May 26, 2017
In today’s business climate, disruption has become the norm. A cloud-hosted startup can launch an app and throw an entire industry into upheaval as Uber did in 2009.
Young companies and long-standing corporations alike are vulnerable to this situation. Yet, the reason Uber was so disruptive to the taxi industry was because taxis had failed to undergo a digital transformation. The industry had virtually no online presence and was not adapted to the world of mobile phones and apps.
To properly address the digital demands of a new generation of consumers, businesses must undergo a digital transformation.
What Is a Digital Transformation?
Briefly, a digital transformation (sometimes known as digital maturation) is when a company makes a concentrated effort to modernize their business model to include a digital customer journey. This is different from purchasing siloed digital solutions piecemeal.
A digital transformation is a strategic plan with goals and a roadmap. The transformation itself may take different forms for different companies. For some, a mobile friendly website or simple application may be all that’s necessary. For others, the entire focus of the business could be going digital.
Making a digital transformation is not as easy as purchasing new technology for the data center or hiring an application designer. It requires the business, and particularly the IT department, to think differently about themselves and their relationship with other business units and their customers.
Four Steps to a Digital Transformation Roadmap
At the highest level, planning a digital transformation requires a four step process:
- Begin with a Comprehensive Assessment of Your Current Digital Customer Journey
- Define a Future Vision
- Identify Gaps Between Current State and Vision
- Build a Roadmap to Reach the Vision
Step 1: Comprehensive Assessment
At the outset of your digital transformation, the first task is to assess the current environment. What digital resources exist in the environment already? What can they do? How well do they function? The more detailed your assessment is the easier the next steps in the process will be.
Step 2: Defining a Future Vision
Next, outline your goals for your digital transformation. If you want to have a website and a mobile app, what kinds of tools do the app and website need to have? Don’t worry about making this step absolutely perfect. There will undoubtedly be new resources, tools, and procedures you’ll think of along the way. At this point, we just need goals.
Step 3: Identify Gaps between Current State and Vision
Compare your two visions—your current environment and your goals. Find the areas in which your current environment is lacking and highlight where it needs to go.
Step 4: Build Roadmap
Finally, it is time to build your roadmap. Take the different shortcomings found in step three, turn them into projects, and arrange them on a timeline. The roadmap itself is best thought of as a large project consisting of smaller tasks. Establishing when and who will be responsible for what tasks will help your organization set priorities and stay organized through the process.
Shaping Your Vision for a Digital Transformation
The outline above is simple enough, but actually defining what your vision for the post-transformation company should be is a harder task. Here are just a few guidelines to consider while you are mapping out your new company:
IT needs to change from being a mere technology provider to being a strategic partner of the business. They can no longer only be responsible for building and maintaining a network and compute resources. After a digital transformation, IT must be able to look forward and anticipate what technologies or Software as a Service application the business needs before they realize they need them.
We’re entering an era of business where most companies in the digital space are using similar or even the same features, functionality, and tools to offer their services. Innovation is key. Innovation will be the biggest differentiator in digital industries. With that in mind, the CIO or IT director must be able to innovate quickly to offer new services, new functionality, and new efficiencies to the customer experience.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Human Element
Behind all the big data, cloud applications, and digital tools are people. At the end of the day, no matter what your digital transformation looks like, it has to appeal to a human user on the other side of the screen. Keep usability and the customer experience front and center in your decision making.
Going Digital Growing Pains:
A digital transformation isn’t always simple or easy, but it is important. We are spending more time on our phones than ever, and businesses need to meet their customers where they actually are. We watch more YouTube than television. We use Uber instead of cabs. Amazon has become one of the biggest companies in the world. Customers have already had their digital transformation, now it’s businesses’ turn.
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