When I talk to business leaders about the technology upgrades they should be making to support their growth, they’re usually on board with the particulars. Budget permitting, who doesn’t want a secure network, an updated data center, a great work experience for employees and unparalleled customer service?
But when someone mentions the phrase “digital transformation,” I see a lot of quizzical looks.
Digital transformation is really about rethinking how a business uses tech to improve performance. It affects every part of a business and requires departments to collaborate on how they can drive change — not just by adding technology, but by wrapping business processes around that technology and building an organizational culture to embrace it.
1. Start Digital Transformation Efforts with Data
That will mean different things to different companies. But every successful digital transformation I’ve seen has data strategy, customer experience, employee experience and security at its core.
Data is at the heart of every modern business, and any strategy for managing it must include a plan for storage and disaster recovery, security, action and automation. Each business must decide what workloads, if any, to move to the cloud and what to keep on-premises.
And while storing and preserving data is critical, a business must also think about how to analyze and act on the data it has, and ultimately how it can automate its data management processes with machine learning and artificial intelligence.
2. Aim to Deepen Customer Relationships
It’s one thing to store and manage data effectively. A higher-level data strategy includes business intelligence and data analytics that power customer acquisition and retention, and that inform new customer experiences.
Retail is a perfect example of this transformation in action. “Twenty or even 10 years ago, retail interactions were so focused on the store,” Katrina Gosek, Oracle’s senior director of product strategy, told BizTech recently. Today, she says, “You have to think about all the other places you meet your customer across every single touchpoint, whether that’s on social media, on their mobile phone or in a marketing campaign.”
3. Transform the Work Experience for Staff
In many ways, a business is its employees, and one of the most transformative things a company can do is to modernize its work environment. When employees can work from anywhere, any time, with an experience that’s consistent with what they get working from the office, they’re inevitably happier and more productive. When employees can collaborate easily despite physical distance with instant messaging and video technology, they’re more effective.
Some businesses even wonder if they need physical offices at all. Yet others are unaware of how simple and elegant today’s generation of digital workspace technology has become. Those who haven’t recently explored these solutions should do so.
4. Keep Data Security Top of Mind
Security is the thread running through every tech solution a business deploys. No solution should be installed without a clear understanding of how it fits in with the business’s data security plan. And that includes much more than having a good firewall. Businesses must monitor their network activity, train employees to avoid phishing scams, routinely monitor their current security posture and plan for the day when hackers get through anyway.
When business owners ask my advice on digital transformation, I always tell them to think first about how they want their business to delight customers and support their employees. The answer will inform the kinds of digital solutions they need to get there.