Whenever an organization adopts new digital technology into its processes, products, and strategies, it goes through a process called digital transformation.
Organizations stand to increase the value they deliver to customers by improving customer experience and efficiency through digital transformations. But given today’s threat landscape, digital transformations must be navigated with security in mind.
[This article is part of our Guide to Information Security and Compliance]
What is Digital Transformation?
To illustrate, online learning was only available to colleges and universities before 2020.
Today, an elementary school snow day might mean your child is at home, attending class remotely through a Zoom call. To accommodate the demand for at-home learning, digital transformation occurred rapidly in schools.
Every industry is impacted by the need for digital transformation. Financial services must adopt new technologies and processes to align their goals with online banking advances and security measures.
Meanwhile, the healthcare industry must adapt to the growing demands of telehealth and the security and privacy implications of that new process for seeing patients.
Digital transformation permeates more than the new software and IT systems in your organization. Whether you are developing uses for generative AI, virtual assistants, or project management, there are endless possibilities for how digital transformation could be leveraged for your business growth.
While it can be tempting to chase the shiny new technologies, you must understand that the new solutions will only be as effective as your organization’s true need.
View digital transformation initiatives similarly to how you view any new development or goal within your organization. Take time to carefully consider how these initiatives will impact your business, ensure they align with long-term goals and company values, and create a plan for getting your team and stakeholders on board.
Developing a Digital Transformation Strategy
The first step to developing your own digital transformation strategy is to evaluate your existing business strategy.
This will give you the “north star” of your business goals and activities for the next year. It will also highlight any potential roadblocks that you may need to account for in the digital transformation strategy you create.
Next, consider how your current and future customers will benefit from the digital transformation you’re planning.
Ask: How will this change impact your value proposition to your customers?
If this is a difficult question to answer or quantify, we recommend that you take a step back to evaluate whether this digital transformation is actually necessary.
Ask: If it doesn’t benefit your customers – who does it benefit? And is the cost worth it?
The Role of Leadership in Digital Transformation
The group of stakeholders who will most want to know the answer to the cost question is the leadership team.
As with any change, a unified leadership team is fundamental to the project’s success. Leadership plays a critical role in championing and leading the transformation.
To create unity, the leadership team should first collaborate together to talk through the proposed transformation, the potential benefits, and the potential roadblocks.
This way, the c-suite can strategize the best way forward, mitigating many of the risks on the front end. This also allows leadership to align with the vision and aims of the digital transformation, leading to a more successful roll out of the plan to the larger team.
When other team members see their leadership team collaborating on a digital transformation project, this models a culture of innovation and change, encouraging other managers and teammates to continually adopt that culture and buy into the process.
Creating a Digital Transformation Implementation Plan
In addition to alignment from leadership, another element that will contribute to the success of the digital transformation implementation plan is a phased approach.
To create a phased approach, start by prioritizing initiatives based on values agreed on by your leadership team. Plan for contingencies and invite feedback and collaboration around which dominoes fall and when.
There may be an order that makes sense to the operations team for example, but would break the sales process. Discuss and plan all of these phases before getting started.
This is also an important time to consider the existing systems and how the new technologies will integrate. Bear in mind that some of the data and APIs utilized during these rollouts could require different security protocols that weren’t previously prioritized or needed with the system that came before.
Working closely with cross-functional teams will help make this transformation as smooth as possible.
Managing Compliance During Digital Transformation
As you incorporate new technologies, you’ll need to ensure that the new solutions will continue to help your organization reach compliance. Carefully work with the software teams to make sure that the data the tools are collecting, storing, transmitting, etc. are all meeting the HIPAA, SOX, GDPR, CCPA, and any other compliance standards that you’re required to comply with.
Working with an experienced managed IT services provider (MSP) is a great way to simplify the management of new software, where it intersects with existing tools, and how each of those is compliant. MSPs will have a pulse on the latest IT solutions and your industry’s compliance requirements.
It’s a great partnership because you will help your MSP understand the nuances of your business and your processes, and they’ll bring valuable expertise in technologies and compliance requirements. Combining these efforts will help your organization embrace new ways to bring value to your customers.
How to Implement Digital Transformation Effectively
The exact steps your organization will need to undergo for an effective digital transformation may vary depending on the size of your organization and specific regulatory requirements. In general, these are the recommended high-level steps:
- Clearly state the purpose and aim of your digital transformation.
Knowing where your organization is aiming to be in the next 5, 7, 10 years will greatly help you fill in the nearer-term goals and will help you state the process to get there. You will also consider how this transformation will benefit your customers, employees, as well as your shareholders.
- Next, incorporate your existing products, services, and processes.
It can be tempting to rip out everything and start fresh with your new digital solutions, but there is often much to be learned and carried forward from past processes, learning, and experience. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
- Then, create a phased approach based on priorities.
It would be complete chaos to change everything at once – especially in large organizations. People need time to learn the new process, and teams need time to evaluate and mitigate problems before they arise.
Take special care to take the steps in the order that will cause the highest positive impact while causing the least amount of friction possible.
- Now: Train the team.
Employees who are given the time and space to get up to speed on the new processes and systems have a much higher success rate than others who are expected to “figure it out.”
Even if you’re implementing a relatively straight-forward system, you will want to appropriately train your team on the process and security procedures surrounding the new technology.
- Track your success.
After your go-live, you’ll want to schedule a cadence of analytics and reporting. Learn as much as possible from this digital transformation process to note what made it effective and what you would change in future implementations.
Everything will not go according to your plan, but if you keep track of the areas for improvement, that in and of itself can be a great success indicator.
Here are some other success indicators to help you measure the effectiveness of your digital transformation:
- Employee productivity
- Departmental adoption
- Return on digital investments
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Customer experience
- Reliability and availability
While implementing a transformation that improves your business, you must keep a close eye on security and privacy for the information you’re collecting, sharing and transmitting with your new technology.
Ensuring Security and Privacy in Digital Transformation
Your managed IT services provider will guide you through the digital transformation process, helping ensure the data from your old system and the new system are both handled with security and privacy that aligns with your regulatory requirements.
With the right partner, you won’t have to second guess the data protection and information security.
Transformations can be an especially vulnerable time for organizations, and an experienced MSP will help you mitigate risks by completing the transformation tasks in the right sequence to cause as little disruption and vulnerability to risk as possible.
Overcoming Challenges in Digital Transformation
Change is difficult and you’ll likely experience some resistance when rolling out your digital transformation strategy to your team. This is why it’s so vital that the leadership team aligns ahead of time so that they can present a unified front and be available to answer questions from their individual teams.
In addition to the resistance to change, you’ll also likely experience other challenges such as technical issues and budget constraints. Carefully plan ahead and spend enough thoughtful time creating a strategy.
You will be unable to anticipate every potential challenge, so make sure that you allow additional margin in the schedule to solve problems that arise as you go along. One of the often overlooked strategies of a successful digital transformation is flexibility and the posture of continuous learning.
Implementing digital transformation effectively and efficiently comes down to clear communication and flexibility.
If you can create a collaborative posture in your leadership team, that will set the tone for the rest of the organization, leading to a positive experience for your internal team and the customer and vendor beneficiaries of the digital transformation itself.
Embrace this project as a strategic opportunity for growth and providing increasing value to your customers.
If you’re planning a digital transformation for your organization, reach out to the experts at InfoSystems – our team will support and guide you every step of the way.
[This article is part of our Guide to Information Security and Compliance]
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