Certain terms find their way to the forefront of the business world and can quickly get to the point of feeling overused - thrown around at every opportunity to show that a business is current and up-to-date. While many of these are short-lived trends that give mundane tasks or events a short lived spark of attention, some stick around and become part of the vernacular. So what makes these terms different from the brief lifespans of the latest business hype word?
Arguably, it has to do with what the term refers to, how relevant it is, and its overall impact on businesses. A great example is the term “digital transformation”. It’s likely you’ve come across the word, whether within your own business, another business, or even on an episode of whichever new business pitch competition is available now.
While it might seem like just a popular blip in the word choice of the C-suite and social media-friendly businesses, digital transformation represents a real, current, and crucial process faced by businesses today.
What does digital transformation mean?
Digital transformation refers to something more than a simple digitization of data. It goes beyond a digitalization of separate processes. It’s a term that encompasses the shift of the systems and workflows a business uses to a fully online environment.
It expands to reach all edges of the way a business operates, from culture to customer experience to employee onboarding and more. Digital transformation means exactly as it implies - a total transformation of a business from traditional analog/paper-based operations to a digital approach in every type of interaction.
The benefits of digital transformation
While trends come and go, change is inevitable. For businesses, this is especially true as employee and customer expectations continue to adapt to advancements in technology and changes in regulations.
The concept of digital transformation is not new. In fact, many companies had already developed some kind of plan to move certain operations to a digital space to take advantage of the benefits of operating with more online processes. However, for many, these plans were exponentially accelerated by the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, forcing businesses to cease face-to-face operations.
The benefits for businesses being able to function purely online became glaringly clear. Companies that could easily shift to remote work and continue business as usual fared far better than those scrambling to implement new technologies in order to not only stay competitive, but to survive through such unprecedented times.
Beyond general survival, the benefits of pursuing digital transformation are numerous.
- More efficient workflows: digital solutions for document handling and processing can remove unnecessary, time-consuming extra steps
- Lower risk of manual errors: by automating processes, the risk of human error can be significantly reduced
- Improved employee experience: faster, more efficient workflows mean a better, more efficient experience for staff
- Reduced environmental impact: by taking traditionally paper-based processes online, businesses can quickly reduce their footprint
- A better customer experience: digital solutions can allow you to offer more tailored processes, giving customers a most positive experience
- An easily traceable activity history: no more files or jumping from system to system. Track activity for particular documents or processes.
- Authenticated electronic signatures: request and collect verified signatures from necessary parties quickly and easily online.
Planning a digital transformation
Making the transition to more digital business operations and customer interaction can be simple but more often requires a series of steps to help prevent obstacles and other speed bumps along the way.
There are 6 well-defined steps for businesses looking to make a digital transformation. Many might not be starting at step 1, but rather somewhere along the way to fully digital operations. Some steps overlap, or companies may find that they need to backtrack to implement better solutions. There is certainly an argument for trying new tools and adjusting as needed.
The steps are as follows:
Business as usual: companies operate as they always have in every sense. No new systems or processes are in place.
Present and active: digital options are looked at to start to help specific parts of the business and some experimentation is happening.
Formalized: the digital approach becomes broader and is intentional. The business looks at how technology can help overall.
Strategic: staff start seeing the benefits and work together to help accelerate the digital transformation process.
Converged: digital transformation becomes a focus as roles and workflows change and take on the new approach, driving more adoption.
Innovative and adaptive: the business functions with digital transformation and adaptation at its core, making it agile and strategic.
No matter where a business is on its digital transformation journey, opportunities exist that will allow it to continue to make changes that will have an impact not only on day-to-day operations but also on internal and external experiences and the bottom line.