Instead of embarking on digitization without any plans, companies need to develop an individual strategy for their digitization by a brand strategist. This helps to successfully transition processes and infrastructures to the digital world. But how do you set up an appropriate strategy, and what should you watch out for?
Why is a digitization strategy necessary?
No company can ignore digitization because it affects all branches and all areas of a company. Some companies are more affected, others less. Many are taking great advantage of it and developing new business models as well as innovative products. Others are instead forced to follow suit and must react to remain viable, in particular, due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on the degree of a company’s digital maturity, different questions arise about how, when, to what extent, and at what pace to digitize.
SMEs should take care not to proceed chaotically, in order not to evaporate an important potential. Digitization is not about replacing paper with PDFs or creating an online store. Rather, it is about digitizing entire swathes of processes and infrastructure, which may mean that new work processes and new structures become necessary in the company. Instead of digitizing haphazardly, it is advisable to establish a plan: the strategy for digitization. This serves as a starting point for a step-by-step procedure, sets safeguards, and includes the necessary accompanying measures.
Prepare thoroughly and determine areas of responsibility
In an age of constantly accelerating business processes and reducing lead times, agile working models are becoming necessary, along with perhaps new management models. Digitization is for managers, which is why the full commitment of company management is essential. For operational tasks, a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) responsible for the digitization strategy can for example be appointed. This plans the subsequent steps and draws up a roadmap.
Look for digitization potentials and take small steps
Starting with the largest and most complex project to get the maximum benefit possible from it is usually not a good idea. Rather, a situational analysis should be made to determine which areas need to be digitized, which areas of the company or which processes would be suitable for the analog-to-digital transition test, and thus gain experience. The first step is not to develop disruptive management models.
To determine where the potential for digitization lies within the company, the existing infrastructure and processes must be analyzed. Digitization must take place where it offers the most added value. Where could more flexible and efficient digital processes replace an existing process? How could the business model be changed?
After researching the potential for digitization in existing structures as well as in products and working methods, new business ideas should also be found and examined. Knowledge of current market trends and conditions is gaining in importance as the digital world of business is rapidly changing. The past demonstrates that nimble and innovative companies, even from different sectors, regularly enter traditional business areas and assert their technological advantage in disruptive ways.
Targeted market research and analysis of customer needs can reveal new products, services, or distribution channels. Techniques promoting creativity, innovation workshops, or the Design Thinking approach are also useful to stimulate innovation.
Start small to grow later
Digitize where, in the context of your strategy through trade advertising, you can generate quick wins. For example, it may be a new product that is easier to market digitally and thus generates new customers. You can also introduce digital tools in the business segment where the greatest efficiency gain can be achieved. The ideal is to have a project covering the fundamentals, which can be applied elsewhere in the company. Find small projects that can be done digitally with relatively little effort. The sum of various small steps in your digitization strategy will indeed ultimately lead to business transformation.
Think about your customers
When developing digital products and services, customer needs should not be overlooked. Customer focus should be an essential element in the development of your digitization strategy. Customers are fickle, an alternative is often only a click away. Therefore, the watchword is: Customer Experience. It is only possible to offer a pleasant customer experience by knowing them and their needs. Identify the wants, needs, and values of your customers. In industries that are already digitized, this insight can be gained through in-depth analysis of the data generated when interacting with customers. More I’
Use new technologies
The use of modern technologies alone does not constitute the digitization of the company. The latter is indeed the means to improve the efficiency of processes, set up automation, acquire new knowledge, and optimally support employees in their daily work. Use multiple technical solutions to create competitive advantages. Cloud applications (SaaS) make it possible to use the most modern systems without modifying their own IT infrastructure, or even to benefit from entire management processes in the form of services (BPaaS). Examine the possibilities of using new technologies such as AI, IoT, predictive analytics, or virtual reality, which make it possible to explore entirely new fields of activity or to apply modern working methods. The expertise of external specialists with the necessary know-how will help you in this regard.
Don’t underestimate cultural change
It would be a mistake to consider digitization as a purely IT subject. Digitization influences the entire organization, including employees and corporate culture. Employees must acquire new skills, must take on new tasks, or find themselves confronted with new organizational structures. Skepticism, rejection, or resistance to digital transformation may arise. Therefore, involve employees in the process from the outset, and allow them to participate actively.
Careful change management is more crucial as this transformation is important in the company or department, and transparent communication is essential in this regard. Plan the development of new skills and clearly define (new) responsibilities.
Regularly question your strategy
In a rapidly changing digitized business world, conditions and competition are also changing very fast. Continuously monitor the progress of your digitization, analyze the new data thus generated, assess whether the tools and technologies used are still suitable, and monitor the market and the competition. Regular feedback from employees, as well as periodic evaluations and analyzes, allow you to adapt your strategy as needed. Institutionalize these feedback and control mechanisms: only a flexible digitization strategy is indeed up to the challenge of an ever more dynamic business world.
Data Treasures and Hidden Talents
The main lines of the digitization envisaged have been drawn, the responsibilities well defined, the areas of competence identified, and the processes established. However, the expected improvements are not forthcoming, for example in terms of process efficiency. This may be because important resources have not yet been exploited.
Unsuspected treasures among the data
In the first part, we talked about the identification of digitization potentials. Did you find any? For example, do you know for sure what data your company has? By answering “Yes” now, with the new CRM software in mind, you are forgetting to consider the creativity of your employees, in several respects. Here are some examples showing areas where you might find unsuspected treasures among your data:
Excel tables: Excel is widely used and, in many cases, has been a useful tool to facilitate work in your business, sometimes for decades. Here hides the first source of data: many collaborators have created, in a shared way, Excel tables for themselves and their team to optimize work processes, whether in the office or at work. workshop or in the warehouse. Thinking that these tools are useless is a big mistake: this data can indeed be worth gold.
Before embarking on a digitization step, unearth the people who have such a treasure, and examine how it could be integrated into an existing software environment to take advantage of it. Proceed with tact, nobody loves being deprived of the work of several years without receiving a replacement tool of at least equivalent value. This search for data should not be perceived as a threat by employees but as a recognition of useful and innovative work on their part.
Machine data: in your search for valuable data, it may be worth looking at the workshop or production premises. Many machines, even old ones, are indeed operated using software (the generic term is Operation Technology, OT, as opposed to Information Technology, IT). Is there data here that might be useful for digitization? As part of your digitization strategy, it would also be wise to fundamentally rethink the separation between IT and OT as practiced until now. Specialists in these two fields should indeed collaborate closely, especially in this era of IoT and the risks of cyber-attacks against infrastructures. We N’
Web pages and online stores: if you have a website or an online store, you have another potential source of data. In this case, it is worth thinking about what information is important to you because the abundance of data that an online store can potentially generate can also turn out to be too much and confusing. Focusing on the essentials is an essential step in obtaining valuable information.
If you have found useful things, the next step is essential: it is about the structuring and especially the evaluation of the data. Excel tables kept privately or data from production often adopt very individual forms and structures. It is indeed the practicality of a solution that takes precedence during its establishment, and not its future integration into a more global data structure.
This means that the data must be interpreted and adapted to be usable within the framework of the digitization strategy. In this area, do not be embarrassed to seek outside help because, when this work is done seriously, you may save yourself a lot of work and even more expense later.
Once the data has been made properly usable, it must be regularly analyzed professionally. But who should do it? You need capable specialists who know what to do. A data analyst is indeed able to process data in such a way that it brings real added value. Such people are rare in the labor market. But maybe you have employees who already have the necessary skills and motivation?
For example, the employee with the brilliant Excel spreadsheet, thanks to which the whole department has been running smoothly for years: perhaps this is a born data analyst who knows how to get to the heart of the matter. Finding talent internally and training it is an opportunity not to be missed.