Where to start with Digital Transformation

So you have decided that you want to start to embrace digital within your business but are struggling to know where to start. Digital transformation can feel like such a large task - and it is - you can feel overwelmed to the point where you take no action.

Below I have detailed a few stages on how I approach Digital Transformation:

Find your why

The very first thing you need to do is identify why you want to go through this, why are you looking to disrupt your business and go through all of the pain of changing things within your business, why do you want to change the way your staff or systems work?

Are you looking to streamline your operations to save money, are you looking to enhance your 'product' to offer it to more customers, are you hoping to launch a whole new product that will be the next big thing in your industry? Whatever your why is, you need to be clear what you want. Do not worry about the implementation details at this stage, do not worry about whether you 'can' do it, worry more about whether you should even try.

Until you can write down your why in no more than a few lines and when you are able to explain your why to someone else, you are ready to move to the next stage.

Find a champion

Pushing through change is much easier when you have people with you, do your peers/direct reports see the same need for transformation as you? If not, convince them, also listen to them as they may have a perspective on this that you do not.

Once you have other people on board, try and agree on a single person to be the one to push through digital change, this person does not have to be the one to come up with all the ideas - in fact there should be no single person who does this - but they should be the one to ensure momentum is kept up. This person needs to be a real champion for digital transformation, if no single person is pushing through the change then it is easy for it to drop off the priority lists as everyone thinks someone else is working on it.

Finding a champion can be difficult if your business does not have a great culture for Digital Transformation, if this is the case then you may have to be one to take this role until others start seeing the benefits.

Find your 'what'

So if you have followed my first 2 stages, then you will have an understanding of what you are hoping to achieve - the 'why', and you will have an idea of who will be working with you to bring about this Transformation.

Next you need to start thinking in more practical terms on how you are going to implement change to achieve your 'why', you need to think of the 'what'.

Now it is time to sit with your team and come up with a rough idea of how you will achieve your 'why'. Finding the 'what' for some will be the easiest step of them all, while other will struggle, especially when you are looking to add something new to your business.

If your why is to produce something new, then discuss what is stopping you from producing this 'something' and plan what needs to be changed to fix that. If you are looking to introduce efficiencies to save your business time and money, then first identify what you need to improve, what are your biggest waste areas at the moment.

Come up with a rough idea on how you get from the point you are at now to where you want to be. Only with the 'what' will you know how to move forward.

Measure everything, then measure some more!

Digital provides the capability of measuring almost every part of a process, and to truly transform something you are looking to see a change. I believe Digital Transformation and Data Analysis go hand in hand and without measuring and analysing the change you achieve you cannot be sure you are doing the right thing.

"Digital Transformation and Data Analysis go hand in hand"

Measurements and statistics needs to be easily available, I would recommend some sort of shared dashboard where everyone involved can see the difference they are making.

Be careful on the type of statistics you use to measure how successful (or not) your changes are. If you are measuring signups to a new SaaS application, don't measure how many users you have as your primary statistic (although that number has value), measure how many signups you have had each week! This way you know how the work you are doing is effecting signups.

If you change is aimed at replacing or improving current processes, then measure or at least estimate the current resources the process uses (time/budget) and use this as a baseline to compare your changes too.

Free up some resources

Any change within a business takes resources, this may be time from existing staff, budget for outsourced staff or maybe a budget for an off the shelf package. You need to accept that change does not come for free.

In a perfect world, I would recommend committing at least 20% of your resources to bring around serious change in your business, in a timely fashion - i.e. in a time frame that will give an immediate effect. I appreciate this is a lot to ask for from a business, especially in situations where digital transformation is being brought in to turn around some sort of decline in your business. But if done properly, resources you invest now for Digital Transformation will free up more resources which you can reinvest into the project and should generate a snowball effect for continued improvement.

Validate everything

The single greatest piece of advice I can give you for Digital Transformation is to validate everything all of the time. You will learn something new as you progress through each stage, constantly ask yourself and your colleagues, "should we continue". Do not get caught in the trap of thinking "well we have come this far...", if you truly believe something is not working then don't waste your resources on it. But don't just base this decision on a gut feeling, if you have been measuring things correctly then you should have evidence that your current path is not working.

Finding out that you are not on the right path should not be seen as a failure, it is a perfect opportunity to Pivot your ideas and refocus based on what you have learned. Being good at repeatedly validating your idea and pivoting will mean you never fail, you keep improving your idea until it succeeds.

"Pivoting will mean you never fail, you keep improving your idea until it succeeds"

By the end of this process you will have a strong understanding of how digital transformation can benefit your business and how you see this coming about. The next phase is to start coming up with solutions on how digital can be used solve problems and to implement them. Expect another post on that shortly, follow me on twitter to know when it is published

If you would like advice on how to begin the process of Digital Transformation then contact me