It feels as if “business as usual” has been turned upside down.
Maybe it’s finally being turned rightside up, though, especially if you consider what today’s workforce is asking for.
They want a better work-life balance.
They want flexibility in their work schedule.
They want more control over their lives.
That’s just what your workforce wants, mind you. Your customers have also had a change in expectation. Both of these are the push that has led to a growing conversation about digital transformation in the workplace.
What Is Digital Transformation?
Quite simply, digital transformation is changing how your business interacts with both employees and customers using technology to do so. The goal is to improve efficiency by using digital tools to adjust internal processes.
There are two basic faces to digital transformation, one for the customer and one for the employee.
Digital transformation for your customers.
With customer-facing transformation, technology is used to change how your customers interact with your businesses. Online ordering, consulting, on-demand services, managing pick-up orders, customization, appointment requests, payment, account management, inventory management, customer support—just about any current customer expectation can be transformed into its digital counterpart.
Digital transformation for your employees.
With employee-facing transformation, that same kind of technology is used to change how your employees communicate and work, and how various management activities (such as scheduling) are done. This includes time clocks, human resources, scheduling, communication, document storage, compliance management, and much more.
Why Is Digital Transformation Important?
The digital tools available today are effectively replacing manual or redundant practices businesses used in the past.
The fact that these kinds of tools are merely available is not enough of a selling point, though. You need significant reasons to put in the time and money to make the change.
- The current trajectory is not going to change. Life, and business, is moving towards general digital transformation. All areas of life are impacted, and we aren’t going back. Waiting to adapt to the digital world will make it more difficult.
- The competition is real. Companies who have made a digital transformation are gaining a competitive advantage, both in bottom-line efficiencies and in attracting employees. Upcoming generations want what digital transformation provides. Additionally, your business may be facing new competition from businesses that could only exist in the current digital world. If you don’t adapt, you might go the way of the video rental store.
- Expectations are set. Your customers are experiencing the positive conveniences and experiences from other businesses who have gone digital, and their expectations will soon land at your doorstep. Their question won’t be “do you?” but “why haven’t you?” There’s an “on demand” culture that’s growing in your customer base.
- Protect against disruption. A digitally transformed business is better able to adapt when there are times of disruption. When things beyond your control affect your business, you can shift how you do business easily with much less pain. Your customers and employees have the tools available to change how they interact.
- Better decisions and communication. Digital transformation leads to better use of data. That will help you forecast and make decisions. It can also connect departments that may currently exist as a bit of a silo from each other.
3 Ways To Bring Your Business Up To Speed
There are solid reasons for digital transformation, but diving into the process without careful thought could simply lead to blowing the budget on tools and systems that aren’t a good fit.
So, how do you go about transforming your business in a smart way?
Start with the “staples” of your business, and focus on transforming these foundational activities first. From there, once the integration is solid and your employees and customers have adopted the changes, you can make better decisions on what else to change.
We have three areas you may want to consider adapting first. Think of them like the legs on a three-legged stool. Get these in place for a stable digital transformation.
1. Get your data together.
You have a lot of data.
You have workforce data, customer demand data, sales data—data is one of the byproducts of your business you might not have given much thought to. But that data is your goldmine. It’s what you use to forecast where your business is headed and how to get there.
Digital transformation that doesn’t start with data aggregation will lead to some backtracking at some point in the future. Eventually, as that transformation progresses, you will need to gather all of your data to feed into the systems so they can do their job.
First, what improvements do you hope will come from digital transformation? Better inventory management? Better sales? Increased customers? Better workforce management? That indicates what kind of data you would need to gather.
Do your departments regularly gather the data you’ll be needing? Do they have a process or way of providing it as a report? Do you have a way to access the data easily, or is it buried in spreadsheets or a multitude of systems you aren’t sure how to use?
Start getting the data aggregation systems in place now, even if it means simply getting your team into the habit of gathering it manually for the time being.
2. Build a digital culture.
If you introduced a handful of new cutting-edge digital systems and dumped them onto a team still using a manual system, you’d experience real pushback.
That’s too far a leap all at once.
Digital transformation is change, no matter when or how it happens. Change is tough, so make that change a bit easier by starting the process of building a digital culture. Find ways to adapt some smaller current methods to a digital culture (and maybe even use some rewards to encourage the adoption).
For example, instead of the communal bulletin board in the employee break room, consider an online chat system that’s accessible from anywhere at any time. Find ways to reduce your reliance on paper, pointing towards a paperless office in the cloud by reducing required files and copies and encouraging your employees to begin doing so.
Begin using a digital rewards program with your customers instead of a paper punch card. Encourage online shopping or customer service. Make it easy to pay bills online as an option before you someday require it. Tie brick-and-mortar activities to digital activities.
A digital culture is one that isn’t locked into time and place. There are fewer boundaries. Opening and closing hours, and the physical location of a place, are less important in a digital culture. As freeing as that is, the mindset of a digital culture has to be in place before all the tools of digital transformation arrive, or you may have employees and customers who reject it aggressively.
3. Build a flexible workforce model.
From an employer’s standpoint, a flexible workforce is one that is optimized based on need.
That could mean a lot of things, whether it’s using seasonal employees, a mix of full and part-time employees, or flexibility in how the work schedule is made.
However, a flexible workforce has benefits not just for employers, but also employees.
You can tap into employees with valuable skill sets who you need for specific tasks or can only give you a few hours.
Customer service improves, because you have enough employees when needed. On the flip side, you don’t break the payroll budget because of over-scheduling or ending up with too much overtime on the clock.
Flexible scheduling makes employees happier. It gives them some control over their lives and because they are given a say in when they work. They get a better balance between work and personal life, able to choose and trade shifts as much as possible. Some may be able to do some work from home.
Flexible scheduling requires open communication lines to exist between the workers and those doing the scheduling, and that kind of communication brings about its own positives between employees and management.
Let’s not forget the adaptation aspect; a flexible workforce is able to shift when there’s a crisis or abrupt change. The reason this is part of the foundation of a complete digital transformation is that your workforce needs to be adaptable before you start allowing customers the tools and expectations that would demand it.
Digital transformation isn’t simply getting updated computers or adding technology to the same methodology. It is a complete transformation, a different way of thinking about doing work. It impacts every corner of your business with a goal of greater efficiency and happier humans, whether customers or employees.