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Digital transformation

February | Business Transformation | Read time: calculating...

Digital Transformation: challenges (and resolutions) for organisations facing the digital world

Digital transformation is no walk in the park, but without it, your business falls behind. Understanding the challenges that arise and learning how to overcome them are keys to a successful digital transformation.

Digital transformation. In 2020, if your organisation isn’t discussing it, you best start! Digital transformation marks a foundational change in how you deliver value to your employees, stakeholders and customers. But it doesn’t come easy. With an ever-evolving digital world that is unforgiving to those left behind, organisations face daily challenges navigating its murky depths. That being said, the rewards of a successful digital transformation are bountiful.

So, what is digital transformation?

Sometimes a hype word overused by CEOs and IT experts alike, digital transformation is far more than putting your documents in the Cloud or chatting with colleagues over a messenger system. Digital transformation is a radical revision of how you use technology, people and processes to approach traditional issues, and provoke progressive change for your organisation. 

Digital transformation affects every level of business and dictates a lot of how organisations progress through the issues they face. Transformation requires risk, and the challenges faced in digital transformation can be quite difficult to navigate. Digital transformation is usually driven by a changing business landscape and market requirements, undertaken in pursuit of new business models and new revenue streams. It is also very much driven by customers themselves. 

Who is suitable for digital transformation?

The digital world in no way discriminates against certain types of industries, and it is unlikely your industry will not – if it hasn’t already – be affected by this sweeping change. 

Banking

How often do we use online banking? Transfer money between accounts? Send money to family, friends and colleagues for covering our dinner? Paying our bills? Without digital transformation, we would all still be trekking to our local post office to pay our dues, or writing cheques, or actually using an ATM. Delivering value quicker and powering a broader digital transformation are key aspects of digital transformation campaigns in banking, where user experiences are always changing and updating. 

Healthcare

Not limited to just our personal interactions (booking appointments online, health information stored through an app), there is sweeping change throughout the whole industry, with an increase in telemedicine, artificial intelligence-enabled medical devices and blockchain electronic health records. Interactions with patients, healthcare providers and regulators are being questioned, challenged and completely overhauled through digital transformation, disrupting the sometimes archaic practices we associate with healthcare

Financial services

Adoption of new technological tools for money remittance, procurement orders and invoice generation, big-data and other machine learning tools making it easier to predict and forecast budget, resources deriving more through insights rather than focusing solely on transactions, and an overall improved customer and employee experience are all examples of the impact of digital transformation in finance. Simplifying the complex, time-consuming operations by utilising technology to recreate efficient operations, we are not necessarily replacing traditional systems, but improving them and providing a more empowered service for all.

Energy, oil and gas

The energy, oil and gas industries are embracing technology to reshape their operating landscape, reaping the benefits of improved productivity, higher efficiency and cost savings. Through performance forecasting, automation of work, predictive maintenance, logistics analysis and the integration of wi-fi and location-based technologies for monitoring potentially dangerous situations – digital transformation is incredibly important and beneficial for energy, oil and gas

Education

The face of education is changing, all thanks to digital transformation. From interactive, digital whiteboards to students toting iPads or laptops, the digital transformation in education has even yielded its own industry – EdTech. A more empowered and dynamic classroom is fuelled by experimentation and feedback (maybe through pop quizzes or up-to-date lesson content), infinitely accessible content, and the inclusion of technology in education sets up the digital skills for students that are needed to thrive in our digital world.

What is the purpose of digital transformation? What are the benefits of digital transformation?

Digital transformation influences every single aspect of your business. That is a fact! It is hard to summarise the purpose of digital transformation without the context of your industry, but it is really all about enhancing customer experience and increasing your competitive advantage. In a lot of instances, it can also be a case of survival. 

  • Meeting customer needs and providing an improved customer experience is a huge benefit of digital transformation. Better understanding what customers expect, want and need from you helps you to make the digital calls that enhance your service. Apps, machine learning, automation and so much more allow customers to get what they want, when they want it, without huge workloads on your end. Digital technologies have also changed customer expectations for a new, modern buyer, so they feel more connected to what you can offer them. 
  • Data collection and analysis is also improved through digital transformation for almost every industry. Having 24/7 access to your business data and the sophisticated tools that analyse it are massive drivers of change, where being able to gather, examine, process and build upon large volumes of data whenever necessary allows you to operate better, smarter and faster.
  • Improved efficiency and decision making is driven by optimising faster, easier and more efficient workflows, allowing employees to focus on what really matters – the work. By creating more efficient systems and processes, you allow for projects and key tasks to move forward at a much more rapid pace. 
  • Increased flexibility and scalability is a direct result of digital transformation. With technology in place that allows for room to move for employees, as well as keeping everyone connected all the time, organisations can conduct their business from anywhere. Being able to handle the growing work and demand (scalability) is also enhanced when you have thorough, efficient systems in place. 
  • Through well structured and thoughtful digital transformation, you are reducing risk and enhancing reliability for your organisation. When you are no longer relying on outdated, traditional forms of both IT systems and delivery systems, you begin to reduce risks to the integrity of your organisation. Whilst digital transformation can also present risks, you are overall reducing catastrophic risk, and investing in reliability when these risks occur. 
  • When you initially invest in digital transformation, you are reducing your operating costs immediately and in the long-term. Investing in robotic process automation reduces manual labour, making internal processes and customer services available through apps frees up your staff to focus on bigger issues, and speed & agility go hand in hand with cloud-based solutions, which also cost far less than traditional server-based environments.
  • When you are accountable, present and consistent, you are working toward strengthening and enhancing your brand. The ability to update customers regularly, share impressive content and utilise the free marketing of social media channels means your organisation can watch the real-time benefits of investing in digital transformation. 

But what are the key challenges of digital transformation? How do we overcome them?

As you can see, a successful digital transformation reaps many rewards for organisations who put in the hard work. Although, it does not necessarily come easy. Digital transformation is constantly evolving, and not everyone is willing to get on board. 

Change is difficult. You can never enact change and not receive a level of pushback.  Digital transformation presents the possibility of employee pushback to cultural changes. For employees, it could mean a challenge to their role or even a possible loss and this negativity seeps into the culture of the workplace. As a result, these oppositions can lead to trouble with digital projects getting funded or resourced, there are unreasonable levels of certainty required to fund them and often they are completely overlooked. When people aren’t willing to invest in change, your business suffers.

Completely erasing doubt and uncertainty is not always attainable, but it is certainly possible to alleviate them. By being consistent and transparent, you keep employees involved and informed throughout the whole process. Empower them by painting a future they can all work towards, through relevant digital transformation strategies.

Challenges can also present themselves where there is a lack of vision for the digital customer journey. Without a clear vision of how to meet digital needs, companies may find themselves lost and uncertain. Over time, you must develop this vision, set relevant objectives and then execute. 

To overcome your lack of vision, you can begin by: 

  1. Taking stock of your assets – your customers, your brand, your intellectual property and your strengths.
  2. Study your market – understand what your customers need, and how you and your competitors aren’t meeting those needs.
  3. Be on top of technological trends – do your research, keep track of emerging technology and study the shifts in consumer behaviour related to technology.
  4. Finally, establish processes that are designed to generate portfolios of potential ideas for the future. This allows your business to enact possible scenarios and test them against real research. That way, new ideas come about that align to your vision of customer interaction.

Another challenge of digital transformation is an ineffective gathering and leveraging of customer data. In the age of Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, we understand more than ever of the importance of customer data. Many organisations are aware and have systems containing this data, but no clear way of how to use them to their advantage. 

To ensure you are making the best of the information you receive from customer data, you must take a simplistic approach to creating value from the beginning. This ensures you are in a good position to start looking at the more complex customer data, and considering how some of that data can enable you to further enhance customer experience and add value to your business. 

Digital transformation is closely linked to the software and infrastructure of your business utilises. Overly complex and rigid legacy IT infrastructure can present many challenges to your transformation. If you continue to rely on a product or principle of structure (that has secured your survival in the past, you will not be securing survival in the future). Similarly, if you are not willing to part with your traditional server environment and invest in Cloud services, you are missing out on the benefits of a flexible, more agile workforce.

When you accept the risks and cross the murky waters to digital effectiveness, you will discover a level of scale, revenue and profit that you don’t find with legacy infrastructure. Sometimes providing services for free that were once charged, selling subscriptions which were once one-off fees, monetising through advertising rather than other avenues and simply rethinking the way you derive value and revenue can be risky, but you must run those risks in order to move away from tradition and do the best for your business. Failure to change shouldn’t be the end of the road for your business. 

No digital transformation can succeed when IT and business goals do not align. It is no longer a question of IF businesses are going to utilise technology, but HOW and WHEN they can do so. If you are viewing IT as an end unto itself, rather than a means of achieving business goals, you are doing digital transformation wrong.

When you approach marrying your business goals to your IT goals, you must ensure a top-down educational approach. Strive to inform all employees and leaders to help create a proactive stance that formulates strategies based on understanding what is really possible. This approach also empowers the organisation. All of this is meaningless if the results aren’t measured and you must choose the right metrics to ascertain what outcomes they expect IT to provide. Maintaining this IT and goal alignment is a constant work in progress. 

Digital transformation does not always work well for everyone and can mean that there is a lack of expertise in the organisation. You may not have hired for technical skills but rather for relevant experience in the field and skills related to this. This creates a shortfall in staff that are equipped to handle and implement digital transformation.

This goes beyond training your office to be digitally literate; it’s perhaps more about changing their thinking and behaviour. Investing in your people allows you to be ahead of the game. With insightful, dedicated training, you can get your employees up to speed. Alternatively, focusing on digital competencies during the recruiting phase means you are hiring for more than just field experience, building that expert team from the get-go. 

Lastly, budget limitations create massive obstacles to digital transformation. Sometimes, budgets are designed for at least six months to a year in advance, which makes no room for up-and-coming digital investments. Similarly, budgets are handled by the ‘top’, and redesigning business to create new value comes with limitations and hesitations to enact budget changes from those in control.

By being well aware and well prepared for budgetary constraints, you are being realistic about your digital transformation. Sometimes budget limits also mean you can be more practical about what your company can actually handle during its transformation journey. You can develop a plan that involves several phases over many years, so you are not at immediate risk of budgetary issues. 

Start planning your digital transformation

Understandably, digital transformation is no easy feat. It requires a persistent and dogged level of hard work over many years. It presents extensive, all-encompassing challenges to many industries, and to all levels of your organisation. But with a thoughtful and effective digital transformation plan, you can completely revolutionise how your business operates, and contribute to the future success of your organisation for years to come. 

Keogh Consulting are experts in the field of business transformation, working with many businesses over the years to bring them into the digital world. Want to know more about how digital transformation can transform you and your business? Contact us today!

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1. What is digital transformation? 
2. Who is suitable for digital transformation?
3. What is the purpose of digital transformation? What are the benefits of digital transformation?
4. What are the key challenges of digital transformation?
5. Start planning your digital transformation