are those that have set their sights on the end vision and worked towards setting the business up for future success and growth.

 

Looking to begin your digital transformation journey? 

Get in touch with one of our specialist consultants to discover how you can get your transformation initiatives off the ground