Where should your Digital Transformation journey start?

As more organisations strive to operate effectively in an increasingly digital world, digital transformation has become a hot topic of conversation. As our understanding has evolved, it’s come to be accepted that it’s a journey - not a destination. But where should that journey begin?

Without wanting to stray into the realms of cliché, there's a very famous quote that perfectly fits the subject of this post  "The hardest part of any journey is the first step."

For many people it's fear of the unknown that makes that first step so difficult, and digital transformation can no doubt feel scary and overwheming – but for others it can be a simple case of not being sure what that first step should be.

At VassIT we're firm believers in putting customer experience first, and there's no reason why digital transformation should be any different. End-users and customers are undoubtedly the most important part of any business, so every digital transformation should begin and end with an understanding of the customer journey..

But, with so much to consider and so many options available, many organisations end up making a misstep to start their digital transformation journey and find themselves constantly asking: "Are we there yet?"

You can't begin with the technology 

The past decade has seen unbelievable advances in technology. And we do literally mean unbelievable, with some new functionalities previously existing only in the realms of science fiction.

Maybe add something here (or tack on to the beginning of next paragraph) about how it's easy to get carried away with thoughts of how new tech could revolutionise your business and start mentally transforming said business around it kinda thing?

It's understandable for organisations to be carried away by thoughts of how state-of-the-art tech could revolutionize your business, and start building a visionary new IT infrastructure in your head. This isn't an effective way to begin your digital transformation though and implementing the wrong technology will only hinder your efforts.

If two businesses adopt the same new digital infrastructure, it’s unlikely they’ll achieve similar results  in most cases, you’ll actually see very different impacts. One might create an efficient and effective digital workplace, the other might see little change other than having some shiny new gadgets to play with  or leave to collect dust!

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Digital transformation should, as the name suggests, transform the way your organisation operates. Instead of letting a desire to adopt new technology drive business change, your business needs should drive your adoption of technology.

And rather than starting with a solution, you need a clear understanding of what you’d like to achieve. From there you can develop a digital transformation strategy that ensures you’re adopting the right technology and have a plan to roll it out across your business.

you can't begin with your bottom line

Improving the bottom line is an important goal for all organisations, and business transformation provides more than one route to achieve this – whether you aim to save money, increase sales or improve efficiency.

It might, then, seem common sense to start your digital transformation journey by focusing on your bottom line. However, increasing profits is simply too abstract to be a reasonable starting point.

Again, you need to take a step back and think about what’s actually driving your adoption of digital transformation technology. Although making money is obviously important, it shouldn't be the sole factor motivating your strategy.

A key thing to remember is you aren’t looking to increase profits by digitising how you operate, you’re pursuing digital transformation to operate better in a digital world, giving you opportunities to increase profits.

you can't begin with your employees

Many organisations follow the philosophy that their people are their most important asset, so it stands to reason that employee needs and skills should be what you focus on in digital transformation. This approach might see you aim to better enable remote working or increase collaboration within your workforce.

But if it is your employees that are driving your efforts, you’ll need to keep in mind that there are significant stumbling blocks – with the 2017 State of Digital Transformation report noting that: 

31.4% of respondents said they lack digital talent and experience among employees and leadership.

This is hardly surprising. The global digital landscape exists in a perpetual state of change, and knowledge can be rendered practically obsolete overnight. This has led to a substantial shortage of digital skills across all industries, with many employees, students and people in leadership positions worryingly out of touch.

Organisations are finding it difficult to incorporate a better use of digital, because not only are they lacking employees who understand how to operate digitally but also those who are able to lead the journey.

While an employee-centred digital transformation will lead to people who are better equipped to operate digitally, it doesn’t help you define or plan your journey. And therefore, your people can’t be most important in digital transformation.

you should always begin with your customers

Simply put, the only way digital transformation can be truly successful is if it’s customer-centric. By ensuring your customers’ needs are the focus of your digital transformation, you’re building a solid framework that enables you to achieve the rest of your goals.

And the majority of organisations undergoing digital transformation projects seem to agree, with 55% of respondents to the 2017 State of Digital Transformation report citing “evolving customer behaviours and preferences” as their top driver for digital transformation.

Yet, bafflingly, only 34% of respondents say they’ve gone to the effort of mapping out their customer journey.

How can you better meet “evolving customer behaviours and preferences” if you don’t actually understand what they are?

All organisations shouldn’t just be mapping out their customer journeys, but mapping the customer journey across their different customer segmentations too. And performing this exercise on a regular basis to account for any changes.

Only through mapping your customer journeys can you understand where and how you can improve the customer experience – with this knowledge heavily influencing your digital transformation. 

In short, your customers should always be most important in digital transformation, as you strive to improve the customer experience. Having a clear understanding of what delights them and what pain points they face on their customer journey helps you build a full digital transformation strategy – including the technology you need to make it happen.

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