The reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation. As we move from paper and spreadsheets to smart applications, we have the chance to revolutionise our business with the help of digital technology.

As you embark on digital transformation, it’s important to have a full understanding of the technology, as well as a strategy in place to ensure success.

“Every digital transformation is going to begin and end with the customer, and I can see that in the minds of every CEO, I talk to.” - Marc Benioff, Chairman and Co-CEO, Salesforce.


What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new business processes, culture and customer experiences. This fundamentally changes how you operate and provide value to your customers.

On a deeper level, digital transformation also involves a cultural change, requiring businesses to challenge the norm, experiment and become more comfortable with the possibility of failure.


Understanding digital transformation

Digital transformation is vital to all businesses, regardless of size. It’s more important than ever to stay competitive and relevant in the digital world.

What isn’t always obvious, however, is what digital transformation actually means. It’s more than just migrating to the cloud; it’s about rethinking old operating models and experimenting in order to become agile in responding to competitors and customers. Because technology plays a vital role in the evolution, the chief information officer is a key factor in digital transformation.

Modern businesses are in different phases of digital transformation, with many looking to overcome initial obstacles and fully transition. Even organisations that are far along in the process encounter obstacles, however, such as acquiring talent, budgeting and fostering a cultural shift in the workplace.

Leaders need to consider what digital transformation means in practice. Digital means a lot of different things to different businesses, but the general concept focuses on customer centricity – automating operations and business models with data analytics, software and technologies that help the customer. Before this can happen, the leadership and employees need to be on board.


Why digital transformation matters

While there may be a multitude of reasons for a business to undergo digital transformation, it mostly boils down to survival. Digital transformation can be risky and expensive, so it’s often a necessity for businesses that want to survive and outlast the ones that failed to evolve.

Technology drives the shift in business, and companies that wish to succeed must merge technology with strategy to stay ahead. Data analytics is at the top of the list of priorities, particularly in terms of data visualisation and machine learning.

Speed is also an important consideration. Digital initiatives that foster improved speed and agility for the organisation are at the forefront of digital leadership.

These are the operational priorities, but a positive customer experience is the ultimate goal, and is a significant driver for digital transformation. Customer experience can make or break a business, and digital technologies play a vital role in ensuring a positive relationship between businesses and their customers.


What does a digital transformation framework look like?

Digital transformation is informed by a business’s demands and challenges, but there are a few consistencies that apply to all businesses:

  • Culture and leadership.
  • Operational agility.
  • Customer experience.
  • Workforce empowerment.
  • Digital technology.

Learn more on the Digital Transformation Framework for Success.


What role does culture play in digital transformation?

With the adoption of new technologies, the role of an IT team has fundamentally shifted. Stakeholders want IT teams to generate revenue for the business by improving business processes and developing new and innovative products. Embracing this change means that the entire business needs to reconsider the impact and role of IT in their daily work.

IT drives digital transformation strategy, but efforts to implement and adapt to changes in the business resulting from digital transformation are a company-wide endeavour. Digital transformation leads to fluid departments, processes and job responsibilities, with soft skills like empathy being in high demand.

A business must be supportive and prepared for transformation efforts to help employees stay motivated and succeed. Your team needs to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, how it fuels success in the future, and how they benefit from the transition.


What drives digital transformation?

Unsurprisingly, the main benefits of digital transformation come from the technology that makes it possible. However, digital transformation is also about removing outdated ideas and processes in favour of new and innovative technology that’s appropriate for the specific business.

For example, many healthcare institutions eschew smartphones and mobile devices in favour of old technology like pagers. These issues can span all industries and organisation sizes, leading to thousands or even millions lost in maintaining legacy systems.

Once legacy technology is replaced, IT teams can devote more attention to new technology and innovation, rather than working with existing IT concerns. Businesses that want to keep up with the fast pace of digital change need to focus on increasing efficiency and implementing new technologies as much as possible.


Getting started with digital transformation

Though this may feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that most businesses are still in different stages of the process and it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Though you may hear of fast transitions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the business is doing it in a strategic, effective or sustainable way.

Explore more on the common factors of the Digital Transformation here.

The keys to successful digital transformation are:

  • Having digital-savvy leaders.
  • Building capabilities for a future workforce.
  • Empowering employees to work in innovative ways.
  • Giving administrative tools a digital upgrade.
  • Keeping communication open between team members.

If you want to succeed with digital transformation, it’s important to keep these key areas in mind. Work on developing clear strategies for digital skills and capabilities for future needs, upgrade the organisation’s culture to adapt to changes, and ensure that communication is open and honest to keep everyone on the same page and on board with the changes.

Learn more from our Salesforce and North Star research surveyed almost 500 Salesforce customers at businesses spanning a range of sectors and geographies.

DT Strategies Report