It's safe to say that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all of us — especially for organizations that were in the process of undergoing their own digital transformations as the lock downs started in March 2020. The need to use technology to support a fast-paced and agile workplace was always paramount — but somehow, it's become even more so in an era where most of your employees are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.
But at the same time, a silver lining is on the horizon. A COVID-19 vaccine rollout has already begun in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Soon, if everything goes according to plan, those lockdowns will be lifted and we'll all slowly but surely start to return to normal. What that new normal looks like is anyone's guess.
But the situation demands the question: what, then, becomes of your digital transformation efforts?
Now more than ever before, it's crucial to make sure that the time and money you're investing in your digital transformation strategy are focused on the right areas. Getting to that point isn't necessarily difficult, but it will require you to keep a few key things in mind.
It's All in the Plan
Especially given all the changes that have happened to the way we do business thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the best way to make sure you're spending your time (and money) in the right places on digital transformation involves making sure that you have a plan at the heart of it all to begin with.
Yes, you want to be able to enjoy benefits like saving time, digitizing critical information, and opening up access to both documents and processes to anyone, anytime, anywhere. But to really make sure your strategy makes sense given your long-term goals; you need to go into as much detail as possible about what those goals actually are.
For example, are you trying to meaningfully improve the customer experience (or the perception those customers have) of your business? Is your number one priority to improve employee efficiency by automating a lot of time-consuming and menial processes. Do you want to implement some type of new system that will empower greater sales than prior to COVID?
For the best results, pick one or even two key objectives and build your plan (and your budget) around those needs. You can always return to the plan and make strategic adjustments later if things change.
If There Was Any Time to Embrace the Cloud, It's Now
Along the same lines, at this point, it should be clear that whenever you're implementing a large-scale project like a new CRM system or an intelligent information management platform, you want to make sure that system is as flexible as possible. This means that in the vast majority of situations, you'll want to go with some type of cloud-based "software as a service" option unless you can think of a very, very good reason not to.
Sure, you may have (legitimate) concerns in terms of areas like security and data governance. But rather than shying away from the cloud because of them, work on finding out what you need to do to address them while still enjoying the massive amount of agility that the cloud brings with it.
Never forget that to make sure that your business is always at the very least aligned with (and in a best-case scenario ahead of) your competitors, you need to make sure the playing field is leveled. This means that you need to have the same level of agility that they do, and that's something you're not really going to get unless you embrace the cloud with open arms.
Engagement, Engagement, Engagement
Finally, you need to understand that even the most perfectly executed digital transformation in the world ultimately won't mean much if your new systems aren't realizing close to full utilization. If key staff members and stakeholders don't want to use the new system because they think it's "too complex" or "less effective" than what they're coming from, they probably won't use it — end of story.
Change management is vital to digital transformation. Therefore, you need to make sure you're using a portion of your budget to train people on the new solution. Engage all key parties to make sure they understand the exact benefits of this change at this particular time. Don't forget to budget for either ongoing or even future consultancy costs if that's what it takes because your new tool may be powerful, but it won't generate anywhere near the results that you're after if people aren't willing to use it.
For more on change management, check out our recent podcast Change Management Starts with the One Person that Doesn't Want to Change: