At every IT-related seminar or event, we keep hearing about this new buzz word, ‘Digital Transformation’. But what does it really mean?

A quick search over the internet will provide you with various explanations, and more or less these definitions can be summed up as “the adaptation of digital technology to replace existing manual processes of a business with the main scope of improving efficiency”.

People working in the IT industry tend to better understand and appreciate the various opportunities they see across businesses and, in doing so, are perhaps adopting this phrase to practically any piece of software that exits.

By taking a payroll software solution as an example, one has to agree that using a software system will be much more efficient and less prone to errors when compared to the manual calculation process.

Similarly, using a scheduling system to help book meetings or client appointments, or using an accounting system to help keep ledgers in order, have proven to be more accurate and efficient. However, such software has been around since the 1980s and 1990s, so why is this term becoming prominent in this day and age?

The key to understanding this question is to split the term ‘Digital Transformation’ and analyse each word separately. The ‘Digital’ part refers to the technology element of the process, which is continuously evolving and improving. Today we talk about cloud-based computing, block chain, internet of things - IoT, mobile\remote devices, bots or robotic processing, and much more.

This means that whatever process we are digitising today, at some point or another in the not-so-distant future, this will be surpassed by newer and better technologies, which will be much more efficient. This cycle of newer software replacing older digital technology will never cease to exist.

Then we have the ‘Transformation’ part of the phrase. This is where the major risk of digitisation projects will be, and most of the times will be the reason why such projects fail. Transformation is referring to the business change, the way we do things at present, which typically involves the human element.

People will be much more open to change if they can see a benefit for them too- Damon Debono

When we talk about transformation, we need to look at the business processes that are taking place, the day-to-day routine that we are comfortable with, that has been done since ‘always’, to be questioned and possibly changed. You will need to ask questions like “Why do we have to keep three copies of this form?” or “Why do we require our clients to sign multiple copies of the same form within a specific process?”

The typical answer “We have always done it this way”, should be challenged and if required, processes need to change in order for a project to be successful. It will be much easier to replace existing processes as they are with some software solution and stop at that, without bringing in the business changes that will finally result in the efficiency that one really seeks.

The human element of the transformation also needs to be addressed. People will be much more open to change if they can see a benefit for them too. To increase a project success rate, one must bring all the employees involved on board with the changes being introduced.

This should be done by providing them with the channels to voice and explain their pain points at work, and what they would change to better their situation. It is also essential that they are provided with all the knowledge and training required on a new system being introduced and to highlight the benefits that they stand to gain once the project is complete.

Today’s hype to the term ‘Digital Transformation’ is being driven by a combination of two things; multiple advances in various technologies at this particular point in time are providing the potential for digital solutions to be far more reaching than ever before; and then we have the after-effect of COVID, where we have proof that remote working actually works and digital solutions can be implemented to great effect.

Employees still deliver what is being asked and expected of them, whether they are working from the office or home, and a change to our daily routine is possible to achieve in a short time when everyone involved is willing and in agreement on how to proceed.

The possibility of creating a central repository for your organisation, enabling your employees to search for documents and securely retrieve them from wherever they are, has made going paperless much easier than originally thought. Sending electronic communication, filling online forms and even obtaining digital signatures from your clients, is a tangible reality today.

There are various solutions available that suit all type of businesses; from self-employed professionals, to a small start-up organisation with a few employees, to an enterprise level organisation, and that will transform your business to be more competitive and efficient, and allow you to achieve a better ROI in a shorter time.

However, it remains essential to address the changes that your business needs to undertake in order to transform and embrace the technology available today.

Neville Lia is Senior Business Solutions Consultant at Avantech

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