STEPS TO DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Businesses are talking about digital transformation. It’s a trend that has gotten a lot of buzz, but an increasing number of businesses are discovering it has pitfalls. This stems from a fundamental problem: High-tech tools alone cannot transform a business. It takes careful consideration and analysis for people to adapt successfully. In other words, you can lead your business to the digital transformation, but you can’t make it drink.
Before a digital transformation can take place, a business must be ready to change. Leadership must analyze stakeholder needs and prepare the way for success. Transforming a company digitally requires more than just selecting tools that are congruent to the company’s current processes. It requires carefully weighing and selecting tools that enhance the strengths of the team.
Notable contributors to the Harvard Business Review, like Stefan H. Thomke and Markus Hammer, have discussed the fundamental issue of why businesses must be ready to change if they are going to adapt a new tool.
According to a 2016 HBR blog post from Hammer and his research team, the effectiveness of a tool to transform operations stems from whether people “can use [the tool] to amplify longstanding skills and expertise.” They posited the most effective tools help people do more of what they’ve been doing best over their previous years of experience.
Additionally, Thomke has pointed out that to make progress in transforming operations, a tool “must be integrated into systems and routines that are already in place.” Thus, if using a tool falls too far outside of current processes, its adaptation will be an arduous process with an increased
chance of failure.
Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “Power of Habit,” it is easier to change an existing habit if there is something familiar in the new habit. In the book, he lays out a three-step habit loop — cue, routine, reward. Duhigg found the most effective habit transformations occur when the cue
and reward phases remain the same, and only the routine phase is changed.
Pulling this research together within the context of operational transformation, the “routine” phase can be thought of as “operational processes.” Changing a routine, Duhigg argues, is only possible when an individual believes change is possible — which often requires the help of a group.
Hammer’s team took this point a step further, stating successful transformation “requires a massive effort involving many changes at once, mostly centering on … role-modeling of new behavior, the transparency of communication, the fostering of new capabilities.”
When companies move to a work management system, they often discover employees struggle to log projects and keep the system updated. Successfully implementing a new tool takes several key people in the organization diligently updating the system and reminding others to do so as
well. This process fosters communication about how the tool should be used, and eventually leads to changes in workflows and processes.
To realize the greatest benefit from digital transformation, new digital tools can’t fall too far outside of the company’s current processes, even if the company is required to change some operational processes to use a tool to its fullest.
Adapting Salesforce is one example of this. The platform captures many key tasks salespeople are accustomed to — working off leads lists, updating spreadsheets with actions, dates and next steps — but teams often find they also need to make operational changes to unlock the full capabilities of the platform. For example, they need to communicate with each other differently and streamline integration of other digital communication vendors, such as their ticketing system, email provider and web chat tools.
To achieve a successful digital transformation, company leadership must select the right digital productivity tools and bring teams around to their implementation. Selecting the right productivity tools and developing a plan for implementation can be a time-consuming process. However, this process can be expedited if the team has done its homework and addressed the following four key elements of digital transformation.
The emphasis for a successful digital transformation is on the team and the workforce. They must change their operational habits and communication patterns with the support of the broader organization if they are to take full advantage of the potential power of digital change.
Note: Part of this article appeared on Customer Think on March 26, 2017. Read the article at
As the CEO of MindShare Design, MEREDITH RAWFORD is responsible for all facets of running the business, including overseeing SaaS platforms, WorkStraight and Savicom. Prior to joining MindShare Design, she worked with different organizations in customer service, sales & marketing and operations. Meredith is a regular contributor to CustomerThink, where she offers readers insights on strategy, execution, automation and small business concerns. Meredith earned her MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
successful implementation of a digital transformation tool requires thoughtful analysis and changes in habit 1 users It may seem obvious, but “Who is this tool for?” is one of the most important questions to consider before selecting a digital productivity tool. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this tool primarily for supervisors to help them manage their reportees?
- Will it aid workers in carrying out their duties?
- Is it for the customers or for internal use, such as within the accounting/finance department?
- Are there other stakeholders involved with the tool, either directly or indirectly?
- Are the primary users of the tool the same as the people benefiting from the tools?
When evaluating options, distinguish between the intent and the user. For example, a supervisor may want to implement a digital productivity tool to streamline an approval process, but it would be their reportees who log-in and use the tool. While the supervisor — or even the executive team
— may be the people choosing and vetting the tools, they need to think with the end users in mind.
BOTTOM LINE: The productivity tool should offer features attractive to the leadership team and benefactors, but it should also offer ease-of-use that’ll be attractive to the tool’s users.
2 process When used appropriately, digital productivity tools improve an organization’s
processes. Ask yourself:
- “What current process (or task) are we trying to improve?”
- “How should it be improved? Does it need to be simplified? Re-envisioned? Automated? Digitalized? Delegated?”
- What other processes and tasks will support the key process identified here?
It can be helpful to draw out the full process during planning to get a full view that includes the supporting processes and tasks. An organization functions like a jigsaw puzzle, and when one piece is changed, it paves the way for the surrounding pieces to also change.
For example, a department trying to streamline a workflow can find a solution that tracks who is doing what and when to better utilize resources. But in the process, they can also digitize — even automate — other supporting processes, such as obtaining supervisor approval and billing the customer.
BOTTOM LINE: The productivity tool should offer the functionality to provide holistic process improvements across the organization.
3 cost Go beyond the question, “Does this tool fit within the budget?” Also consider the cost implications for scaling this tool as your organization grows. For example:
- Is it priced per user? As your organization grows, will there be an additional cost for each new hire?
- Are there enterprise-level bundles for different numbers of employees at different price tiers?
- How does the price-per-bundle option compare to the pay-per-user option?
Paying per user will drive up the cost of the tool as your organization grows, but if you only have a small number of users, this could be less expensive than paying for a large bundle. On the flip side, if you have a large organization with many users, purchasing an enterprise solution for many users could save your organization a tidy sum of money.
Additionally, consider whether this tool consolidates or replaces any of the current tools in use.Does it integrate with your current productivity tools, or would you need to acquire additional tools to achieve your goals?
For example, if the company’s goal is to streamline the handoff between operations and billing, and a productivity tool enables the operations team to invoice customers directly — eliminating the need to go through accounting — make sure to ask whether it integrates with the accounting software. If the tool only integrates with QuickBooks, and the organization currently uses Quicken, you’ll need to factor in the cost of moving to QuickBooks or creating a custom integration solution.
BOTTOM LINE: The pricing for the tool should fit within the organization’s growth model and financial constraints.
4 added valueThe final point of consideration is, “What added value will the digital productivity tool provide?” Beyond making your workforce more productive, a digital productivity tool should provide additional value in the form of meaningful insights into the organization. Things to
- What analytics would your organization find most useful? Perhaps additional insights into processes or workforce?
- How do they handle customer support requests?
- What data is your organization currently missing that would optimize processes? Will this solution provide the insights needed to make better decisions?
BOTTOM LINE: Select a productivity tool that keeps on giving. Look for features that provide
meaningful insights to further improve processes.