In an earlier blog post, we wrote about how digital transformation can make businesses more efficient, but for many companies, simply jumping into the digital transformation process is a daunting consideration. It can entail everything from the micro, inter-office communication systems or product tracking, to the macro, cutting down on personnel as automation increases (painful) or providing an entirely new customer and user experience (delightful). Regardless, no matter which digital direction your company needs to take, here are five things to consider before wading into the fray.
1. Get your daily affirmation: “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!”
Stepping into the process of digital transformation can and should lead to some soul searching: What are you trying to accomplish with the transformation? Who will benefit the most? What kind of added business value are you trying to achieve?
But, it is important not to lose sight of the things that made you successful to begin with. Look in the mirror and affirm your business identity and understand that a digital transformation doesn’t (usually) mean a complete concept reinvention. If your strongest element has been customer service, examine how you can continue to deliver that same stellar service while upping your digital game. If your strongest element has traditionally been product viability, think about how you can use your transformation as an opportunity to support these great products rather than completely reinventing them.
The point is, a digital transformation is not changing who you are, it’s just changing the way you deliver business value to your customers.
2. Embrace the crawl.
All you hear about today is the speed of everything—the speed of the global marketplace, the rapid growth of technology, the fast-paced business world, etc. While each of those statements is true, they refer mostly to the atmosphere outside of your business. Inside of your business, the process of initiating a digital transformation starts with a crawl, not a sprint.
The temptation, when staring down the digital possibilities, is to want to try to do everything all at once. But, unless you’ve got outside help, or a fully dedicated internal team, implementing sweeping changes right away is a quick way to ensure that you will run into problems. Rather than building your new house on an old foundation, take the same care you took the first time around to build a great, new foundation.
Embracing the crawl does not mean you need to be conservative in your transformational scope. It simply means that the first stages of your mission (the crawl before the walk) need to be spent laying out a comprehensive and actionable plan that all in the company can embrace and execute.
3. Choose ambition.
We just talked about embracing the slow crawl of the planning stage for your digital transformation, but now we’re going to say something that seems like it contradicts that: choose the ambitious over the conservative. After all, it’s not a transformation if all you’ve done is a website overhaul. No, instead look as far down the line as you dare, and then look a bit further. Choose the ambitious goal that will not only satisfy your immediate needs, but put your company in a position to capitalize on your choice well into the future.
Choosing ambition is not a pie-in-the-sky proposition. It is understanding that, any time technology prompts fundamental changes in the way business sectors operate, it is usually the risk-takers whose foresight is not for survival but for growth that end up in the best position once the proverbial dust has settled. Keep in mind, as we mentioned above, that no overhaul can succeed without an actionable plan. Do your homework and think beyond the horizon.
4. Care more about your data.
Yes, every digital transformation article must include a section about cybersecurity. At this point, if you haven’t over-thought your data security strategies, you are already in trouble. Remember when we talked about planning your transformation strategy? If “What is our ultimate business objective?” and “What is our data security strategy?” aren’t questions 1A and 1B, then perhaps it’s worth rethinking if you’re ready for the digital era.
The bad news is that even the giants have data security problems (Yahoo, Equifax). The good news is that new technologies like blockchain look on track to provide formidable solutions to these problems.
The backbone of a digital transformation is data. This is indisputable. With the implementation of digital strategies, everything becomes a data point. And, with each data point, comes an ability to drastically improve your company’s operational efficiency and business value. However much you care about your data now, you need to care about it even more. Think beyond a “what-if” situation. Position data security as an absolute imperative with multiple layers and strategies. Refuse to settle for anything less.
5. Ask for help.
There are a few geniuses among us who can blaze singular trails based on grit, tenacity, and luck. For the rest, there are always others who are either facing, or have faced, very similar problems. In fact, there are companies that specialize in helping to solve those problems. Digital transformation means different things to different companies, but there are very few problems that arise that will be totally unique.
You may be a self-styled maverick, or a business guru, or a client whisperer, but the enacting of initiatives that have the potential to alter your business functions well into the future is a tall task that you should not expect to take on alone. Looking outward for help not only allows you to find professionals who specialize in digitizing old business models, but can also give you a second set of objective, experienced eyes as you go through the initial planning phase.
Asking for help is the opposite of admitting defeat. It is the understanding that everyone has strength and weaknesses, and then being smart enough to leverage those strengths to your full benefit.
Are You Ready for the Future?
The points we’ve outlined above will not solve your digital transformation problem. The beauty of this particular moment in time is that the possibilities are relatively endless and so the solutions you can pursue are equally open-ended as well. Being ready for the future is more than just building safeguards, it is about feeling confident enough to embrace a vision of growth when many are simply hoping to prolong survival.