Can digital transformation help your business compete more successfully? FPM Senior Manager Sarah-Jane Garvey highlights eight business benefits.
You have probably heard the term ‘digital transformation’. The concept is not new. In virtually every sector, businesses have been gradually turning to digital tools to automate manual processes, improve performance, discover new ways to enhance customer experiences, and increase profitability. Business models, too, are changing. You only have to think of how streaming has changed the way that we consume music and films. Indeed, digital technologies are so central to our lives today that some predict that sooner or later every business will be a digital business.
Not just about the future
The COVID-19 pandemic heightened awareness that digital transformation is not just about planning for the future. It also plays an important role in managing risk and achieving business continuity today. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more companies than ever are realising that they need to strengthen their digital capability. As businesses turn to solutions in areas like e-commerce, video collaboration, remote working and cloud accounting to protect their income and enable them to keep trading, our digital solutions team has been busier than ever in recent months. But digital transformation is more than just a quick fix. Rather, it involves a radical rethink of how an organisation uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance.
So, what is digital transformation?
In a business context, digital transformation is the use of digital technologies to streamline business processes, enhance customer experiences and transform business models. It involves:-
- Digitisation — the conversion of data, text and images to a digital format.
- Digitalisation — the use of digital technologies to collect, monitor and analyse data, automate processes, identify trends, highlight opportunities, stimulate innovation and enhance decision making.
As new competitors and business models emerge and with the pace of change accelerating in every sector of the economy, digital transformation is increasingly important for businesses to remain competitive.
8 digital transformation benefits
Typically, when digital transformation projects are correctly executed, the benefits will be found in the following areas:
- Data collection and analysis – Digital tools make it easier to collect, analyse and monitor data about your business in real time. User-friendly dashboards, customised for each department, provide your teams with real-time access to live data. This enhances decision making across your organisation.
- Transparency – By streamlining work flow processes and consolidating information from across your business, digital transformation improves your ability to manage resources, highlighting opportunities to add value, spotting emerging problems so that corrective action can be taken swiftly, and identifying areas where improvement may be necessary.
- Customer experience – Digital tools enable you to achieve a better understanding of your customers so that you can personalise their experience of your business. Positive customer experiences build loyalty and enhance customer acquisition and retention.
- Profitability – When implemented successfully, digitalisation improves the way your business operates by creating efficiencies and strengthening profitability.
- Business agility – The ability to adapt rapidly to market changes is critical. Effective use of automation and digital tools enables you to identify current market trends and demands. This means your response can be smart and swift.
- Productivity – Automating manual tasks creates efficiencies and reduces costs. In an environment where customers want things done faster than ever, digital transformation, when correctly implemented, speeds response times and enables staff to focus on higher-value work.
- Collaboration – Digital tools help break down silos by facilitating cross-department collaboration. This, in turn, reduces duplication of effort and helps to foster knowledge retention within your business. It also strengthens your company culture.
- Flexibility – A strong digital culture stimulates creativity and innovation and provides opportunities for your employees to acquire new skills. This positions your business to adapt quickly to future technological changes. With the trend towards flexible working arrangements accelerating, you can strengthen your ability to attract and retain employees by enabling your team to work remotely in a safe and secure way.
Developing your digital transformation strategy
When correctly planned and implemented, digital transformation enables core business functions to eliminate time-intensive manual processing, enhancing efficiency and freeing up your organisation’s decision makers to focus on new opportunities. However, as with any strategic initiative, your digital transformation strategy should be clearly-defined and driven by business needs and goals.
The key to successful implementation is to embrace the change. Cross-departmental input at the planning stage is crucial for success, as is taking the time to secure staff buy-in. It is important for employees to understand that transformation is not about taking people out of the process, rather it is about reinventing processes with the support of digital technologies. Unlike the legacy systems they replace, today’s technologies are adaptive which means systems and processes can be tweaked and developed as your organisation’s needs change. Appropriate training and continuous learning opportunities therefore need to be considered when developing your strategy.