Digital transformation is one of the hottest new business models in the enterprise today. Going through this process places digital technologies front and center in all of a company’s strategic goals. And it’s not an easy undertaking, either. You’ll need to contemplate and analyze core business functions carefully. You’ll also need to involve change management and invest time and resources, but the potential rewards are many. A digitally transformed business can expect to use new technologies to become more efficient and agile. Going through the transformation and joining the digital world holds the promise of more productive employees and happier customers.
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How Digital Transformation Takes Your Business to the Next Level
So, how does digital transformation bring such benefits? It happens in a few ways, but first and foremost, it keeps a business modern and efficient. Today’s marketplace wants solutions that work as easily as e-commerce systems on their smartphones. Companies that have undergone digital transformation can respond to customers’ wants and needs much faster. That’s because the move towards digital solutions means a company will have more data to work with. Getting metrics and data analytics from that data improves decision making gives any business a competitive edge. Using insights gained from data analysis allows you to understand the customer experience and your market in ways that older practices can’t. Employees can collaborate better as your company moves towards a data-driven digital work environment. After everyone has access to essential company data and can share information, employee morale and productivity increase. We’re sure that all sounds good, but you might wonder how to start transforming into a digital business. We’ve got some suggestions to put you on the road to digital transformation.
Take a Look at Your Needs
Every organization is unique, so every business’s road to digitalization differs. But among all the digital tools available, nearly all companies can expect to develop plans to adopt microservices, microapps, and cloud services. With so many steps in the digital transformation process — and countless SaaS vendors selling their “perfect” solutions to every CIO out there — planning and implementing a complete IT modernization strategy can feel like a Herculean task. To prevent you from getting overwhelmed, start by seizing the “low-hanging digital transformation fruit” first. These easy-to-implement, low-risk solutions bring immediate benefits without much fuss. This article will give you a list of questions to help identify low-risk digital transformation wins. We’ll also share three easy strategies that will get you started on the right track — and save you money in the process!
Ask These Questions First
Even with the low-hanging fruit, analyzing any implementation’s potential advantages — and disadvantages — is important. Any digital transformation requires a new way of thinking about your work environment, which means change. Change management is never easy, so weigh the merits of any new undertaking by conducting a careful analysis.
By answering the following questions first, you will be able to fine-tune any digital transformation project into a quick win.
1. Who Are the Stakeholders in Your Project?
Projects are a team effort, not a solo venture. Digital transformation projects are no different. Getting the buy-in and support from key stakeholders is an essential first step. Something that’s often missed is that important stakeholders may be outside your usual project team.
This is especially true when you’re considering digital transformation efforts because they tend to affect the entire organization. Take the time to make sure you have included everyone in your company who should have a say in how changes are made. Make sure all stakeholders understand the benefits of your strategy and are engaged throughout the life of the project.
2. What Are the Resources Required for Success?
Once you have acquired the support of your stakeholders, it’s time to estimate the resources you need for a successful implementation. One of the biggest problems in any project’s early stage is underestimating the time, effort, and financial investment that will be required. Map out proper estimates of each as you develop your plan. Nothing will hurt a strategy more than getting near the finish line and finding out the budget has been expended or that team members have to move on to different projects.
3. How Do You Measure Your Progress?
After you have resources properly estimated, you should have a good idea of how long your digital transformation strategy will take to complete. But in the time between starting a project and completing it, you need to have a method to ensure your project is staying on track.
Whether you use a simple spreadsheet or a more advanced project tracking tool, create milestones to be met throughout the duration of the project. This is key to ensuring you don’t end up in a situation where 25% of a project is complete, but 75% of the budget has already been spent.
4. What Will it Look Like When You’re Done?
When working on any project, it’s easy to lose sight of why you started it. Digital transformation efforts (and IT projects in general) can sometimes shift focus from the benefits you expect to receive to simply completing the implementation.
For example, if you were implementing OCR scanning of invoices for your finance team, it’s tempting to say the project’s done once it’s online and it’s being used. But remember that you undertook this project to increase the accounts payable department’s workflows. You shouldn’t consider the project done until all the benefits have been realized, like the scanning and the real-time automated import of invoice data into your accounting systems.
While it takes time and effort to answer these questions before implementation, you’ll find it’s worth it. After you have your answers, you can ensure your digital strategy efforts are bringing benefits and value to your organization.
Five Strategies for a Great Digital Transformation
With those questions answered, you’re ready to look at some strategies that any organization can implement now.
Strategy 1: Involve Your Business Users
One of the greatest challenges to a successful digital transformation is an aversion to change. Your fellow employees outside the IT department have many applications they use every day. The thought of their jobs being upended with new systems can cause anxiety that hinders a project before it gets started. Company-wide announcements and word-of-mouth campaigns are often not enough for effective change management. Digital transformations have to be embraced by all levels of the company before the projects even start.
Start talking to your business users to work on the buy-in you need. Form cross-functional teams that address end users’ current pain points and how their business processes can be improved in the digital transformation process. Work closely with the most resistant members of your organization and sell them the benefits their departments will receive.
The time spent getting everyone on board will help ensure that your users understand the benefits and advantages new digital systems will bring them.
Strategy 2: Make Digital Transformation Your Mission
As part of your efforts to get company-wide momentum going, remember the C-suite. An effective digital transformation requires the endorsement of all business leaders—including those at the very top. As your CEO, CFO, and other executives approve the funding and other resources for your digital initiatives, ensure they understand both the risk management and the return on investment the transformation will bring. Emphasize the time savings, improved metrics and data analytics, and competitive advantages that will come with your projects.
At the same time, work with your upper management to make digital transformation a part of your company’s core values. That means re-working your company’s mission statement and corporate policies to state your company is a digital organization plainly.
Strategy 3: Implement Single Sign-On
If you haven’t yet implemented a cloud-based user access management (UAM) system with single sign-on, you are probably still using on-premise LDAP or Active Directory services. Moving the functionality of these systems to the cloud is a relatively painless process. You will see even more benefits if you don’t currently have a centralized identity management system. Simplified user management will save IT a lot of time, and your business users will appreciate not having to remember many different usernames and passwords.
More importantly, most (if not all) of the systems you will implement in your digital transformation will expect to use a centralized authentication system. It’s just a tenet of modern cybersecurity. Web services like REST APIs are designed around passing off authentication to a UAM or single sign-on system.
With a solid single sign-on ecosystem in place, you’ve laid the foundation for the rest of your digital transformation.
Strategy 4: Convert to SaaS Apps Where You Can
Many on-premises apps have made it easy to transition to cloud-based SaaS versions of their products. For example, switching your team from on-premises Microsoft Office to cloud-based Office 365 is simple and painless.
There are probably many other apps that your business depends on that now have SaaS equivalents, often with significant cost savings. Another candidate for a quick and painless move to the cloud is your backup system. Cloud storage has a huge cost advantage over buying and maintaining on-premise storage systems, especially considering their automation and scalability in big data scenarios.
After you’ve looked at what your current software vendors offer, start planning to move to SaaS options when available. This is an easy way to start embracing digital applications, and you get a lot of immediate benefits—easier license management with monthly or yearly pricing plans, automatic updates, and relieving your sysadmins of hosting these systems themselves.
Strategy 5: Map Out Your Digital Transformation
With your company stakeholders and business users bought into your digital transformation efforts and a few quick wins under your belt, take the time to plan where you go from here. Map out your systems and what you need to do to take things to the next level.
Be on the lookout for connections that can be made between systems. Your end goal should be for all your apps and systems to work together and share data. You should understand how web services can make those connections at this stage. Selecting a digital transformation platform that can help you manage everything is key to making your digital transformation plans a reality.
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DreamFactory: Cloud-Based Development to Support Your Digital Transformation Agenda
As web services and APIs are at the heart of today’s digital systems, finding the right management platform is key to digital transformation success. This is where DreamFactory can help.
As an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) and API gateway, DreamFactory optimizes and simplifies the process of integrating new apps and services into your existing IT infrastructure. For example, DreamFactory’s native integrations for OAuth services allow you to quickly implement an SSO strategy across all of your business systems. Plus, with DreamFactory’s automatic API generation tools, you never have to worry about the time it takes to code REST APIs. DreamFactory takes care of that job in minutes to provide you with a fully Swagger-documented REST API!
Is your company ready to start the digital transformation journey? Forging the right partnerships for your initiatives is a critical first step. DreamFactory can help you build the roadmap to achieve your digital transformation initiatives. Contact the DreamFactory team and schedule a free hosted trial.
Fascinated by emerging technologies, Jeremy Hillpot uses his backgrounds in legal writing and technology to provide a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including enterprise technology, SQL, data science, SaaS applications, investment fraud, and the law. Contact Jeremy at [email protected]