What does ‘digital transformation’ really mean in a workplace?

Digital transformation has become the latest buzzword bandied around boardrooms and, perhaps, has been built up into something far more intangible than it needs to be.

What does ‘digital transformation’ really mean in a workplace?

Digital transformation has become the latest buzzword bandied around boardrooms and, perhaps, has been built up into something far more intangible than it needs to be. Quite simply, digital transformation is the continual development and deployment of new technology to meet changing business and customer needs.

Buzzword or not, it doesn’t have to be a scary process. It can simply be an approach to improving business by implementing modern technology. Rather than viewing it as one large-scale project with wide-scale implications and interruptions, digital transformation should be a constant and measured pursuit of technological improvement. We all know that technology is developing at pace, so one of the key shifts in thinking is to consider improvement as continuous and not just a fixed-term project.

This could be implemented by the creation of a relatively straightforward platform to enable teams across multiple locations to work effectively and efficiently or be wholesale changes to legacy systems that have been propped up for too long and are now having a negative impact on operations. Even if it’s the latter, this can still be broken down into manageable chunks to ensure smooth development.

Ultimately, digital transformation is being driven by the expectations of every individual that engages with a business, from customers to employees. Businesses that fail to innovate now will face a very real competitive disadvantage in the future – technological progress is commercial progress. Businesses that succeed have a long-term vision for improvement, aligned with its long-term goals of the organisation.

Too many businesses see innovation as a side project as opposed to one that could genuinely improve the overall day-to-day operations and instead are hiring “heads of innovation” that have no real power in the organisation.

We have also seen attitudes change at a board level, with technology moving from a supporting framework for operations to be a tool for real competitive advantage. 

With these changes in attitudes comes changes in trends, such as a growth in customised solutions. With enterprises like Google, Amazon and Uber making huge strides in technological advancements, organisations can no longer substantiate the argument they are too big to run tailored solution programmes.

If you’re an enterprise looking to implement these customised solutions, it’s also worth noting that it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or daunting task. The first step would be to look at the processes first and how things should flow; then look at how technology can support these, as opposed to just saying ‘we need a mobile app’.

It would be beneficial to look at whether you can achieve this with existing, off-the-shelf technology, bespoke technology, or a combination of these. Basically, don’t bend a CRM system into a large complex ERP system, and don’t write an accounting system from scratch. 

Ensuring you build the right team, and everyone shares and values the end goal, is the most crucial part to a successful digital transformation piece. Make sure you’re running a project that benefits someone or something, not just running a digital transformation project because everyone else is.

There also needs to be an understanding that a digital transformation project is not just a paint by numbers exercise, priorities and demands will evolve with time, especially within larger businesses running longer-term projects. Any team running a transformation project must be empowered to make changes and decisions as required. More often it’s how a project is run as opposed to what is being delivered that will determine success, whilst remembering why you’re doing it in the first place.

How you decide to measure the success of your business’ digital transformation will depend on the kind of changes you’ve made. By evaluating success using metrics that consider technical adoption rates as well as wider business objectives, you’ll create a powerful scorecard that assesses the impact of your digital programmes in the round. With solid data to hand, you’ll be well positioned to identify where improvements are needed so you can define, adapt and scale.

Philip White
Philip White

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