Digital transformation is about more than advanced technology

by Emily on June 27, 2018

in Articles

Only a third of businesses are prioritising investment in technology over the next three years, whilst 55% say they are not ready for digital transformation due to a lack of budget (Brother).

Digital transformation is the buzzword of the 2010s, hailed as the concept that will revolutionise the business world and set apart the organisations that choose to strategise it; British companies that prioritise digital transformation attribute a 34% growth in revenues to their strategic digital efforts. However, it’s riddled with misconceptions and a lack of direction and as a result, many small business owners fear digital transformation is out of reach.

With so many scare stories about failing economies and more businesses than ever closing stores or cutting jobs, it’s easy to see why the outlook for many is pessimistic. But the digital economy offers the opportunity to streamline processes, increase productivity and reach more customers with more relevant messaging. And it’s available at a much lower price point than ever before.

The first step in digital transformation is prioritising it as part of your business strategy. How could you possibly implement a transformational strategy without senior buy-in?

IT representation at the highest level is the right place to start. It’s time to stop viewing the IT department as the ‘break-fix’ department; in a few short years, IT has evolved from a necessary evil to the one thing that can set you apart from your competition. There’s nobody better placed to implement transformational technology than the people who select and manage the technology your staff uses every day.

Interestingly, the key issues that larger enterprises face are changing company culture and existing legacy systems. This gives credence to the rise of entrepreneurial businesses that are swiftly overtaking their competition; 40% of market leaders are expected to be displaced by newer innovative companies (Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation) and an old-fashioned company culture could be partly to blame. How could businesses digitally transform if its culture is stuck in the past?

It could be that the problem lies in the digital skills gap. Three quarters of UK businesses report experiencing a digital skills gap; if staff members aren’t equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in the digital-first world, they’re more likely to be hostile to digital transformational changes. It’s encouraging, then, that almost half of businesses plan to add new teams to tackle digital transformation, indicating the importance of an entire department dedicated to moving your business forward. What’s more, 84% of businesses recognise the importance of focusing on digital skills, stating they’re more important to their business than two years ago (British Chamber of Commerce).

Before looking at the new technologies that can propel your business forward, you need to address the human issues. Technology can’t work miracles if your workforce isn’t dedicated to getting the most out of it. People get comfortable using systems that they’re familiar with, which poses a significant challenge for the people driving digital transformation – but it’s one that must be overcome. Once you’ve implemented a technology expert at a strategic level and addressed your company culture, it’s time to look at the technologies that can help you digitally transform.

Many digital-first businesses are prioritising solutions that will enhance their digital selling, for example improvements to their ecommerce websites; 47% of businesses implementing a digital transformation strategy are looking at this (Robert Half). Ecommerce is essential for all businesses that sell products and services, with 1.66 billion people buying online in 2017 according to Statista. The retail sector in particular is struggling to balance flourishing on the high street with offering easy buying options online. UK retailer Marks and Spencer recently announced it was outsourcing a large portion of its IT team (without any job losses) in order to focus on its Technology Transformation Programme, only to announce the closure of 100 stores and the loss of an unspecified number of jobs less than two months later.

Improving the online buyer experience is just one area of customer experience that transformational technologies can impact; customer services are moving online, as are your touchpoints with your customers. More than half of all customers would prefer a live chat over a phone call, and a staggering 61% would choose to engage with a chatbot over a person on the phone for an instant answer. As customers move online, so should your customer-facing staff. Whether you choose to implement live chats, chatbots or a mix of both, using technology to enhance your customer experience not only increases your customers’ satisfaction – which is 30% higher when using live chat – but your revenue, with customers who contact your business through online chat services considered 4.5x more valuable.

The ever-increasing online presence of our customers also means that we have more access to data on them. Far too many businesses have access to a gold mine of customer data, but don’t know what to do with it or how to action it due to a lack of data literacy. Businesses are fearful of data now more than ever before thanks to the recently-launched General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which promises to severely punish businesses that misuse personal data. But when utilised correctly, data can help you optimise your customer journey, meet customer expectations, and ultimately increase profits through smarter, more strategic decision-making. Businesses that use predictive data analytics strategically could see a huge ROI of up to 1300%, as they use real data to optimise processes and customer journeys.

Digital transformation is a far-reaching concept, and it’s important to note that there’s no right way to do it. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is assuming that transformational technology is financially unrealistic. With enterprise-level solutions flooding the market, technology that once was only available to large enterprises is now within reach of the SMB market.

The second mistake business leaders make is thinking that digital transformation is about technology alone. Whilst the concept dictates that technology is essential to transform and innovate, people are just as important – if not more important. When digital transformation isn’t driven from the top, businesses are doomed to failure. Similarly, a hostile working environment will hamper success too; senior executives must embed a culture of innovation and change in order for their staff to be receptive to change. Companies that combine the expertise of their people with innovative technologies are the ones most likely to succeed in the digital-first world.

Guest article written by: Natasha Bougourd is TSG’s Lead Applications Writer, specialising in IT support, Office 365, Dynamics 365, hosted telephony solutions and business intelligence. TSG is an IT support company that has expertise across a wide range of technologies and has helped businesses achieve GDPR compliance through the use of technology. From Office 365 to Sage and Pegasus ERP solutions to IT support, infrastructure and cyber-security solutions, TSG has a highly-skilled workforce working across all areas of business tech. Holding 8 Microsoft Gold competencies, TSG places focus on a highly-skilled and qualified workforce with over 1000 recognised accreditations between its team of experts, including MSCE Certifications, Prince2 and ITIL qualifications.

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