Digital transformation has been a business technology buzzword for years now, and it is true that organisations have undergone incredible transformation. Yet, many businesses still struggle to successfully navigate the disruption and optimise their use of digital technology to reap the benefits.
Cloud solutions have been at the forefront of these digital transformations, and adoption isn’t just growing; it’s accelerating. According to a survey from Harvard Business Review, 67 per cent of business leaders said their organisation accelerated at least one cloud implementation in 2021. At the same time, 62 per cent also said they had difficulty keeping up with ever-changing technology.
One of the challenges that we often see working with clients around the world is that successfully implementing new technology requires more than just technical changes. Adopting and optimising new software also requires significant process transformation, and it’s those changes that businesses frequently underestimate.
The digital era has put a lot of pressure on organisations. It’s now possible for nearly any business to compete globally, and smaller companies have access to sophisticated technology and tools that were formerly only accessible to larger enterprises. In addition, there’s growing demand to operate faster and more efficiently than ever. Speed is only part of the puzzle, however.
Customer experience has become both more important and more complex for organisations competing in digital spaces. In research published in July 2022, Accenture pointed out that consumers increasingly feel comfortable with making paradoxical decisions, due to personal events as well as stress from global instability. Researchers called on organisations to develop a deeper understanding of their customers – and to recognise their humanity– to overcome the challenge of changing wants and needs.
The need for omnichannel commerce has also grown steadily with the proliferation of mobile and cloud solutions. McKinsey & Company research shows that the number of different channels that business-to-business clients leverage to engage with their customers increased from five in 2016 to 10 in 2021. Moreover, hybrid, digitally enabled selling is expected to be the dominant sales strategy in 2024.
The bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for organisations to meet customers where they are at any given time. And their process transformation strategy has to account for this.
Many organisations find that legacy processes and tools are failing to keep up with their pace of growth. New technology is one solution, but it’s important to consider the process part of the equation in tandem – as well as what information needs to move through which systems, and how it will do this.
We work with clients in a lot of different industries to implement our Configure, Price, Quote Document Automation and Digital Commerce solutions. We often find that implementing new solutions reveals a lot of gaps and inconsistencies in current processes.
While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that works for everyone, there are four key strategies we’ve learned that help to contribute to success.
Involve key stakeholders early
When we help clients with implementing our software, one of the first things we do is get key stakeholders together, so we can deeply understand their needs, priorities and the challenges that keep them up at night. Implementing any given business solution can affect multiple departments, so success depends heavily on bringing in expertise from all those areas of business. Plus, getting people involved early on can help to encourage buy-in for new software and processes. Getting all those people together will not just help implementation go smoothly, it’ll help to maximise return on investment.
Clearly define existing processes
Many organisations lack clear definitions for their current processes. The knowledge of those processes might exist only in someone’s head, across separate departments, or not at all. The challenge here is that technology hates ambiguity. Without clearly defined processes to work from, it’s impossible to encode the right business logic and rules into any software a business is using. It’s also much harder to figure out where the gaps are when processes aren’t mapped out to begin with.
Having that clear foundation lets organisations think about automation more deeply and better prioritise which gaps need to be filled.
It’s also important to think about how those processes could evolve with the right tools. Many of our clients look for ways they can use the efficiency they’ve gained to enhance the customer experience.
Create feedback loops
One of the effects of increasing competitiveness and customer expectations is the pressure to be more agile. Creating efficient feedback loops helps to ensure those changes are pushing the organisation in the right direction and that everyone has the tools they need to be successful.
One of the big challenges we see often is that information doesn’t flow effectively throughout the organisation, either because the right data doesn’t exist or it’s hard to bring it all together. This makes it impossible to create efficient feedback loops and utilise the information it has at hand.
Addressing this challenge is about balancing seemingly contrasting needs. On the one hand, each department has unique workflow, automation and feature needs. On the other, utilising different systems specifically tailored to those needs can make it difficult to get all those systems talking to each other.
The good news is that the overall business-to-business technology landscape has generally shifted toward giving users more control. Highly flexible and scalable platforms with application marketplaces make it easy to find new tools that integrate directly with core systems right from the start. That doesn’t just benefit business users, it also takes pressure off IT.
When in doubt, iterate
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned working with clients is that transformation happens in steps. Not everything is going to work exactly right the first time and priorities will change. This can shift the direction of an implementation or lead to deeper discussions about the processes that need to be built around the technology.
One of the advantages of today’s customisable platforms is that it’s easier for departments to take control of the technology they’re using. Advanced features that once required programming knowledge can be accessed through intuitive graphical interfaces or with the help of artificial intelligence. It’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities of what new solutions can do and lose focus on what will make the biggest impact on daily work life and, ultimately, revenue.
This doesn’t mean we should be afraid of change. It just means that it’s more important to be iterative and develop functional, valuable changes along the way toward larger goals – that way, if there’s a need to pivot, you have a foundation to build from.
Bryant Harland is digital content strategist at Experlogix
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription