If you’re hoping to transform your organisation for the 21st Century and ensure that your customers and service users are able to interact with you in a way that suits their needs, you’ll have to develop a comprehensive digital transformation strategy.
Rather than investing haphazardly in new technologies and digital infrastructure projects, organisations need to consider the ways in which they can create responsive digital systems that help them achieve their goals.
With this in mind, we wanted to take a look at what it takes to develop a pain-free digital transformation strategy.
Creating a culture in which digital transformation is possible
The first and perhaps most important step in developing a digital transformation strategy is getting everyone on board with the idea. Though this may sound relatively simple, there are a surprising number of groups to win over.
There is often considerable resistance to the introduction of new technologies from all sides. However, if you can’t win over management as well as staff, your digital transformation strategy is likely to stumble at the first hurdle.
The importance of having all sides on-board is epitomised by Blockbuster’s attempts to see off their upstart competitors, Netflix. Responding to the threat of the digital ‘disruptor,’ Blockbuster’s then CEO authorised the development of a competing online service. However, the Blockbuster board had not bought into this radical proposal and, concerned that the project was too expensive, shut down the new service, fired their CEO, and ceded ground to a competitor that would eventually confine them to irrelevance.
Similarly, employee understanding is essential if a transformation strategy is to take successfully. After all, employees are the ones who will implement digital strategy and use any new technologies that are introduced in the process. If they aren’t convinced that change is necessary, it’s going to be difficult to persuade them to engage fully with the process. Without their engagement, the new system is likely to be unresponsive to the needs of those on the front lines.
Kickstarting digital transformation by focusing on end-goals
As with many business processes, it’s a good idea to begin where you mean to end – with your ultimate objectives. By determining what your end-goals are, you can work backwards, developing a strategy whilst keeping your eyes firmly on the prize.
This approach also prevents you from getting lost in the process. It’s fairly common for organisations to get caught up in the thrill of digital transformation and ‘progress’, only to find out that they’re implementing change for the sake of change. Rather than affecting change in order to achieve a certain goal, change has become the goal itself. Remember:
- Different types of organisation are going to have different goals. For instance, a business may attempt transformation in order to increase sales.
- On the other hand, a local authority is more likely to develop a transformation strategy in order to lower expenditure and provide a more efficient customer experience.
As well as settling on these worthwhile but generally abstract goals, it’s important to think about the specifics.
- What percentage of customers do you want to shift from your telephony service to digital channels?
- How many fewer calls do your agents need to handle in order to give them the time to focus on other pressing issues?
- How much does your organisation need to save through its digital transformation strategy?
- How much is implementing that strategy going to cost?
Refine your use of digital by getting to know your users
Digital transformation is no use at all if customers aren’t willing or able to adapt to the new services or systems in place. Consequently, organisations of all shapes and sizes need to ensure that what they’re giving their customers is what their customers truly need. This is more difficult than it sounds, as service users can also be remarkably resistant to change – even when that change benefits them.
Ensuring your digital transformation strategy meets the needs of your service users involves researching the ways in which they use digital technologies. This means understanding the following.
- What devices they use to complete certain actions.
- How they seek out information.
- What they want from a digital service.
- How customers reach your services. Are a growing number attempting to contact you through social media? Is email still a popular option?
Importantly, organisations need to consider the demographics of service users and plan accordingly. This may mean tailoring your strategy to meet the needs of different users. Online forms and Facebook Messenger chatbots may be of considerable use to students looking to register to vote in their new university town, but they’re unlikely to be as beneficial to elderly people making enquiries about home support services.
Consider the ways to implement your digital transformation strategy
Those in charge of the digital transformation strategy need to remember that it’s not solely about what you implement but also how you implement it. With this in mind, organisations need to consider how they’re going to deliver change. Though there is no one right way or wrong way to do this, some approaches are better suited to certain types of organisation. Below are four of the most popular ways in which strategies are often implemented.
- 1. Partnerships
In many cases, digital transformation strategies are designed and implemented by the business in partnership with a transformation specialist. These strategic partnerships allow businesses to develop effective digital solutions without having to buy-in or train in-house expertise. Such partnerships are an effective means of surpassing a company’s in-house limitations in a cost-effective manner.
- 2. Create a dedicated digital transformation team
Dedicated digital transformation teams are a popular alternative to strategic partnerships. These teams are composed of individuals within the organisation who are capable of directing the digital transformation strategy. It’s important to ensure that all members of the team are able to dedicate their time and efforts exclusively to digital transformation, as this is a role that will demand all of their focus.
- 3. Experimentation Labs
A number of organisations have experimented successfully with introducing new digital technologies and channel shift strategy bit by bit. In fact, many businesses operate ‘digital innovation labs.’ These allow the organisations to test ideas on a small scale before company-wide adoption is pursued. However, this approach is typically the preserve of larger, wealthier organisations, who can afford to experiment more freely with new ideas.
- 4. The hierarchical approach
In some cases, digital transformation is driven by those at the top of an organisation. Having decided that change is necessary in order to provide superior service, cut costs, or guarantee the future of the business, those at the head of the organisation then implement measures that prepare staff for the change.
Assess where you are and begin plotting your route
Knowing where you want to get to is the first step in plotting your route. The second step is working out where you’re at right now. This involves assessing your existing technology, infrastructure, and digital systems in an effort to establish what steps need to be taken to get you from point A to point B.
This will help you determine what processes can be automated and what technology can be updated or improved. It should also show you where there are issues with your existing digital technology.
- Are employees struggling to access user data across services?
- Is your CRM interface difficult to use or unintuitive?
- Are service users frustrated by a lack of personalisation?
- Are there certain routine enquiries that could be answered with an automated response?
- Is the organisation struggling with channel shift solutions? Is it difficult to move users to new channels?
The difference between where you’re currently at and where you want to be is the distance you’ll have to traverse with your digital transformation strategy. At the moment, that distance may seem too great a challenge. If so, it’s necessary to think about ways that you can plot the route so that it doesn’t appear so daunting.
Due to the fact that successful digital transformation is not an overnight process, organisations need to ensure that they break the process down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Not only does this prevent employees and management from becoming overwhelmed by the scale of the project, but it also helps prevent team fatigue by peppering the journey with many smaller successes.
Connecting the dots – the importance of omnichannel
One of the biggest mistakes made by those pursuing a policy of digital transformation is too great a focus on the idea that change is brought about solely by investing in new technology. Though some investment in new technology will likely be necessary, the idea of creating a digital environment in which customers, employees, and data circulate freely is far more important. This is the omnichannel approach.
We now use digital technology to perform the most routine of tasks. However, digital power isn’t concentrated in a single device. Instead, it’s spread across many. We utilise mobile phones, tablets, laptops, smart watches, televisions, and AI assistants to learn, research, buy, sell, apply, enquire, and communicate. And we switch between these devices at a rapid rate.
- Successful digital transformation strategies put the omnichannel approach at their heart and focus on providing service users with an experience that reflects the way they use technology on a day-to-day basis.
- Your transformation strategy need not depend on a vast investment in all of the latest and greatest customer-service technologies for it to be effective and successful. Instead, it could revolve around a modest investment in technologies that break down the barriers that prevent data and customers from moving freely through your organisation.
- For most local authorities and businesses, investment in a small number of automation technologies and a focus on omnichannel principles constitutes the most rewarding strategy.
Safeguard your future by ensuring adaptability
The future seems to arrive quicker than ever before thanks to the unprecedented pace of technological change. This can cause problems for those attempting to implement digital transformation, as it makes an investment in digital technology appear riskier than it actually is.
It’s common to hear organisations defend a lack of investment in digital transformation by arguing that their investment will soon be out of date and surpassed by new innovations. This is a backwards approach. Technological development will continue and if an organisation is unwilling to invest to keep up, they’ll soon fall behind and become obsolete.
However, it is true that the rapid pace of change poses some unique challenges.
- The solution is to begin creating digital systems that are adaptable and have room to grow and develop.
- This is a central tenet of all pain-free transformation strategies and is a must for any organisation who wants to ensure that these changes have a long-lasting effect.
- This attitude is being adopted across all industries and in all sectors. It is most readily apparent in the rejection of legacy tech projects that force organisations down a particular route, rather than allowing them to react and adapt to shifting circumstances and demands.
Make the most of specialist knowledge
Finally, organisations hoping to create transformation strategies that meet their precise needs should consider making use of specialist expertise. As with most areas in which digital technology is pivotal in determining success, the transformation process requires a great deal of niche knowledge if you’re to meet all of your aims and objectives. While some of this expertise will be available in-house, much of it will come from those who are specialists in that particular area.
In many respects, the success of a digital transformation strategy is dependent on creating a system that allows users to interact with your organisation in the most intuitive, easy, and satisfactory manner possible. This often involves investing in new technology but, more importantly, will typically focus on the way in which information and customers move around that system. By following the guide above, organisations should find themselves in a strong position to begin shaping a comprehensive and effective transformation strategy.