Red Barrington, OXCOM tutor and founder of Red Star Digital, discusses the importance of the digital transformation and what it means for businesses.  

For a lot of older, more established businesses, digital has meant a bit of a scramble to get their online presence up and running, as such they may feel they’ve already gone through a digital transformation. Businesses are now subject to new expectations, competition from sources no longer based in the same geographic location, opportunities abound for those who know how to take advantage. But more often than not, businesses aren’t sure how to proceed when faced with the always-on, mobile shopper, and the digital transformation they thought they’d undergone may not have actually been what they thought.

The definition of digital transformation

It means something a little different to everyone so, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume the following:

Transformation is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a marked change in form, nature, or appearance’. Essentially, it is a fundamental change that, when applied to a business, means wide-scale change to the foundations of that business, and it is usually driven by a previous inability to evolve to the marketplace’s requirements. A digital transformation is one provoked by the failure to evolve with digital technologies, resulting in a complete re-alignment of the business’s technology and business models in order to effectively engage with digital customers.

Why digital transformation isn’t a bad thing

There are degrees of transformation, and not all of them need to be pursued at once. Nor does your business need to be failing in order to take advantage; digital transformation is an opportunity to take your business and improve its reach, performance or products in ways you’d probably never thought of before.

There are three key areas that can be focussed on to help your business traverse the new and exciting world of digital in a successful way:

  • Customer Experience
  • Operational Processes
  • Business Models

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, this is common knowledge, but with the advances in digital and mobile technologies, your customer’s needs and expectations have radically changed – has your business done the same? Understanding your customers is key to winning them over, and social media is a great way to start. Discussions about your brand are happening all across social networking sites, but you need to be included in those discussions in order to learn and grow with your customers. Digital technologies can feed in to all areas of your business, from sales to new streams of revenue via digital products, and your customers’ buying preferences and data can be integrated in ways you’ve probably never considered. Integrating that information across all customer touch points can create a cohesive customer experience that puts you ahead of your competitors.

Of course, without your product there’s also no business. But digital technologies can transform your operational processes and in ways that don’t have to mean loss of jobs. Automation can allow your skilled workers to focus on more strategic tasks, giving them to time to concentrate on work that can help your business grow and evolve.

Digital transformation can also help change the way your business works at an individual level. Removing the barriers to communication, by offering digital collaboration and networking tools, encourages knowledge sharing and begins to create a single, global view of your business. For example, enabling more of your higher level managers to take part in strategic planning sessions via digital technologies can mean greater input and better uptake of the vision once agreed upon.

But digital transformation isn’t just about changing the way you use technology, it’s also about changing the way you do business at a fundamental level. Building digital platforms, products and services that complement the physical products and/or services your business provides can offer a new growth into unexpected areas. It also opens you up to truly global business opportunities thanks to global shared services.

The key to a successful digital transformation

In short, digital transformation can offer your business new ways of analysing data, and increasing productivity and customer engagement, even in non-digital industries. The single critical factor to successful digital transformation comes down to leadership. The Altimeter Group’s conclusion from their second Digital Transformation report (http://www.altimetergroup.com/2014/07/the-2014-state-of-digital-transformation/) explained that 54% of businesses surveyed had digital transformation led by their CMO, with other high level execs driving change in the remaining 46%. Someone needs to spearhead the decisions, help change your business’s culture, identify gaps between where your business is now and where it wants to be, and lead your business into new areas of technology and online markets. A truly transformative process, and not just on a digital level.

If you would like to learn more about the changing digital technologies and how to evolve your business in line with these, take a look at our range digital marketing qualifications and short courses available to students worldwide.