Technology companies are often guilty of pushing buzzwords around like their paycheck depends on it. “Digital transformation” is one such term that has gone through different iterations of meaning and usage over the past two decades.
What is Digital Transformation?
Currently, here’s the working definition of digital transformation we use with our clients:
Digital transformation is adapting your business to customer needs with innovative people, processes, and technology.
Many people think digital transformation is simply using digital technology to complete old tasks in new ways. This will provide incremental gains, not transformation.
It Starts With People
Adapting your business to meet constantly changing customer needs and preferences requires you and your employees to constantly ask, “What does the customer expect in this situation?” Sometimes, this question will have an answer rooted in newer technology. Often, though, the answers have more to do with what you’re doing instead of how you’re doing it.
With customer’s increasingly becoming digital first in how they prefer to interact with businesses, the finish you select for your business cards is less important than knowing if your customers want cards at all. You can basically replace “business cards” with any existing item or process in your business. The focus should be on enabling your people to ask questions about how the item or process solves a customer problem.
Also, the questioning never stops because customer needs and technology are always evolving. Having great people in your business asking the right questions helps you build innovative thinking and creativity into your business, making it easier to adapt to your customers and the marketplace.
Process Helps You Scale
Having processes in place for your business allows you to have repeatable, predictable, and measurable systems to grow your business. Again, technology can assist with processes. But better technology will only help poor processes fail faster.
Processes can include everything from client on-boarding to final invoicing. Retail processes can include purchasing, inventory, sales, and customer support. All businesses can have processes for accounting, marketing, advertising, cash flow, legal, HR, and others.
The key to transforming the processes in your business is to look at each process from the viewpoint of your customer, even if the process doesn’t directly impact the customer.
- Hiring: What type of person, characteristics, and abilities do I need to hire and train for to give my customer what they expect? This is a much different question than, Who can I hire quickly for the lowest amount of money? You’ll want to make sure your hiring process allows you to acquire the right type of people to serve your customers.
- Accounting: What processes do I need to make it easy for my clients to buy from me? What technologies exist to make it easier for clients to pay my invoices? You’ll want your accounting processes to be easy for you to maintain and implement, as well as making it easy for your clients to pay.
- Website Content & Functionality: What is my customers’ biggest pain or burning question when they come to my website? Is it easy for them to find answers and solutions? Can you update the content on your website easily to respond to recent customer questions and demand? Does your site look great and function well on mobile devices? If not, it may be time for an update.
Each of these three areas and example questions are simply starting points. Selecting high-leverage processes which are easier to implement are a great way to get some quick wins when looking to transform your business.
If you have the right people and processes in place, you’ll want them to be able to work efficiently and effectively. You’ll want them to be able to meet customer needs in ways that show the customer you value them, their time, and not just their money.
Because you’ve thought of your processes from the customer viewpoint, you can be more specific when evaluating the impact of technologies on your customers and your business. Your spending won’t be diluted on technologies that don’t solve customer problems.
Ultimately, if your customers are using a certain technology, platform, or application, you want to be there to serve them. Not every technology or tool will help you better engage your customers, though. The great news is it’s never been easier to find out what your customers need and expect. Having a culture of innovation which allows you to quickly test technologies for viability and impact will set your business up for long term success as the inevitable client and technology changes occur.
Digital transformation allows you to adapt your business to ensure survival, and ultimately, to thrive. This growth never stops. Digital transformation is how you think about growing your business, not just the technology you use to make it happen.
We’re also pretty sure there will be another buzzword coming along shortly to describe how you can better serve your customers and build your business.
Such is the nature of going paperless, digitization, digital transformation, business.