What is a digital transformation?
It can mean different things to different businesses. But your definition must consider the current state of your business and how you see your business in its future state in the context of the new information era.
Why start a digital transformation?
We don’t have much of a choice. The information and communication technologies (ICT) are quickly changing the world. Every industry is impacted by the change in consumer behavior that rises from new technologies and new ways of communication.
The supply chain of goods and services is evolving quickly. Some markets get regularly disrupted by new players. On the other hand, these rapid changes also create new opportunities for businesses to either start new relationships with new market players or gain productivity to grow from one to five employees or from 50 to 200 employees.
Also, if individual consumers have international reach (thanks to the Internet) this applies to businesses as well. Meaning, your competitors are no longer the regional ones you know. Competition has multiplied and is now international. Your business must stay relevant in this new reality.
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Digital transformation won’t always be easy, but…
It’s normal! It’s new. It forces us to be out of our comfort zone because this requires changing how we are used to doing things.
How to tackle digital transformation?
First, invest in yourself and your company. Despite the long days and constant rush, it’s important to take a step back and reflect. Take one full day, go out of your regular business space and consider the following:
- Define your vision of your business in 10 years, considering how the world is evolving. If you are a manufacturer, your strategy will be different from a service business. A vision is broad, but it will give you the drive. Don’t think about how you will execute it just yet.
- Depth versus reach: Sales play versus margin play. Do you wish to reach new markets and increase the top line, or focus on productivity gains and higher margins? Each initiative that increases your digital level should focus on one of these, but not both at the same time.
- Take small steps and start from what you know, but start now. Quick wins will provide momentum for change, and it will feel right! Sometimes we already have the tools in place that provide data that can be leveraged (accounting systems or inventory management). By using or capturing data, we create information and we discover new intelligence. That is the first step toward artificial intelligence.
- Get support. Surround yourself with people you trust to help you navigate through this important business evolution. Think of your employees, clients, suppliers and other advisors, such as your bank. Employee are the source of the best innovation, not management. By including the people part of your business ecosystem, your digital transformation can be easier.
The bottom line
Imagine if your inventory would manage itself automatically. How much time would that provide to you and your employees, and what would the impact be on your profitability? What if a simple web presence could increase your sales and attract an international market? What if you added a live chat to improve your customer experience and have new a communication channel to answer questions faster? What if you had access to new information from analytics tools to optimize your delivery process?
The bottom line is that the digital transformation needs to happen, but one step at the time.
It’s not a hit or miss thing. It’s a constant evolution of how to operate your business model and apply new learnings to stay relevant in your markets.