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The move to a digital transformation begins the first time that a company decides that it needs a website or an email address. Thus, virtually all businesses have had a digital presence for many years. However, today there are social media networks, cloud providers of SaaS, and mobile technology. Becoming a true digital businessrequires embracing all of these and more.

Unfortunately, some business leaders rush to leverage the latest technology without first establishing a clear digital strategy. What can result is a confusing labyrinth of apps that can do more harm than good. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of a digital transformation, the following advice might help.

  1. An effective digital strategy begins in the boardroom with the collaborative efforts of every board member. Everyone from the CIO to the CMO needs to provide input to determine a clear path for the enterprise to follow. No C-level manager can afford to stake out an inviolable territory that only he can control. Instead, every executive must examine the “big picture” to determine what digital initiatives are best for the entire enterprise.
  2. Leaders need to choose the best people for each initiative and support their efforts. There will always be disgruntled employees, such as a sales rep with decades of experience who refuses to embrace a CRM system. If this rep is actively undermining efforts, such as attempting to convince other employees that the initiative is a waste of time, it is management’s job to deal with him. If the person selected to lead a digital project determines that it will take two months to deploy instead of the six weeks estimated by the board, managers should respect his experience instead of insisting the project conform to arbitrary deadlines.
  3. Never launch a digital initiative without a clear understanding of why it is needed and what will be involved. Just because a technology is the “latest and greatest” does not mean that it is necessary for your enterprise at this moment. At the same time, it is important to avoid rejecting possibilities from a lack of knowledge or understanding of what benefits the solution could provide.
  4. As much as possible, incorporate ideas from those who actually handle tasks. The people who actually do the job are an excellent source of information regarding where the company is failing to meet customer expectations or how productivity is being negatively impacted. You might discover areas that need attention more than another initiative you had planned. For example, if you learn that your CSRs are having to spend an inordinate amount of time walking new customers through the steps to install a recently purchased product, you might want to concentrate on your content before building another landing page.
  5. Remember that your employees play a great part in determining the success of an initiative. Large-scale changes can cause chaos, so deploy initiatives in small increments. Make sure that all employees receive the training they need. Sometimes, productivity may decrease while employees adapt; recognize this and avoid punishing those who are having difficulties if they are sincerely trying to learn. Secure additional training, such as an online course, or find one of their peers who has mastered the tasks to mentor them.
  6. Keep your expectations realistic. A digital transformation is not a “magic wand” that will instantly pay enormous dividends. It may take many months before you see tangible returns such as an improvement in profitability. Realize that you are transforming your business for long-term rewards. In short, digital initiatives are more about what your company could accomplish in the future than what it is currently accomplishing.

Making a digital transformation is not without challenges and costs. However, the companies who embrace the transformation the soonest will be the first to receive the benefits of the move.

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