The future of business is clearly digital, and more companies are catching on. Even small-scale organizations with minimal online presence must use digital technologies to order supplies, connect with clients, and manage social media accounts. Many businesses today are either gradually transitioning or making a full-blown digital transformation with innumerable benefits for customers and employees.
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That said, adopting digital technologies doesn’t mean you should leap into the deep end before learning how to swim. There’s a right and a wrong way to tackle a digital business transformation, regardless of your industry, product, or service model. You’ll need a plan to ensure these digital technologies are positively affecting your company.
If a digital metamorphosis is in your near future, keep these priorities in mind:
Put business goals before tech
Digital technologies are wonderful. They’ve benefited our world in almost every conceivable way. But technology for technology’s sake isn’t enough, especially in a professional context. For a digital business transformation to be successful, any changes must profoundly benefit customers and make employees’ lives easier, not harder. If you’re adopting new technologies because everyone else is doing it, you’ll create inefficiencies at best and harm your bottom line at worst.
This scenario isn’t uncommon. The thrill of new technologies often overrides whether these services are actually aligned with business objectives. “Companies feel invested to buy the latest big data tools and visualization technologies, and then determine how to create optimal usage,” Everest Group partner Jimit Arora told the Enterprisers Project.
Businesses shouldn’t put the cart before the horse. The smarter decision is to first determine how your digital transformation will help the business. Start with clear-cut goals like top-line growth and risk management that will indicate the best platforms for your needs. This can help narrow down the most cost-effective solutions and better enable you to measure success after it’s implemented.
Get feedback from impacted employees before your digital transformation
When it comes to these transformations, your key stakeholders aren’t just shareholders or executive leadership — they’re the frontline employees who will be using these tools. Investing in the best digital solution on the planet won’t matter if those responsible for it immediately spot problems you missed.
Instead of simply announcing a new digital solution and offering training, try involving team members early in the planning stages. Make a list of which departments will be impacted and work with them to determine any pressing needs and concerns. If a proposed solution offers a demo, let them work with it. Their feedback could be crucial.
Including a full range of team members in the process ensures a smooth digital business transformation. Just don’t forget that these changes can impact departments differently — an IT department might have less difficulty adapting to digital tech than HR, for example. In this scenario, be patient and don’t be afraid to offer more advanced training options.
Build for today, design for tomorrow
Technological developments are arriving at breakneck speed, but one fact has remained true for decades — you can always bet on the latest launch becoming redundant eventually. This has been true for fax machines, dial-up modems, and the smartphone in your hand or pocket. Your shiny new digital solution probably isn’t any different.
In practical terms, businesses should exercise caution about overinvesting in something that might become yesterday’s news. Digital technologies are here to stay, but individual platforms, web protocols, and even legal regulations are far more fluid. It’s crucial to balance your immediate needs and pain points with the agility that allows your company to pivot to changing circumstances.
Take social media as an example. For years, Facebook dominated the field and set industry standards for ads, videos, news feeds, and even “Likes”. But now its growth has slowed compared to rising stars like Instagram and Snapchat, each of which appeal to Generation Z audiences. Anyone who built their social media strategy around Facebook must start from scratch to engage those who prefer Instagram stories.
“Build for today, design for tomorrow” is a truism that can see businesses through. It’s important to start your digital transformation as soon as possible, but you need enough flexibility to adjust to unknown future trends. This is often easier for smaller tech startups, but larger business structures can accomplish this by scaling on a departmental basis.
Change is constant, but that doesn’t mean businesses can’t be prepared. By establishing clear business goals, working with team members, and staying flexible to future trends, you’ll be well-equipped for a full-blown digital transformation — and whatever comes after that.
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