Ensuring digital transformation doesn’t fall at first hurdle

By Fiona Gray, Marketing Director, Equator
To reap the rewards of digital transformation, putting in place a proper plan, engaged people, and the right platforms are key, says Equator’s Fiona Gray

Have you ever tried to change your diet, lose or gain weight, or muscle up to change your body composition?

If the answer is yes, you will understand that transforming yourself is tricky – and usually can’t be achieved alone. Dieticians, PTs, even YouTube advice from strangers are all part of personal metamorphosis. Not to mention shipping container-sized commitment and a clear plan of action.

If your organisation is intent on digital transformation, this is an analogy you should bear in mind. It takes time, toil, and teamwork.

All too often, we see businesses rush headlong towards their supposed goals shortly after deciding on digital change. They ignore strategy, fail to understand user and employee needs, and ignore the measures needed to tell whether the transformation programme is working.

Yet these are all essential elements. And with 75% of companies expected to have devised a digital transformation strategy by 2023, knowing how to successfully navigate the huge changes it will bring is crucial.

Digital transformation is no longer an option. It’s clearly driving market leadership and leaving the laggards behind.

So, where to start?

Diagnosis to enhancement: a framework for transformation

There are many approaches to digital transformation but allow me to share a framework that bears fruit.

It’s designed around several key stages:

Diagnose – this phase is critical to future success, and probably the most important part of the whole process. Take a step back, talk to your internal and external stakeholders. Without their views - and without bringing them on the transformation journey - your strategy won’t be as strong. . The strategy must also be ‘always-on’. Any transformation that becomes stop-start can quickly fall apart as BAU reclaims priority.

Create – With key digital capability opportunities identified and objectives hammered out it’s time to draw up a blueprint. Vitally, this should pinpoint key workstreams that will become a focus of your collective efforts - and run concurrently to ensure every part of the machine does its job in harmony.

Deliver – Now the real, often resource- and time-intensive, work begins. This third lengthy phase involves implementation of the strategy. That means further discovery about what can be achieved, definition of goals for individual aspects of your digital transformation, further development of the approach, and ultimately delivery of the whole programme. Our clients typically work in this stage for up to three years. During that time, the solution is likely to evolve. In fact, to be successful, it really should evolve.

Enhance – With ongoing workstreams operating in parallel, your efforts can be analysed and measured, and learnings shared across teams. This will optimise the strategy at key stages, so that what may have seemed a rigid plan at the outset is more of a living, breathing entity that bends to your will and becomes the best fit for your business.

Those are the four key phases of the digital transformation framework.

As it happens, there are also four key considerations you need to constantly monitor throughout the journey.

Four key ingredients of transformation strategies

It’s hard to overstate how imperative it is to create a transformation culture. Companies that focus on culture are five times more likely to achieve breakthrough performance.

This means your organisation as a whole must be willing to experiment and take risks; create internal and even external champions of change; and celebrate failures along the way - because, cliché or not, that’s the best way to learn and improve.

When you’re embarking on seismic change, the views and feelings of your employees - and your customers or users - should be ignored at your peril. After all, 70% of digitally led change fails and more often than not this is a product of people not coming along for the ride.

That means placing those people at the centre of your plans, and communicating the end goals and benefits carefully along the way so they don’t feel threatened. Resistance is useful as a basis for discussion and improvement, but ultimately everyone should be pulling in the same direction.

Technology is the third key ingredient. It constantly evolves, so the transformation strategy should, too. It’s true that legacy tech contracts may initially get in the way of change. But even then, it’s an opportunity to take some time to pick the platforms that will work best for you, and deliver the most successful results.

Deciding on the right solution often involves asking simple questions (which admittedly can have complex answers): Do you want to improve the customer experience? Or are better internal processes the ultimate aim? Without taking a step back it’s probable you’ll choose the wrong platform, with disappointing and costly results.

If an organisation doesn’t already run on process it’s probably never achieved what it set out to. The problem is, organisations can lose sight of why they do things a certain way. In fact, 35% of employees feel management teams focus solely on the operation itself and not its outcomes.

But ideal outcomes deserve KPIs, and that’s a key element of transformation strategy. KPIs become a mark in the sand by which to measure the pace and success of your modernisation. Overhauled process must help everyone your business touches, from customer engagement and employee productivity to business resilience.

Being ready for the transformation challenge

To fully reap the rewards of digital transformation putting in place a proper plan, fully engaged people, and the right platforms and processes are key.  And if it feels daunting, always keep in mind the rewards of transformation vastly outweigh the toil it takes to reach your goal.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t beware pitfalls on the journey. Don’t leave the task of filling skills gaps in your team to chance. Get the right people in place and have a back-up plan if someone ducks out. Consider wisely your tech investment and implementation. Live and breathe transformation in every area of your business – every day. And have a system in place that drives you towards your chosen level of change but also keeps pace with the changes happening outside of your organisation.

One final piece of advice is that once your firm has rolled up its sleeves to deliver digital transformation, they’ll never be pulled down again, because the benefits will have been witnessed and encourage momentum. Even when the strategy has been fully implemented you should monitor, analyse and assess the effects of change, and how further evolution could put your business on an even surer footing.

Just like overhauling your lifestyle, transformation takes a lot of hard work – but the end result is worth it.


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