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How to transform... digitally

Everyone seems to have their own unique view on what digital transformation is and how you should approach it. Each description offers up its own six-step guide on how you and your business might change. And every plan includes a swarm of new and exciting buzzwords and catchphrases to delight and confuse in equal measure.

Does digital transformation need to be this complicated?

Before "digital" became the prefix to every new development, we were happily plugging away, making improvements to our businesses. At its core, that's all this is. Modernisation. Upgrading. Making your business more efficient and effective. Finding improved ways to serve your existing customers. Or new ones.

The most notable benefit digital has to offer comes from our enhanced ability to test, track, and iterate quickly. That is a business benefit. But one that we can turn to improving client experiences.

Forget the buzzwords and the hype. See through the marketing and the exciting event dedicated to the topic, lauding itself as a silver bullet for success in your industry. One that promises to fix all your problems. We've been doing this sort of thing for years.

Did we have an exciting title when we moved from the punched card to the processor? We certainly didn’t have a hashtag.

How to approach digital transformation

At the risk of writing another guide offering another fresh perspective that's as mystifying as the rest of the information already out there, these are the questions I would recommend you ask when making a change:

1. Start with what you've got

Existing digital estate

What technology do you already have in play? How do systems interact? How efficient are they in serving your clients, and in helping your people serve your clients? Where is the waste? What can you strip out?

Operations

What are the processes you use to manage your business? How much double-keying or similar do your people have to put up with? What are the accepted norms and SLAs and how can they be better? Are there any opportunities for your clients to serve themselves?

Data

Where do you store your data? How do you use your data? Is it helpful in developing an understanding of your existing clients, their needs, and their behaviours? Can your data help you find new clients?

2. Change for the customer

Meeting expectations

What are your competitors doing? What is the new status quo? Are you still using fax machines while the rest of the world is on chat bots? Your client service expectations have shifted. Do you know what they are? Are you giving your clients everything they need and expect?

Service aspirations

Digitising your existing services is not even half the battle. As soon as you catch up with the Joneses, something new will come along leaving you once again on the back foot. Do your clients have unanswered needs? Have you asked? Set your sights high. What big issues could your business help to resolve? How might you pivot what you do already and serve a brand new audience?

Disrupt yourself

Standing still is no longer going backwards. It’s ceasing to existing altogether. Businesses need to disrupt themselves, or at very least be aware of how they might be disrupted to allow for continuity planning. No point burying your head in the sand.

3. Address your culture

Digital as a mind-set

To transform, digital needs to be the first consideration in everyone’s thought process. Not an add-on to the “way you’ve always done things”. Transformation goes much further than simply attaching a PDF brochure to an email. It bypasses the email altogether, introducing brand new communication methods to your business and to your client. But for that to happen, you have to start by asking the right questions.

Innovate from within

In most cases, your people have a much better understanding of your clients and their needs than you do. The people in the field are speaking to them daily. What mechanisms do you have in place to gather their ideas? How are you empowering your people to make suggestions that improve your business?

Upskill and hire

Finally, sometimes you have to face facts and realise your internal team are missing the skills that you need. You can address this by upskilling your existing people, or hiring in new talent. You might also look at other sources of new blood coming into your business. How can you tap the vein and access this new knowledge? It’s not always the new Digital Marketing Executive that comes with fresh new ideas. The mobile app your receptionist is developing in her spare time might well be the answer to all your prayers.

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Dani Booth
Digital evangelist proving expertise and guidance on the transformative power of digital to deliver leading customer experiences and aid effective communication.