Digital transformation; the new buzz word? No, it’s been with us for a while.  There’s nothing really new about digital transformation.  In fact, most businesses and organisations worldwide have experienced some form of digital transformation – social media, adopting the cloud, the Internet, mobile technology, to name but a few.  So, isn’t that enough?  That’s digital transformation, isn’t it?

Well, no, not quite.  Digital transformation is more than just updating legacy IT systems, or adopting a mobile working strategy, or using the latest technological products and services.  It’s using technology to improve business processes, increase business value and drive growth.  However, with this comes a complete shift in not just the physical aspect of changing processes and procedures, but also in the workplace culture.

In answer to the question, do I have to?  No, you don’t, but if you want to experience increased revenue, improved productivity, to grow as business and keep up with the competition, then you may have no choice but to digitally transform.  There are several aspects to digital transformation that need to be mastered.

 
Automation.  The more automated your business processes the better your operational efficiency and employee productivity.  Automation can help reduce the repetitive tasks and give more time for staff to focus on the more skilled jobs.  But it’s not automation for the sake of automation, just because you can.  Think intelligent automation; what processes can you automate that are actually going to add value and improve your business? Rethink your processes, your systems and procedures as an entire business, not just department by department. On a global basis, 56% of businesses are already automating processes, or are planning automation programs in the next 12 months.†
 
Yes, there can be a long-term impact with automation; you will hear the cry of ‘where’s my job gone?’  But where one door closes, another opens.  Businesses and organisations are becoming far more data-driven, adopting technology such as the cloud and Internet of Things, and with that comes the need for greater information security.  The area of software programming is expanding rapidly and presents the ideal opportunity to upskill your workforce with training.  Indeed, 55% of businesses will retrain or redeploy staff.†
 
Standardisation.  How many of your employees have a different way of processing an order or carrying out a task?  Probably more than you realise and that’s because IT departments have adapted and changed the way a system works to suit a colleague’s way of working.  Standardisation changes this, it delivers scalability, but it also changes user’s options – they have to learn to do things differently and that adjustment is not always easy to make.

Train, train and re-train.  The business model is changing; the way teams are structured is changing; now’s the time to invest in the training and education of employees, from top to bottom.  Just because you’re the CEO doesn’t mean there aren’t new skills you can learn. A business’s staff is its biggest asset; if you don’t spend some time on improving their capabilities to retain your employees, no amount of new technology and transformation is going to drive your business forward.  7 out of 10 people say that training and development opportunities influence their decision on whether to stay with a company or not.††

 
A lack of skills and competency within the business or organisation is a leading reason for digital transformation failure.  56% of HR managers consider training and development to be an essential business enabler, but aren’t doing enough to increase training opportunities.**
 
Cultural shift.  Perhaps the hardest element to digital transformation is changing the mindset, the culture of a business or organisation.  People, generally, don’t like change; they need a good reason why they have to change the way they’ve always done things.  Increasing the focus on bridging the gap between executive level, managerial and factory floor staff, improving engagement internally helps the process of transformation.
 
There is no one rule to digital transformation.  Every business and organisation is different, individual; transforming it has to be managed according to that business or organisation’s needs and requirements.  Assessing the risks and mitigation, adapting the entire infrastructure, reviewing all the processes, services and performance; all this has to be managed and senior executives have to lead from the top.
 
So, do you have to embrace digital transformation?  In a word, yes.  It’s not easy; in the early days of change you may experience more failures than successes but ultimately, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
 
† Source: Grant Thornton International Business Report 2017
†† Source: CED Magazine
** Source: Middlesex University’s Institute for Work Based Learning