Deciding whether or not to apply digitisation to a business is probably one of the hardest things to do. If a company is successful, why change? It’s all about ‘new’ versus ‘tried and true’. And this can be overwhelming, but I think we will see how important it is for the future of any business.
Why is there hesitation in moving to digital?
Continuing to use a legacy system does not mean that the company wishes to fail. There are many considerations to make, and if it isn’t broken, why try to fix it?
But if it isn’t broken now, it will be in the future, and how soon is difficult to predict. Hesitation is understandable, as business leaders can be engulfed by panic when thinking about transforming their mission-critical systems. Security, costs, loss of business and other unknowns come into the picture.
Legacy systems cannot keep pace with the newer digital business tools. Figuratively speaking, using duck tape and wd40 to keep an old system going is merely extending the inevitable, and does not generate much appreciation from IT staff.
Transformation is not about handing out new applications for departments to use, it is about changing the business culture, and that is one of the main reasons for hesitating. Business leaders do not like failure, and if a sound strategy is not in place, the failure could be catastrophic. Digital transformation only provides the possibility of moving forward, it is not the panacea, therefore plans and strategies have to be prepared in advance.
Digital transformation is a long term process, hardly a sprint, more of a marathon. I think the most important aspect of any strategy is the staff. They have ‘special’ knowledge about how their working world works, they know the problems and how to get around them. They are crucial to the business and must be involved from the very beginning.
However, the first thing to establish is the transformation director, someone with enough knowledge and clout to drive the change forward and be supported by the executive branch. They must be able to communicate with all the siloed departments effectively, while listening for suggestions. Perhaps several members of staff have been advocating change, and have seen the advantages of it, for them and for the business. Once the director has been appointed, a support team should be built around him/her to strengthen the planning stages.
An implementation plan will let everyone know what needs to be changed and when it will happen. Every part of each project in the plan, including sub-projects, should have clear objectives, scope, timeframes and budgets.
A Project Management Office should be set up to manage all parties involved, and to adapt to changes to keep the project on track. Department heads should be involved, and must have the ability to inspire and motivate their teams to make changes happen.
It’s pretty unrealistic to assume that the transformation team will be able to handle all aspects of the project, and it is usually necessary to employ external consultants to assist. That combination of expertise will allow the company to reach their target operating model. A completely integrated approach must be used to avoid departmental clashes and misplacing of data.
‘He who hesitates is lost’. No, I can’t really invoke idioms to deal with a situation this serious.
One of the reasons for not moving forward is the potential for negative consequences. Here is a list of possible risks.
Disharmony in the workplace
Wrong tools for the job
Unreal expectations about improvement
Security of data
My neighbor’s son, who is 18, often chats to me about technology, and he offered up this quite remarkable insight – he said that he and his peers are probably the last age group to be able to switch back and forth between digital technology and analogue. Anyone younger than he will be totally reliant on digital. Smartphones, smartwatches and tablets are the main sources of entertainment, communication and games, all of which are heavily sponsored by advertising.
If a company is 20 years old, and has been operating the same hardware and software for that time, it is not going to have the same advantages as one that is fully digital. It may be a recognized leader in a particular field, but unless it adapts to modern life it will soon become unproductive and fall by the wayside, as competitors ramp up their marketing and social media presence.
The benefits of digital transformation are numerous, but I will list what I think are the three biggest.
It makes a business more competitive
More engagement from employees
Better customer service
Digital transformation is not an option anymore. Companies must stay at the top of their game, and that means using the full power of the internet and cloud services. A reduction in mistakes connected to business planning and workflow will make a big difference. Careful planning will reduce any problems with integration, and will keep employees tuned in and engaged.
If security is an area of concern, then there are hybrid cloud solutions where a company can maintain its critical data outside the public cloud, but businesses must be aware that they are singularly responsible for data breaches. Just because a cloud provider says that their security is top notch, it’s not good practice to simply accept that fact.
Remember, though, that if a company has internal problems before deciding to switch, it will probably affect the transformation in a bad way. Identify the internal and customer pain points, correct them, then prepare for transformation. If it all goes to plan, a nod to Mercury, the Greek god of commerce, wouldn’t go amiss.