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Why Digital Transformation Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Why Digital Transformation Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Transform the way your business operates – not just by using digital tools and cloud computing, but by optimizing core processes through automation.

The pursuit of business success means trying to achieve multiple objectives at once. Meeting customer expectations increasingly depends on increasing productivity, accelerating collaboration and focusing the team on higher-value activities to drive efficient growth. Digital transformation will get you there, but you have to prepare to go the distance.

When the pandemic first emerged a few years ago, for example, many companies hurried to launch significant digital projects. Small businesses might have brought their first web site online, while medium-sized firms expanded their use of e-commerce. Other brands adopted additional digital channels, such as social media or the use of video conferencing to consult with customers and each other.

All of these sprints into digital are well worth making – but true digital transformation involves much more.

The ultimate goal for companies of any size should be to enhance the customer experiences that surround their products and services, and the employee experience that makes them possible. To do that, you need to digitally transform the way your business operates – not just by using digital tools and cloud computing, but by optimizing core processes through automation.

If likening digital transformation to a marathon makes it sound too overwhelming to pursue, take heart. Much like the wide range of age groups and backgrounds you see among the runners in the average marathon, digital transformation is an opportunity open to any business ready to approach it the right way.

Even the most basic research will tell you it’s a bad idea to sign up for a marathon without having a plan in place, for example. In the case of digital transformation, there are several best practices to bear in mind:

Determine the best training regimen

To run a marathon, you likely want to start training early, knowing you’ll need to commit to running a certain amount of time on a weekly or even daily basis before a big race. Digital transformation is no different, in that it requires strategic thinking and in some cases developing new skills.

Once you’ve identified areas where automation should bring business benefits – running marketing campaigns or sales forecasting are just two examples – you’ll need to think about the team members who will be affected. What kind of reskilling or upskilling will put them in the best position to make use of the technologies you’re introducing into their lives?

Look at resources like Trailhead to begin getting your best people in good shape for working in an automated environment.

Stay fueled and hydrated (with data)

Marathon runners don’t train or compete on an empty stomach. They also learn to make sure they drink plenty of water to avoid getting overheated throughout the course of a race. Digital transformation is fuelled by insights that come from data – but it has to flow as naturally as water throughout the rest of the business.

A platform like Customer 360 answers both of these needs. It centralizes customer data so that everyone on the team can have one trusted platform from which to make decisions. It also connects to applications that help automate tasks like nurturing sales leads, following up on customer service issues and more.

Check the conditions before you start

Running a marathon on a bright, sunny day feels very different from running one during a thunderstorm. You’d probably change what you wear, and any other gear you’ll use during the competition.

Small and medium-sized businesses have to think about more than the weather as they plan digital transformation. There are short-term issues like high interest rates and supply chain disruption, for instance, but also ongoing challenges such as their average cost to acquire customers and employee turnover.

Assess the state of your company across every relevant area of operations and performance. Look for where the gaps are and consider where automation could speed up your ability to close them.

Break the marathon into manageable chunks

When you start a big race, you often aren’t able to see the finish line from where you’re standing. That’s why it can be helpful to set up milestones you want to reach along the way. This helps generate a feeling of progress that can keep you motivated over a longer distance.

Digital transformations are the kind of marathons that benefit from chunking, too. Look for quick wins that help prove the value of the initiative for the team. This could be as simple as deploying a chatbot to automate the process of answering common questions or complaints from customers, or replacing sales spreadsheets with a CRM that helps reps get at customer information from wherever they are.

Skip the medal and focus on your overall performance

Just finishing a marathon is cause for celebration among most runners, especially if it’s their first race. However they also tend to look at how they placed based on their age group or other demographic grouping. They might even consider how running the marathon has changed their overall health.

The metrics for digital transformation will depend in part on the kind of business you’re running, but another benefit of automation is the level of analytics and even artificial intelligence (AI) you can leverage to calculate return on investment (ROI).

In a recent global survey of customers, for example, Salesforce found 88% of those who embraced automation increased business value. An even larger majority of 91% increased team efficiency – making them ready to pursue even more ambitious growth targets.

As your company discovers the power of automation, it’s possible your digital transformation won’t have an official end. Instead, you realize there’s another, even more exciting portion of the race still to run.

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