Trying to start a Digital Transformation project?  Confused, even scared?  Digital Transformation is the absolute buzzword of the IT industry at the moment.   Particularly with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic still upon us.  There has been a great awakening in the business and non-business community that technology can be doing a lot more for us than we had previously been using it for.  

If you have been reading around on the internet, you could easily be misled into thinking that Digital Transformation is for the large multinational enterprises.  However, this could not be further from the truth.  For the most part, the process of Digital Transformation is the larger enterprises learning from the start-ups and SME’s of the world.   

If you think of the disrupters to the market in recent years, the likes of Uber, fintech start-ups like Curve and many others.  These are showing how having technology as an underpinning of your business model, can change an entire market.  It generally leaves the older large brands and enterprises playing catch-up.  

This is the space where Digital Transformation has started.  There have been many crucial trends in IT over the last few years that has brought this about.  Shadow IT is perhaps the key influence on why we now discuss Digital Transformation so often. 

Shadow IT was essentially the businesses response to the IT Department being the department of “no!”.  The changing technology market has also helped in this trend too, tools such as Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Docs, Trello, Wrike – you name it there’s an app for that!  Essentially the plethora of web and app-based solutions that are consumption pricing.  I.E. a low cost per user, per month has allowed departmental managers to bypass IT and put the solution on their company credit cards.  

5 Steps To Start a Digital Transformation Project

If you’re reading this article, you’ve ultimately found yourself in the position of needing to do something.  You know there’s a change needed, an opportunity but simply don’t know where to begin.  You may also be in the situation if you’re an IT professional you’re probably worried about all these extra systems from a governance perspective, but don’t want to stop the business moving forward. 

I’ve taken 5 simple steps from how I start a Digital Transformation Project which will hopefully help: 

  1.  See what you’ve probably already got.  

    If you’re a sufficiently large and complex organisation, it would be a prudent first step to see if your colleagues, or IT users (if you work in IT) have already solved a problem using a subscription-based technology.  Certainly, a lot of value at the start of a Digital Transformation could be gained from carrying out a Shadow IT audit, and seeing where that tech could be applied elsewhere in the business.  Having multiple departments using the same system, could be game-changing from where you already are.

  2. Consider what you’re stuck with

    For me as a tame and reformed IT Manager, I share some of the pain that IT professionals have when they’re called the department of no.  However, often IT has an overview and understanding of the complex interactions between the software estate in a company and the business processes.  In many businesses, the main thing that you’re stuck with is generally your accountancy or ERP platform.  It’s likely to be too big, too painful and too expensive of a project to upgrade to something more agile.  However, once you know you have it as a constraint, you can look for solutions and additional tech to carry out the next step. 

  3. Where are the gaps and holes in what you do?

    I’d certainly suggest that if you have Shadow IT in your company, then the glaringly obvious clue is available.  They’ve bought a solution to solve a gap.  However, in the case you have not got that clue – it’s time to have a good think.  What would you like to do that is better?  These can be things like delivering better for the customer, or simple considerations like just being able to carry-out more processes outside of the office.  Of particular interest at the moment is those extra tools everyone has bought into for remote working.  Looking at your competitors can generally be a good starting point too. 

  4. Research, research, research!

    One of the core parts of my job is constantly researching different solutions available on the market.   Even as a professional I will never know every product that’s available to solve a problem.  The technology market moves quickly in both innovation and even in mergers and acquisitions.  I often look at the Gartner Magic Quadrants – although I don’t take them too seriously and assume it’s a paid-for advertising scam!  However, they’re good to give you lists to identify what to look at.  I then ask around, to see what others are doing to solve the same problem.  Everything ultimately goes onto a list to look at.  I make considerations on the accessibility of a solution, its price, it’s security and even the stability of the supplier.  I’ll never be able to tell you in a paragraph how to do it.  What I would say, though, that it’s not all that different to any big purchase you make in your everyday life.  You’ve got to be interested, feel invested in the decision and do your best!  

  5. Ask for help!

    Once you’ve found a solution that ticks all your boxes, you need to implement it.  Many of the lessons I’ve learnt about implementing solutions are that there is no shame in asking for help.  This isn’t just from your internal colleagues, although you’ll need their buy-in to get the solution to where it needs to go.  You’ll potentially need it from suppliers and even trusted advisors.  If you’re truly wanting to carry out a Digital Transformation project, you need to consider yourself a Project Manager rather than anything else.  Ultimately, it takes more than one person to transform a process – it needs everyone involved in it.  

This is just your starting point.  Digital Transformation is a process that can go off in many different directions.  Although I believe off-the-shelf solutions can deliver at least 99% of what most businesses need, you may need to develop something completely bespoke.   

It’s also something that doesn’t stop.  As part of the Unleashing process we use for our consultancy work – you really shouldn’t leave it there.  A few years of using a solution should lead you back to a point where you need to re-evaluate its worthiness and how it fares against its competitors.  

Finally, if you’re asking for help and not finding any or you’d like someone help with your options.  Then Unleashed are here to help, you just need to reach out for an impartial chat.