The TLDR: Digital transformation can be daunting. Ask the right questions before getting started so you know what problems you’re trying to solve. Seek and evaluate organizations that can help you on this journey, and perform proper diligence so you don’t get locked into unfavorable terms. Measure the outcomes of your efforts and, most of all, have patience. Technology is a journey, not a destination!
Ever since The Daily Mail erroneously suggested the Internet may be a “passing fad” at the turn of the century, the role of technology in our lives and businesses has continued to grow.
According to a 2019 study by Okta, Inc, the volume of software apps deployed by large firms across all industries increased 68% over the prior four years, reaching an average of 129 apps per company. Customer databases, warehouse management systems, productivity platforms, HR and finance tools, and dozens of other applications have infiltrated business operations with the promise of turbocharging productivity, growth, and profitability.
Businesses who are late to the so-called “Digital Transformation” need to ask themselves two things: how are we using technology today, and how should we be using technology tomorrow?
Before the phrase digital transformation enters your lexicon, it’s important to take inventory of your current situation.
What are the technology pain points inside your organization?
Whether you’re dealing with inconsistency in processes, human errors, or disjointed documentation, write down your pain points so you know exactly what you’re trying to solve. Maintaining a clear line of sight to the problem is key as scope creep can cause problems down the road.
What is making employees frustrated?
Determining which departments or roles complain most frequently can aid in finding the root cause of the issues. Technology may be the answer, but it ultimately depends on the problem.
What do you struggle with the most?
Look at the parts of your day that are most cumbersome. Is it paperwork-oriented, reporting, operations, finance? Look inward and you’ll likely find others in the organization are feeling the same pains.
What are the bottlenecks within your organization?
Knowing where and how things get stuck can also point to the limitations of current technologies you’re using. Identify these bottlenecks and understand if tweaks to current systems can address and, if not, what additions or replacements would.
What processes or tasks can be automated?
Repetitive and consistent tasks are great candidates for tech overhauls. Turn your operations into an automated assembly line whenever possible.
Where could technology improve productivity or efficiency?
Think about your employees’ day as a pie chart and then estimate how big of a slice is non-value add work. Take time to understand why the efforts exist and if technology can replace or supplement those efforts.
Selection and Implementation
Once you’ve taken stock of the current situation, it’s time to survey the technology landscape. Create a matrix and assign weights to the attributes that matter most to your organization: cost, speed, scalability, flexibility, ease of use, etc. You’ll want a scorecard against which you can index your options.
Once you’ve made selections, implementation is critical. Unless your organization is “tech-forward” you may want to work with technology providers who handle implementation, training, and ongoing support. Often solution providers outsource implementation and support to 3rd party consultants, so make certain you understand the terms of your contract. Proper implementation is key. Otherwise, the organization is likely to reject the changes and render the new technology ineffective. The best scenario ensures stakeholders not only understand the new technology but have a hand in the implementation and adoption.
The adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” rings true with technology implementations. Go all the way back to your problem statement(s); what did you hope to accomplish, and what metrics establish whether or not you’ve been successful. Did the tech cut down on email traffic? Improve accuracy or speed? Reduce the need for new hires? If you’re not realizing the value, understand why before dropping the tech; it’s possible the challenge is related to process or personnel and not technology at all.
Lastly, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, digital transformations don’t happen overnight. Embrace incrementalism and don’t look for that “super technology” that promises to do everything well. (They don’t exist.) Look at this effort as a journey rather than a means to an end, and enjoy the fact that innovation has become a constant!