What is Digital Transformation?
“Digital transformation has become a bit of a buzzword, and there’s plenty of different interpretations of what it is,” Libby reflects. That can be daunting for those embarking on a digital transformation journey, she adds; but she sees the phrase as encompassing two main areas.
First: it involves a transformation, a change in the way you run your business. Typically that involves altering your internal business processes, along with the ways you interface with your external connections: with your customers, your prospects, your partners and your suppliers.
Second: it’s digital, so that change in process is supported by technology.
Simplus has been a digital transformation partner for thousands of organisations over the past 15 years – and during that time, the whole environment has changed.
“Fifteen years ago, the Blackberry was still cool, and the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet,” says Libby.
“At that stage, helping organisations implement Salesforce involved mainly internal processes, in automating the sales process. Of course there were flow-on benefits to customers and prospects in efficiency – but that was very much behind the scenes.”
Today’s organisation exists in a far more demanding customer-centric environment – so there must be a different approach to digital transformation to meet new standards, says Libby; the process must deliver on customer expectations.
“The digital experiences we have in our daily lives as consumers, whether we buy a concert ticket online, shop for insurance or even renew our driver’s license, overall these are very seamless, smooth processes,” she says.
Digital transformation is also now an essential part of the strategy agenda for most organisations, because without a quantum shift in delivering on customer expectations, many organisations will simply not survive.
The Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report shows that customer expectations are at an all-time high, with 70% of Australian respondents stating that their standard for good customer experience is higher than ever and 85% of Australian respondents saying it is very important that companies treat them as a person, not a number to win their business.
These standards might have started with consumers, but they have become ubiquitous; 85% of business buyers want the same experiences and same level of service as they expect as a consumer.
As a result, Libby says, digital transformation is becoming broader (touching more elements of the organisation); deeper (affecting more systems and more stakeholders); and far more customer-centric.
Five Key Success Factors
“We know that there’s some key success factors in embarking on digital transformation, and I’m going to nominate five that are standard,” she says.
1. Have clear, top-down direction.
“Successful transformations start with an executive that has a very clear vision of where they want to take the organisation – and that’s a vision they have defined in consultation with your customers.”
Good strategic vision doesn’t just understand the future state that it’s aiming for; it’s also clear on what the jobs are that need to be done, where the business is today, and what the transformation is, that needs to happen in their organisation.
2. You need buy-in from the leadership team
“Whether it’s the executive team within a business unit, within a university faculty, or at board level at the top of the organisation, you need buy-in from management, so that change can be consistently prioritised, kept on track, and driven within the organisation,” Libby says.
3. It’s important to have alignment between the business and IT.
“You need these two critical parts of your organisation to work together,” says Libby. If IT drives the project and doesn’t engage with the business – the company might get new software, but it won’t achieve the business goals or be as fit-for-purpose, as it will when you engage the business in that process. “The software isn’t stand alone, it’s there to support a business objective.”
On the flip side, where the business side of an organisation jumps into a new system without talking to IT, they can end up with an empty system. “You need your software to talk to the legacy systems that hold the data, so you can unlock the existing value in your business – and you need IT buy-in to make that work.”
The best digital transformation has joint ownership from business and IT, she says.
4. Seed and Grow – take your transformation step by step
Implementing a staged process is useful, Libby says. “We recommend taking a ‘seed and grow’ approach to driving your transformation,” she says. She says the business should start with a time horizon in mind – and check that the implementation fits into that schedule.
“Choose the jobs that are less complex for your business to implement, but high on value to your business – for example, an area where you have a good set of stakeholders that support what you’re trying to achieve, that they’re very clear on what the outcomes could be.”
Each business rolls out differently, she says. Some take tiny steps across the whole business and then build on that; for others, it may involve going deep in one business unit and putting in all the bells and whistles.
5. Make change part of the process from the very beginning.
“You need to think about change in the planning process, you need to think about and execute change during your project, and you need to continue working on change afterwards,” says Libby.
She says that by investing in the capabilities of your people – involving them in the project, workshopping their current and new processes and making sure they receive sufficient training – change becomes a planned-for ally rather than a feared consequence.
“Organisations also need to consider whether they need to bring in additional skillsets to execute that change appropriately,” she adds. “That could be digital skillsets, but it could also be bringing in people who are more resilient, more adaptable, and able to champion the change in your organisation.”
(Simplus – recently rebranded from Sqware Peg after an acquisition with the first Salesforce partner in Australia – has specialised in Salesforce since it began in 2004.)
Simplus Australia’s Deputy Managing Director, Libby Adams has been involved in managing major digital transformation projects for over a decade.