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How to accelerate your digital transformation

Nisha Gopinath Menon
September 4, 2020

Using technology to improve and speed up business processes is a common practice for many companies. Recently though, it has come to the forefront for most. COVID-19 has left many companies and industries without much choice but to innovate. Most competent companies are always on the path of digital catch-up, if not transformation. For the rest of us who fell behind in this digital catch-up, COVID-19 has probably expedited your digital transformation timeline, and that's not a bad thing. However, not all digital transformations are built equally.

In 2018, of the over 1 trillion USD spent on digital transformation, according to Harvard Business Review, about 900 billion USD was spent on initiatives that didn't meet the goals. You do not want this to be your firm.

Today, most businesses understand how crucial digital transformation is, but many are overwhelmed with the idea of having to revamp their complete digital approach and understandably flounder without knowing how to spearhead or oversee a transformation. But they do recognize that if they choose to remain rigid in such times, they're bound to be disrupted and replaced.

While the ability to work from home is a benefit many employees value, too many firms lack the technical infrastructure to offer such a work structure without some sacrifice to "business as usual." Eventually, some companies will go back to rigid work-in-office policies, but many will recognize the advantages of this structure once they manage it effectively. If nothing else, you will come out with a solid experience about how to accommodate work from home needs in the future and what is needed.

The aim of a digital transformation is to solve traditional problems using modern technology. This often means integrating the latest tech into each sector of the business. When done right, digital transformation lets you bring unprecedented value to your users.

Companies with a vision understand that once you start a digital transformation, it's never truly over. A true digital transformation is a complete cleanup of internal processes for a company and helps it continually adopt new digital solutions and evolve. Creating a seamless internal experience by breaking down internal silos is one of the first goals of digital transformation. How well a company works internally is often greatly reflected in the external customer experience. Each department of your business will have a role to play in this digital transformation, and each of them will impact your customer in different ways. Lasting digital transformations are built with an eye towards the future, keeping the central focus on the customer.

Digital transformation shouldn't have to be overwhelming. It's not just a task you outsource. It has to start internally first. It's a mindset that's honed gradually within an organization that becomes part of its culture and user experience. When you approach a transformation in this manner, it becomes a much more manageable transformation.

User focus. You have to make the switch from being a product-focused company to a customer-focused one before you embrace a digital transformation. The goal has to be about making your customer's lives easier rather than making things easier for the organization. The driving force behind major decisions has to be customers.

Get everybody on the same page. To lead a cohesive organization that can embrace change faster, you may have to break down internal silos. That means getting everybody on board with the new digital vision, from executives and leaders at the top to getting your customers prepped for possible disruptions to service for a bit.

Don't take a technology-first approach. Beginning a digital transformation with an expensive, huge legacy-replacement project is often the wrong way to go about it. This will eat up too many human resources and money. This will just end up distracting from delivering the real transformation benefits. Digital transformation means changes in your business processes to support the new technology. Procedures, talent resources, and policies might need to change. This prolonged change in a technology-first approach will end up becoming a roadblock and could drag progress backward. The smarter approach is to start with understanding how the business needs to change to deliver a better customer and employee experience, then focus on the tools that will bring a part of that value early on. Start with a sprint to implement a smaller technology-driven project that delivers measurable value to customers faster. Then take an iterative approach and move on to the next value-adding project.

Integration. Every data system has to work together and be integrated into your company's internal processes. For a successful digital transformation, a streamlined data strategy is imperative.

Internal user experience. You also have to consider the changes from the employee's point. Getting employee feedback then working on consumer-grade technology solutions empowers your employees to provide an amazing experience for your users.

Evolve services, products, and processes. Digital transformation demands a change in thinking about how a company delivers its services and products, and even the services and products themselves. To find the most innovative and efficient solutions, successful companies have to push past what's always been done.

Data insights. So much of popular discourse on data focuses on Artificial Intelligence or specific types of computer intelligence, such as deep learning, natural language processing, or machine learning. These are all powerful and exciting advances in AI, yet they are rarely the key differentiator for future-proofing your business. A far greater competitive advantage is harnessing available data and building the needed skills to turn the data into useful insights, and most importantly, being able to act on those insights fast. Too many business heads operate under the false belief that if they hire competent data scientists or build fancy AI tools, their issues will go away, or they will somehow be more high-tech. The big difference between Amazon and the rest, between Google and the rest, between Facebook and the rest, is not the fancy data scientists they hire, or even the actual functionality of their technology, but their radical data-lead cultures. They have harnessed great data assets and have solid algorithms to interpret then monetize that data, but their main strategic advantage and the biggest asset is that they've built data-driven cultures. This is something you cannot buy; the leadership had to cultivate it, nurture it, and harness it with time.

The right team. Pair superior technology with the right human skills. The creative aspect of digital transformation is entirely dependent on people. The most brilliant innovative idea is irrelevant if you can not bring the right team into the fold to give that vision life. As a leader, when you think about investing in technology, give equal thought to investing in the right people who can make that technology come to life.

Personalization. Digital transformation offers unprecedented opportunities to offer personalized service to your users. Leverage these solutions to understand users to provide them experiences that are unique. We're also excited to be featured on the Top eCommerce Development Companies Of 2020 according to DesignRush. We're certain many of these points played into us having a successful business year.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process, meaning you'll have to work through these steps continually. Change can be difficult, but the benefits that come from creating a customer-focused, forward-thinking digital company is lasting. This could be your silver lining in the age of COVID-19. This forced change can be positive for your employees, partners, and customers. Digital transformation is often more about people and less about technology. You can pretty much buy or build any technology, but your ability to adapt to a rapidly changing digital future depends on closing the gap between talent supply & demand, developing or hiring the next generation of skills, then future-proofing your own and others' potential. As the last several months have shown, as a global community, we are agile. This agility has been technology supported, but people led. The key is to nurture talent and tools, so we have options, even in a crisis.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon