Digital transformation: first steps toward sustainable growth

Stu French

Director of Digital & Customer Experience, Versent

March 23, 2021

Evidence for the importance of digital transformation is all around us. Every time we use a rideshare app, shop online or join a video meeting with our workmates, we’re participating in the speediest and most comprehensive economic upheaval since the first industrial revolution.   

There’s a widely held misconception that digital transformation is the territory of Silicon Valley tech giants, but the reality is that every major enterprise needs to make the leap into the tech future. The only alternative is to fall behind competitors and lose business to more efficient, data-led companies that are exploiting the power of performance-based marketing.   

Technologies like cloud computing, AI (Artificial Intelligence) personalisation and automation are the foundation of the world’s most successful companies. But these technologies are now essential to survival for any business because, without them, it will be impossible to compete sustainably.   

Tech evolution isn’t just about upgrading software and investing in gadgets. Digital business transformation is the process of streamlining end-to-end business performance and optimising constantly. The new industrial revolution – industry 4.0 as it is commonly known – is about using technology strategically to anticipate market change and adapt. This strategic agility gives enterprises better opportunities to plan for customer needs on the horizon and be market leaders.    

The blueprint for change.   

A well-thought-out digital transformation strategy is a framework for decision-makers to think about the future of a business.   

Senior management should ask themselves questions like:   

  • What is the core of our business right now?   
  • Where are our roadblocks to growth?   
  • What does the future of this enterprise look like?    
  • How do we make change while managing risk?   

A company embarking on digital transformation needs solid data to feed into decision making. Coupled with this is an agile decision-making stance that allows opportunities for experimentation and fast recalculations.    

A well-thought-through digital transformation roadmap is essential, but the strategic tools that drive transformation need to be scalable, flexible and above all, not prone to redundancy. Old school technology investment – where companies buy machines and software to do specific tasks – doesn’t work in the new tech economy. Agile decision making needs to be supported by agile tech solutions that enable people to adapt quickly and respond to change.    

Every company must become data and performance led because agile technology facilitates growth. Whether your business makes cars or computers, grows trees or brews beer, the company’s fundamental architecture will still rest on technology. Communicating with customers, designing new products, managing inventory and monitoring quality control: all these essential business activities are more effective using the right tech resources.   

Revolutionary tools like artificial intelligence and automated customer management are essential for every business, and they’re also within reach. But where do you start? How does an established company with massive momentum and legacy infrastructure start doing things differently without breaking the business?    

Step 1: bring your enterprise with you.   

Digital transformation starts at the top, but it’s a cultural and technological change and needs to flow through the entire business. Leadership have to communicate clearly the goals of the digital transformation process to every part of the team. Digital transformation affects everyone’s daily work-life, so there needs to be a common goal firmly established from the start. A company that attempts to undertake the process without aligning its team’s goals will encounter unnecessary roadblocks.      

Step 2: take stock of your status quo & resources.   

Take a hard look at the way your company works now. Transforming a complex legacy computer system isn’t as simple as just transferring from one environment to another. There are also efficiencies to be gained if there are redundant or wasteful processes in the system.    

Aside from the obvious financial and logistical considerations, planning a digital business transformation requires a careful assessment of a company’s IT human resources. Migrating a corporate computer system to the cloud, redesigning customer experiences or implementing AI-driven analytics demand highly specialised skill sets.   

Your team will need to include specialists in marketing automation and personalisation, people who understand end-to-end transformation strategy and can drive results across multiple channels. There’s a severe skill shortage in the realm of cloud computing, so hiring people with the skills to undertake a large-scale digital transformation is not straightforward.    

Step 3: measure the challenge.   

Once you’ve audited the status quo and you have a clear idea of where you want your transformation journey to take you, it’s time to do a challenge analysis.    

  • What are the areas of resistance that might hamper the process?   
  • What supplementary skillsets will it take to execute the transformation?   
  • What sort of timeframe is involved?   
  • How much impact will the digital transformation work have on the daily operations of the company?   
  • What will happen if things get bogged down or derailed?    
  • What are the potential risks involved in the transformation?   
  • What’s the risk mitigation plan?   

Step 4: find the right transformation partner.   

The reality is that few enterprises undertake a digital transformation alone. The expertise and experience just aren’t there in most companies. The process needs to be swift and smooth to minimise disruption of the business’s day-to-day operations, so there’s no time for learning on the job.   

Those experienced with digital transformation consulting know what data to gather to make a proper pre-migration assessment. Working with a digital transformation specialist eliminates the “unknown unknowns” so that there’s a clear roadmap from start to completion.   

Digital transformation and cloud migration are massive undertakings with little room for mistakes. The process requires large teams working together seamlessly, and that’s not a scenario that lends itself to in-house execution.   

The ideal transformation partner will bring a highly experienced team to the task, who will integrate with your company’s in-house teams and bring the entire organisation along on the journey. Digital transformation partnerships need to encompass the technological, operational, commercial and marketing-focused aspects of the work.    

Working with a partner who understands the strategic importance of the process as well as just the tech nuts and bolts will give your company a competitive edge. Ideal digital transformation services and partners will begin the process by working with you to establish your strategic goals, so the entire process promotes business growth.   

Aim high.   

Although it’s a competitive imperative, digital transformation isn’t just a necessity. In every digital transformation, there’s an opportunity to move the business to a new productivity and creativity level.   

Digital transformation bestows better data analysis that drives better planning. Digital transformation dramatically shrinks the time it takes to measure the success of initiatives and pivot to better products. Investing in a new approach with an experienced team to guide you brings massive cost efficiencies, not just in terms of tech resources but also because it gives your team members access to better workflows and communication tools.   

Business growth in the Industry 4.0 era is powered by understanding customers’ needs and building made-to-measure solutions. Digital transformation gives companies the infrastructure and data they need to understand their marketplace better, and that alone is a good reason to start the transformation journey.   

Want to learn more about digital transformation partnership? 
Read this case study of John Holland’s transformation journey with Versent.   


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