Digital transformation can be hard to define, if not impossible, as it is difficult to pinpoint what it means to every organisation
It will look different to every business and what works for one may not work for another. However, businesses in all industries are talking about it because of its ability to streamline operations, deliver efficiencies and ultimately provide increased value to customers. But before embarking on the transformation journey, a business must have clear expectations about what digital transformation means for them.
Many see digital transformation as a promise of shiny new technology. But it is much more than this. As the cost of supporting legacy IT structures escalates, it can be more about moving away from these systems to ensure the business is transformed, so that it becomes future-proofed. It could mean moving systems to the cloud, updating end-user devices, increasing automation, or all three, but whatever technology is implemented, it should contribute to improving agility within the business.
Many organisations may fear that they are already behind in the game, but this is not necessarily the case. Digital transformation is not an easy journey and there are many aspects to consider. Redhat describes digital transformation as requiring a change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models. Incorporated into this should be the digitisation of assets and increased use of technology to improve the experience of employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders. Quite an undertaking, which shows that the journey cannot be completed in isolation. It requires input from the whole business and often a complete change in mindset is required by the staff.
Therefore, it makes sense to start with the people. Making sure that they are included and on board with any changes is key to ensuring a successful transformation.
Focus on the end user
The end-user of any technology should be the focus and starting point for digital transformation initiatives. The simple fact is that while the technology will enable the business and drive it forward, it is your staff that is pushing the buttons, analysing the data and making things work. Taking it down to the base level, as an example, your employees use a multitude of devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. Whether that is in the office, on the move, or in a remote location, it’s vital this technology enables them to complete tasks, be flexible and gives them the right access to the company network and systems. If your workers are using technology that is cumbersome, difficult to use or too slow, their productivity and morale can suffer.
Looking at it from a wider angle, implementing new technology to achieve digital goals sometimes means new skills need to be taught to ensure users receive direction on how to get the best benefits out of the new technology. As a result, your staff need to know what your goals are, how the technology will help achieve them, and the role they play in the transformation journey. Again, if they are just lumbered with new technology without being told why it’s important or how it contributes to making the business better, it is their work (and your bottom line) that is affected.
The same can be true when it comes to setting the technology up; if you don’t have the IT staff in-house to make this a reality, how can you be assured that the devices (regardless of what they are) are set up correctly? That they have the requisite security settings and access permissions? User experience is crucial here and if your staff members are unable to access what they need to make proper use of the devices, it can have a negative impact on your business.
Collaboration is key
It is here that using a technology partner can help; they already have an understanding of both the technology itself and the ways in which it affects the user. They also have the resources and skills to help you onboard your staff onto the new technology estate, making sure they realise the full benefit.
In fact, when trying to overcome perhaps the greatest challenge of digital transformation – cost – working with a technology partner can help you find an alternative approach to funding. Instead of investing capex in new technology and buying the hardware outright, many businesses are turning to subscription models. If you take this same approach to funding the technology aspect of transformation, you can ease the burden of capital expenditure and ensure you effectively future proof your business.
From a technology perspective, you can also be more agile and react to changing market conditions or requirements more quickly because you already have the means in place to fund your efforts. Moving beyond digital transformation, subscription models give you the flexibility to perform updates and upgrades immediately, instead of waiting for budget to be released.
Moving into the future
The right time to transform will vary from business to business. But, limited budgets and the continuing drive to cuts costs shouldn’t be a reason to delay. Especially as technology can ultimately support the organisation’s growth plans and goals.
Any change needs to start with the user. RedHat advises focusing on building the culture within the business and balancing technology changes with corresponding process changes — ensuring that the technology is fully supported by staff. Making sure that users are both involved and supportive of any project is certainly an ideal place to start. Not only can it help to maximise the returns on the project, it can also increase staff motivation and morale.
About the Author
Chris Labrey is MD of Econocom UK & Ireland. Econocom is a European group that makes digital transformation happen for companies and public organisations. We help our clients get the most out of digital by focusing on users as the starting point for their digital transformation.