Digital transformation is the process of streamlining your business by simplifying processes and improving access.
This can be done by relying more on advanced technologies for core business functions, moving your legacy data to digital storage, and implementing other cloud-based efficiencies like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).
Increasingly, it also involves acquiring and deploying AI and other machine learning technologies for reporting and analysis.
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A research by SearchCIO found that 70% of leaders define digital transformation as their top business concern. Those who are still waiting will find the matter more urgent as we go deeper into 2020.
Why Digital Transformation is Important for Business
Digital transformation isn’t a wish-list item. It’s a necessity if you want to remain viable and competitive in the 21st century.
Done right, it will move you beyond mere efficiency by redefining how you conduct business and serve customers at every level.
It provides a more durable, scalable corporate architecture by making sure that you have the right technologies in place to support data-driven decision making and performance.
Some might describe digital transformation as the future of business, but it’s critical here and now.
Lack of guidance could cause your data transition process to become bogged down in clutter and confusion.
In order for your digital migration to progress in a manner that’s smooth and efficient, you need a plan. Your team should anticipate problems and put measures in place to eliminate them or reduce their impact on your business.
Here are the most common roadblocks to digital transformation and how to get around them.
#1 Fear of Change and Staff Resistance
Enacting a digital transformation isn’t a relatively small task like putting a chatbot on your website to streamline customer support.
It’s a systematic, company-wide undertaking that can be daunting and frightening. Staff may wonder if they’ll become obsolete, and some might even fear the technology itself.
Some organizations have difficulty with the concept of digital transformation because they think that it will involve a major business disruption.
While it’s true that your corporate culture and business model will shift and evolve, it’s only disruptive if you allow fear of the change to prevent you from making such a momentous move.
Overcoming the Problem:
Barry Ross, CEO of Ross & Ross International, said it best when he stated:
“You can’t delegate digital transformation for your company… You and your executives have to own it! Executives need to engage, embrace, and adopt new ways of working with the latest and emerging technologies.”
Mitigate the fear response in your team by going in with a clear plan that’s based on analysis while keeping your staff informed and involved at every step of the process.
It also helps to lead by example.
#2 Not Being Sure Where to Begin
Once you overcome the fear of change, you may be confused about where to begin and how to implement your strategies.
Do you deploy technology toward one process at a time or try to enact the entire shift toward a data-driven business model all at once?
It’s easy to look at all of the work involved and procrastinate. But, waiting will only put you further behind the competition.
Overcoming the Problem
Recognize and acknowledge that this is a major shift that will change everything about how your company approaches digital transformation.
Start small by choosing a critical process of your business, enact the transformation, and perfect that process.
This will demonstrate the value of the transition to your staff and customers, ease them into a new corporate operating structure, and hopefully get reluctant leaders and workers on board with the idea moving forward.
#3 Proceeding Without a Plan
Even the smallest changes require a plan of action if you want them to be successful.
Digital transformation is no small undertaking. It isn’t something you delegate to your IT staff or workers.
You have to devise a cohesive plan using input from multiple departments at levels, clearly communicating your plans, goals, and desired outcomes to those affected.
Overcoming the Problem
Many organizations make the mistake of taking a wholly technological approach to enacting digital transformation.
Your planning and analysis should include a thorough understanding of why you’re undertaking this evolution, who will benefit from it, and how that advantage will be realized.
Then, you have to make sure that each digital rollout is enacted according to plan, that the impact of each step is understood, and that the final outcome is in line with customer needs and adds value to your services.
#4 Cost of Transitioning
Enacting a digital transformation doesn’t come without a cost.
There’s an investment in the technology itself, accounting for the human and financial cost of possible disruptions and downtime, and the expense of onboarding or retraining staff members.
Depending on the size of your organization, the process could involve multiple steps and take several years until integration is complete.
Overcoming the Problem
Meticulous planning and implementation will help define where tech investment is most cost-effective.
In that way, you will reduce the overall impact and cost of acquiring and deploying digital technology, and do so in a way that’s less disruptive to business operations.
Set priorities, decide which technologies will provide the most value for specific departments or functions, and find the most cost-efficient means to implement them.
#5 Outdated Legacy IT Systems
When you have issues with outdated IT systems, these issues often revolve around computers being slow and unresponsive, and not having the right software solutions for all your data.
Such unreliable systems might result in data loss and data leaks. In fact, the end of life tech is the main driving factor behind the adoption of new technology systems.
In the end, digital transformation is all about how you access, use, store, and disperse data. Migrating away from legacy systems could be the single largest undertaking of the whole transformation process.
Overcoming the Problem
If you have slow performing computers but they are not old, you probably won’t have to purchase new ones—you just need to optimize their performance and speed them up by eliminating software you don’t need and adding a few upgrades to each machine, and they will work well with new systems you plan to use.
As for data, you need to find all the locations where your data is stored and then decide what needs to be migrated, what can be dispensed with and how, and making sure that all digital formats are compatible.
But, you also have to ensure that legacy data is accurate, reliable, and valuable to your organization and its customers.
One of the more reliable ways to perform this huge task is reliance on data-driven analytics to parse legacy databases, and that you deploy cloud-based platforms for processing and data storage.
Security and data integrity should be assessed and prioritized at every step.
#6 Skills/Talent Gap
There are times when your organization has the will and the way for digital transformation but lacks the skills and talents who would work on implementing new systems.
In fact, most businesses will struggle to begin the process because they don’t have anyone on their staff who can help set things in motion.
Even if you have an IT specialist on staff, he or she may not be capable of overseeing a company-wide digital restructuring.
Overcoming the Problem
You can address the talent/skills gap by using external consultants, hiring new IT specialists to oversee your transformation, and investing in staff retraining.
Deploy automation wherever possible. This will also free your team to focus on business building and customer service activities.
Digital Transformation Best practices
Although 80 percent of business leaders surveyed realize the importance of successful digital transformation, only 35 percent of those same respondents have actually begun the process.
Once you’ve overcome the roadblocks, following a standard set of best practices will help ensure a smooth transition.
Keep the above issues and solutions in mind, and rely on IT professionals for guidance.
Digital transformation is on the horizon for every established company that wants to remain current and competitive.
If you’ve tried and failed to complete a successful digital transformation, or you’re at any stage of the process, the above solutions should put you on the right path.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters