Digital transformation: taking your first steps doesn’t have to be scary
The digital transformation discussion is dominating today's business world – yet many organisations remain daunted by the thought of constant change. For those working in such a company, here's how to avoid panic when taking your first steps on the transformation journey.
Even though digital transformation has conceptually been around for almost 30 years, it is still somewhat seen as a buzzword. Categorising it as such creates a distance between organisations and digital transformation, as well as the leaders driving it forward.
This distance can lead to companies falsely believing it is something on the horizon rather than the truth that it is upon us now, and has been for some time. No longer can organisations and their leaders carry the misperception of not having time for this and not seeing it as the immediate problem it now is.
We’ve arrived at the fourth industrial revolution and at the core of this is digital technology. Digital technology is changing at a rapid rate and this can leave organisations, in particular their IT departments, feeling like they are chasing the butterfly. This ever-changing and fast-moving landscape can lead to panic and, in the extreme, companies being over-cautious, leading to paralysis restricting forward movement.
To change or not to change
Those organisations or professionals who might be categorised as ‘old tech’ can often find themselves in a position of resting on their laurels.
A lack of understanding of the current landscape and the digital future leads to the sage response of “we’ve always done things this way and it hasn’t gone wrong yet”. This may well be true, but it doesn’t mean that things cannot be improved.
Organisations focusing on digital transformation often feel like change is being forced upon them rather than something they’re choosing and implementing – and this restricts ‘buy in’ from the most influential decision makers within a business.
Add to this the rapid rate of change leading to those working in digital transformation having to continually update and learn new skills to stay ahead of the curve. This leads to talent deficiencies within organisations as well as globally within the digital and technology industries.
Constant change can often leave people feeling fatigued. Often the previous or current implementation of digital transformation can be old at the point at which it is ‘live’ when only months ago it was the newest solution.
Over two articles I will share with you the steps to take to create a successful digital transformation. In part one we will focus on getting underway!
Seek first to understand
It is important to be clear on the vision set for your organisation’s digital transformation. A lack of clarity leads to you spending more time and money than is necessary.
Set immediate goals that can deliver change in the short term and ensure these are achievable, tangible, realistic and low risk. Then, just get started! We are led to believe that digital transformation should be managed as a major programme, but it can often be simplified into smaller projects that culminate in achieving a larger goal.
The first step is an audit of what you already know about your users and how they interact with you. This data can be collated from multiple sources e.g. user research groups, web traffic data and call centre data.
A wider recommendation is to make small and immediate changes, which will allow you to get feedback from users and use this research data to inform your next step. This is an iterative process with small quick wins, where you should aim for good enough, rather than perfect. The aim is to improve over time, identifying and fixing flaws based upon the data rather than anecdotes and hearsay. This can feel uncomfortable at first.
It is important to have the right team in place to deal with this, including personnel from across a variety of different functions. The team should be capable of agile working, meaning they can focus on goals over a short term. This will allow them to gain data quickly and identify, celebrate and fix failures.
Making errors on a small scale mitigates risk for the organisation. Where errors are not made these wins can be celebrated, supporting the team to maintain momentum to the wider goals and the next stage of the project.
Change, change, change
Change is upon you and you need to get on board. Those companies who don’t accept the importance of digital risk being left behind in the technological race. It’s time to embrace change and this is going to push you into your stretch zone. At any given time an individual is within one of their three zones – either comfort, stretch, or panic.
Your comfort zone means you are completing tasks or activities that are easy and effortless with little consideration or concentration required, these tasks are often unconscious. Your stretch zone is where you are feeling uncomfortable and having to think about the task you are completing and the actions you are taking, as this may be the first time you have had to deal with this challenge.
The good news is all growth and development takes place in the stretch zone and tasks completed in this area become key learnings that will often transition into your comfort zone.
Finally, the panic zone is where stress triggers you into a fight or flight response, inhibiting change and creating reactive action. Some organisations may panic when considering digital transformation, and have therefore chosen flight mode to their detriment.
While these zones are specific to an individual they also work when applied to an organisation, ask yourself where is your organisation on digital transformation right now – comfort, stretch, or panic?
You’re not starting from scratch
Often we can be led to believe we need to start all over again and replace all of our technology and systems, but this isn’t the case. Start by being proactive and assessing the technology you already have and its potential to be tweaked to meet the requirements of your users.
The key is to make proper use of the technology you already have, making it work harder through automation, thereby freeing up your time to work on the bigger challenges.
Remember, transformation is completed over a long time frame, you don’t have to go from using paper to being paperless and completely automated. Find the steps in between and walk these first.
You will need to get your team to buy into this approach, as they might have become obsessed with the latest technology and buzz words. Teams can often believe it will be easier to buy in technology that does everything rather than repurposing and adding to the technology you already have, but this is the lazy option.
From experience, it will be harder at first to audit what you have, but it will be quicker to add to this than launch a brand new system.
One final thing to bear in mind is that technology is out-dated once it’s ‘live’. Digital transformation is a living thing that needs to adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape. Therefore, updates to your new digital transformation technology/software should be applied regularly. It is important you future proof your business by ensuring you have a budget for keeping your technology and processes up to date.
In the next article, we will discuss your greatest resource – your people – and provide the steps your organisation can take to upskill it’s team for digital transformation, while supporting them to navigate the ever changing landscape.
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Following a 15 year career in project and account management, Alison recognised the necessity for digital project managers to have an enhanced skill set. In 2015, she obtained a postgraduate certificate in the delivery of soft skills and experiential learning. Alison furthered her studies into soft skills by training with author Emma-Sue Prince...