In a recent blog post, we outlined the three components of a digital roadmap – vision, strategy, and execution. In this two-part series, we’ll delve into the strategy aspect, looking specifically at what a digital transformation entails.
Digital transformation is fundamentally about changing how an organisation interacts with its employees and customers, and the first step in achieving this is through process transformation.
Almost any core business process and function can be improved with digital technologies, via automation at the front-end and reconfiguration at the back-end.
Automation at the front
The best way to start a digital transformation is with projects that offer potential for more rewards and less risk. The reason for this is two-fold; first, to gain organisational support for the digital initiative, and second, to free up time, money, and resources that can be dedicated to bigger digital projects further down the track. Automation of front-end processes is the quickest and least disruptive way to achieve these goals.
Many core processes of different business functions can be automated today with Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, such as marketing automation software or cloud accounting, which help to unlock existing potential in the current value chain by reducing the number of steps and handoffs involved in the completion of tasks.
At the same time, these cloud-based technologies create value by collecting data that can be used to enhance the customer experience with capabilities such as hyper-personalisation and predictive maintenance.
However, a digital transformation must be organisation-wide to be effective. While adopting SaaS platforms to streamline business processes will create efficiencies, this method can be counterproductive in that it can serve to further entrench silos in the organisation. The fact that these platforms are function-specific or used in team settings means they won’t deliver a truly seamless user experience either internally or for customers.
To use an example; if the marketing department implements new automation software to drive its digital strategy, but hasn’t considered the sales team’s role in the process, it will eventually hit a roadblock. The marketing platform will need to be integrated with the sales tools and CRM for efficient handover, and there will need to be capacity within the sales team to pursue any extra leads. If such things haven’t been addressed, any advances made by marketing will go to waste.
Bottlenecks like these are the reason why building a digital culture around the implementation of technology is so important. If employees don’t embrace new behaviours and ways of thinking, they will continue to work in their existing silos and undermine any new systems.
Reconfiguration at the back
A more disruptive, end-to-end change is the reconfiguration of an organisation’s core infrastructure to condition it for digital ways of working.
While SaaS platforms deliver quick wins in the savings department, they conjure up a whole range of issues if an organisation’s back-end is not equipped for the same agility. Their ease of deployment and device agnosticism makes them difficult to manage from a security perspective, as traditional IT infrastructure is not designed to support such ubiquity of data.
While digital front-end processes can drive efficiencies in the short-term, a digital-ready back-end needs to be in place to ensure the transformation is effective long-term. This will typically involve moving to a cloud-based infrastructure platform which gives the organisation the flexibility to move workloads and adapt quickly to change.
This doesn’t have to be done all at once. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) adoption offers organisations a way of progressively upgrading their infrastructure with targeted migrations that maximise the benefits of the platform move.
And since the back-end is the backbone of the business, when it comes to its reconfiguration, it’s going to be best to draw on the experience of a third party that has built and implemented extensive IT infrastructure projects. A good IaaS provider will have the expertise to develop an IT architecture that combines industry trends, best practice, and any existing investments and in-house skills.
Refining the process
Delivering a superior customer experience is going to be difficult unless an organisation’s own internal experience is seamless. Ultimately, then, it will be how well the front- and back-end processes talk to each other that will determine the outcome of a digital transformation.
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