Digital transformation is the new frontier. While it has been around for a while, it continues to play a pivotal role. Digital transformation describes an ongoing process of re-defining strategies and business models to meet the needs of customers and compete in a digital world. It enables organisations to drive business growth by adopting technologies that allow them to be more customer-centric, agile, and responsive.
But what exactly is digital transformation? How does technology play a role in digital transformation? And how can organisations successfully implement digital transformation? In this article, we’ll answer your questions about digital transformation and describe how technology can help you succeed in your business.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is a process in which organisations digitise their business operations to increase the value they deliver. This helps them to become more efficient, agile, and customer-centric.
In the past few years, digital transformation has emerged as a business imperative for organisations of all sizes. Governments and regulators have put forth new imperatives that are enabling digital transformation.
Digital transformation begins with harnessing technology to enhance business operations and ends with business models that uncover additional revenue streams, increase margins, and improve the overall customer experience. It is transforming how organisations create and deliver value.
Companies that undergo a successful business transformation have integrated technology into every facet of their organisation. They’ve also ensured that their culture aligns to this new way of working, ensuring they’ve secured the support of all employees and stakeholders.
Importance of digital transformation
Organisations are seeking to increase business value through digital innovation. In fact, Polaris Research forecasts an annual growth of 23.6% till the year 2030 in the global digital transformation market, valuing it at USD 3.8 trillion by the end of the decade. Integrating digital technologies with business strategy helps organisations:
- Gain a better understanding of customer needs.
- Improve responsiveness.
- Reduce time-to-market.
- Improve employee engagement.
- Provide a more engaging customer experience.
Blockbuster is a notable example of a company that failed to grasp the benefits of digital transformation. Faced with competition from digital streaming services like Netflix, it went from owning over 9,000 stores worldwide — at its peak in the mid 2000’s — to bankruptcy six years later.
Digital transformation drivers
Rapid advances in digital technologies are driving transformation in business and society. The move to cloud computing, the adoption of social media and mobile, and the emergence of artificial intelligence and other technologies have given organisations unprecedented access to data, which they can collect and analyse to deliver better products and services.
Digital leaders like Amazon and Uber have raised consumer expectations. Consumers now expect their brands to provide them with intuitive, easy-to-use services and apps which serve their requirements 24/7. Whether it’s for banking, shopping, healthcare, or something else, digital technology has revolutionised consumer culture.
Furthermore, consumers expect the same access to technology once they enter the workplace. Consequently, businesses have been automating their processes, enabling collaboration, flexibility, and scalability across job functions, work locations, and others.
How Technology Drives Business Growth
Investing in the right technology helps businesses increase efficiency, saving them time and money. For instance, analytics and big data have enabled quicker decision making, automation has reduced manual labour, and cloud has enabled scalability.
Elsewhere, digital marketing — such as content and social media marketing — have helped businesses reach new customers and create a positive customer experience. Thus, by investing in digital technologies, businesses maximise the benefits of their digital transformation.
Key digital transformation technologies
No single technology drives digital transformation. The following have been deployed in transformation initiatives:
Cloud Computing. Cloud technology has given organisations access to scalable applications and platforms that help them meet their business objectives.
Big Data & Artificial Intelligence (AI). With the move to the cloud, the volume of data generated has increased dramatically. AI and machine learning algorithms have provided organisations with powerful analytics for faster decision making and forecasting.
Automation. Scripts such as chatbots have automated many of the repetitive tasks once handled by humans.
Mobile. On-demand connectivity has empowered employees to do their jobs from whichever location or device they choose.
Emerging Technologies. New technology is created almost every day. Blockchain, virtual reality (VR), and the internet of things (IoT), for instance, are promising to deliver greater efficiencies to businesses, consumers, and the public sector.
Examples of digital transformation initiatives include:
- Deploying big data analytics to optimise business processes.
- Migrating on-premises data centres to the cloud.
- Deploying robotic process automation to automate tasks.
- Deploying blockchain, internet of things, and other technologies.
- Transitioning from brick-and-mortar to online.
- Switching from traditional advertising to digital marketing.
- Transitioning to a remote workforce.
- Deploying virtual reality/augmented reality to improve the in-store experience.
Benefits of Digital Transformation
In an increasingly digitised society, digital transformation helps businesses remain competitive and relevant. Some of the benefits of digital transformation include:
Increased customer engagement and satisfaction. Improving the customer experience is one of the best ways to leverage technology for business growth. Digital technologies have helped businesses create a unified experience for customers across platforms, enabling them to interact with the business seamlessly and easily. As a result, customer loyalty has increased, customer satisfaction has improved, making customer experience a key driver for business growth.
Decreased operational costs. Through digital technology, businesses can automate many manual tasks and processes. This has led to significant cost savings and improved job satisfaction.
Increased scalability and flexibility in operations. Businesses can scale quickly and flexibly and adapt to fluctuating market demands. Thus, through digital transformation, they remain one step ahead of their competition.
Enhanced decision making. The ability of digital technologies to collect large volumes of data also makes businesses wiser about their business strategies and operations, thereby providing a better decision making process for business leaders.
Challenges of Digital Transformation
Digital transformation can be a daunting process: from overcoming resistance, to sourcing the right technology, to measuring success, it’s a monumental task requiring careful planning and execution.
In fact, research suggests that 78% of digital transformation projects don’t succeed: the intricacies of data privacy laws, lack of qualified resources, and difficulty in extracting value from data are some of the top reasons for these failures.
Following are some common reasons for the failure of digital transformation projects:
Lack of business strategy. Given the complexities involved, a coherent plan of action is crucial. A coherent strategy avoids wasted effort and builds confidence.
Lack of budget. Insufficient funding is often the result of a poor strategy. Without a clear plan of action, it’s difficult to allocate resources.
Lack of adoption. There’s often a lack of assistance in helping employees adopt new technologies. There may also be resistance to new ways of working.
Legacy technology. As organisations adopt new technologies, they may still carry a heavy legacy footprint.
Other reasons for the failure of digital transformation projects include:
- Lack of collaboration between departments.
- Limited in-house expertise.
- Concerns with data security.
- Regulatory constraints.
The role of culture in digital transformation
It’s worth remembering that organisational culture occupies a central role in business transformation. It’s therefore incumbent on business leaders to encourage a culture of innovation, empowering everyone to embrace more flexible and agile ways of working.
In fact, McKinsey reports a variance of 30% in performance among companies related to their ability to embrace digital objectives.
While technology is obviously important to digital transformation, change management is a people issue. Failure to invest in digital skills results in expensive technologies which employees are unwilling or unable to use.
How to Build a Digital Transformation Strategy
If you want to successfully implement digital transformation in your organisation, you must create a strategic plan with a clear vision and goals. This will help to guide your digital transformation and ensure its success.
Leveraging a digital transformation framework
Although you can choose to forge your own path, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Given that many companies have undergone successful transformations, a transformation framework will help shorten your learning curve and avoid many of the common pitfalls.
Focusing on leadership, agility, customer experience, and technology integration, transformation frameworks include:
- Gartner’s Roadmap for Digital Business Transformation
- Boston Consulting Group’s Six Factors of Digital Transformation
- PwC’s Five Step Transformation Programme
- Ionology’s Digital Transformation Framework
Building your transformation roadmap
A digital transformation roadmap sets out how technology will support your organisation in reaching its goals. Once you’ve settled on a transformation framework, here are some steps to help you execute:
Identify your strengths. Evaluate your current situation. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Your digital transformation journey is as much about what you’re doing right as it is about what you can improve.
Identify your customers. Do you understand who your customers are? Do you understand their pain points and how they perceive your brand? Although your digital transformation project is about improving the customer experience, it’s rarely about abandoning your identity.
Identify your business goals. Understand where you wish your organisation to be a few months or years down the line. This will help you outline key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your progress along your digital transformation journey.
Invest in the right technology. Digital technologies are constantly evolving, so you should invest in technologies that best support your business goals. These include cloud computing, mobile apps, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
Develop an agile framework. Create a framework that helps you prioritise projects based on business needs and objectives. This will ensure your organisation focuses on the most important initiatives and makes the most of the resources available.
Measure progress and adjust accordingly. It’s vital to track your digital transformation progress and adjust your approach. This includes measuring revenues and costs against business-wide targets, for example. Regularly assess risks like disruption from new technologies, regulatory changes, or changes within your industry. Make small adjustments rather than big changes: not only will it be easier to backtrack if a change doesn’t work, but it’ll be easier to identify what’s worked and repeat it.
Establish a digital culture. You may encounter some resistance to change but, if your digital transformation initiative is to succeed, everyone needs to be on board. Make sure you communicate the benefits of your initiative and implement a system for collecting feedback.
Key digital transformation roles
Assembling the right team is essential to the success of your digital transformation project. In a McKinsey survey, 70% of respondents reported their teams changed for the better when digitally savvy leaders joined them.
C-level executives such as the chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), chief digital officer (CDO), and chief transformation officer have a primary role in driving digital transformation.
Furthermore, the IT department selects and implements new technologies. Their competencies include:
- Data architects who understand how to structure data for artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.
- Cloud architects who build secure and resilient networks.
- Scrum masters and software engineers who deploy agile development methodologies to speed up product development.
- Digital product managers.
- Systems integrators.
Other key competencies outside the IT department include:
- Project managers who keep projects running smoothly.
- Technology liaisons who understand the business context behind technologies.
- User experience (UX) engineers.
- Change managers.
- Communication managers.
How to Measure Digital Transformation ROI
Measuring digital transformation ROI is tricky at best. Because digital transformation projects cross functional boundaries, traditional business value calculations become less effective. Also, technology outcomes need to be tied to business outcomes.
It’s therefore tempting to become guided by short-term, project-based thinking. However, short-term failures or successes may not always indicate the outcome of the overall initiative.
In fact, short-term failures may enhance the overall objective — i.e. learning from as many early failures as possible —and build the tolerance for risk required for successful transformations.
Best practices for measuring digital transformation ROI include:
- Outlining short and long-term business goals.
- Setting mini goals for agile experimentation.
- Identifying strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) such as lifetime customer value, revenue growth, and time-to-market.
- Identifying operational metrics such as productivity improvements.
Depending on the circumstances of each organisation, many factors will be used to calculate digital transformation ROI. The important thing is to track costs, time frames, and baseline figures that demonstrate long-term success. It’s also important to look for ways to improve outcomes with each new initiative.
Examples of successful companies that have adopted digital transformation strategies
Technologies like cloud computing, mobile, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have helped companies automate businesses processes, run more efficiently, and grow more quickly.
Amazon is well recognised for its end-to-end personalisation and recommendation engine that delivers high quality customer experiences across every digital channel.
As a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence and automation in e-commerce, the company has sought to keep up with new trends in technology; its revolutionary machine learning platform is able to individualise search results and recommendations by leveraging extensive customer data. The platform can also run personalised marketing campaigns based on this data.
Other applications of artificial intelligence which Amazon has implemented include:
- Alexa, the voice-enabled AI assistant that has revolutionised the lives of millions of disabled users and others.
- Amazon Go retail stores which deliver a completely automated in-store shopping experience.
- Optimised supply chain and delivery for warehouses.
Like Amazon, Apple has been a digital transformation front-runner, with cloud computing, mobile technologies and artificial intelligence all playing key roles in its success.
iCloud allows users to store photos, videos, music and other files on remote servers so they can be accessed from any of their devices. This service helps keep customer data safe while making it available whenever needed.
Additionally, Apple uses machine learning algorithms for features like face recognition on iPhone X and Animoji. These technologies not only deliver great customer experiences but also help the company gather valuable customer data that can be used to target new markets, develop new products, and improve customer service.
Walmart has been on a mission to develop a best-in-class supply chain network. With so many technologies to choose from, the company decided to focus on three main issues:
- Improve loading accuracy using internet of things sensors and machine vision cameras.
- Real-time tracking of deliveries.
- Improve traceability with blockchain technology.
These are just a few examples of successful companies that have adopted digital transformation strategies to enrich customer experiences, enhance customer service, and optimise business operations.
Digital transformation is a journey and not a one-time process. As a continuous process of adaptation, it requires organisations to be flexible and agile. It’s essential your organisation embraces digital transformation to gain the competitive advantage. Digital transformation enables you to prioritise customer needs while driving business growth and enhancing profitability.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the key components of a successful digital transformation strategy?
A comprehensive digital transformation strategy includes key areas such as business model innovation, digital analytics, customer experience management, process automation and optimisation, cloud computing, digital supply chain management, digital workforce management and more. By taking a holistic approach to your digital transformation strategy you can ensure that you are well prepared to face the challenges of an ever evolving digital landscape.
What challenges can businesses face when undergoing digital transformation?
Businesses can face a range of challenges when undergoing digital transformation, including:
Cost and complexity: Digital transformation is a large undertaking and it can be expensive. It also involves a lot of complex technologies and processes that can be difficult to navigate.
Resources: Companies may find it hard to secure the necessary resources such as expertise, funding and personnel needed to implement digital transformation initiatives.
Employee engagement: Companies need to ensure that their employees are engaged with digital transformation projects and willing to embrace new technologies and processes. Lack of employee engagement can create further challenges for businesses.
Keeping up with technology: Businesses must constantly stay abreast of the latest technologies in order to keep up with digital transformation trends. Otherwise, they run the risk of being left behind in this rapidly evolving digital landscape.
What strategies can be used to ensure an effective and efficient digital transformation?
Digital transformation involves the process of integrating digital technologies into business operations and customer experience models to achieve growth, efficiency, and profitability. To ensure a successful digital transformation, organisations should consider the following strategies:
1. Develop a clear and concise digital transformation strategy: It’s important to develop a well-defined digital transformation strategy that outlines desired steps and outcomes to achieve business goals. This strategy should be created with input from stakeholders across the organisation and effectively communicated to all employees.
2. Invest in the right technology, systems, and processes: Organisations should invest in technologies that can enable digital transformation initiatives and ensure that existing systems are updated to support new digital strategies. Additionally, investing in customer experience management technologies or process automation can help maximise efficiency while meeting customer needs.
3. Ensure data security and compliance: It’s essential to secure customer data and comply with relevant regulations when embarking on a digital transformation journey. Organisations must ensure the data is properly encrypted and secure from threats like cyber-attacks or unauthorised access.
4. Use analytics: Analytics can provide insights into how digital transformation initiatives are performing by allowing organisations to measure user engagement, cost savings, process optimisation, customer satisfaction, and more.
5. Establish governance and change management processes: As digital transformation can require changes to business processes, it’s important to have comprehensive governance and change management processes in place. These procedures should be designed to manage risks associated with digital transformation while ensuring successful adoption of new technologies or ways of working.
How can technology help businesses improve customer experience and engagement?
Technology is a powerful tool that businesses can use to improve customer experience and engagement. It helps them gain better insights into customer needs and preferences, which in turn allows them to create more personalised customer experiences.
For example, automation technologies can streamline customer service processes, making it easier for customers to get the help they need quickly and conveniently. Automated customer service technologies can also ensure that customers are only being supplied with information and products that are relevant to them.
Analytics and data insights are also crucial for improving customer experience and engagement. By using data-driven intelligence, businesses can optimise the products and services they offer to customers so that they’re tailored to meet customer preferences in terms of pricing, quality, etc.
Finally, technology can be used to measure customer satisfaction and engagement levels. This can be done by collecting customer feedback through surveys and social media channels, or by tracking customer behaviour when they interact with a business’s digital platforms. These metrics can provide valuable insights into customer preferences, allowing businesses to make adjustments as needed in order to maximise customer experience and engagement.
Share Your Digital Transformation Story
Digital transformation is becoming an integral part of business success. If you’re looking for new ways to tell your digital transformation story, do get in touch.