Digital transformation is a word you hear thrown around a lot, but very rarely defined. For most companies, this has come to mean the transition between handling physical paperwork and using online document management and this is a very important step in the digital transformation, to be sure. However, the reason such an expansive word is used is because the digital transformation is really the entire journey from a brick-and-mortar business with paperwork and cash drawers to a company of the digital-age, able to do business equally well online or in person, stay in touch with online communities, build an audience on social media, sell products through eCommerce, and make use of cutting-edge business analytics and logistics software.
In other words, your digital transformation isn’t complete until your company is up to date on every technology and online service relevant to your industry. If this seems like a herculean task, don’t worry. When you near the end of the digital transformation, you’ll simply join everyone else at the cutting-edge striving to adapt and integrate the latest developments. Of course, to get to the cutting-edge, there are three major stages in most company’s digital transformations and the first stage is always the biggest. Let’s go over the current aspects of a digital transformation in detail, starting with the basics.
Business Website and Google Entry
When starting your digital transformation, the first step is to ‘exist’ to online audiences. For the modern consumer who lives through their smartphones, looking up everything from how to cook dinner to directions to the nearest shoe store, you need exactly two things in order to enter their world. A website and a Google Business entry. If it seems odd to pair these to things, let’s talk about why they’re the two most important aspects of becoming a digital-age business.
Your website is your online face. It is what people see when they look you up online, it is how they will try to research your brand, venue, and services, and it is how they will try to get in touch with you if they have a question or want to discuss an order. This means that you need an attractive high-speed website that accurately represents your business, company culture, and services available. You also want to make sure that your website is up-to-date in modern web development trends. Nothing looks tackier these days than a 90s era website design. If you sell products, look into integrating an eCommerce platform and if your services can be ordered, be sure to include online ordering in your design.
Next is the Google Business listing, which is most important for brick-and-mortar venues like retail, hospitality, and restaurants where most of your customers walk in through the front door. The fact of the matter is that people don’t look with their eyes anymore, they look with their phones and Google Business is how the most popular navigation app makes suggestions. With a Google Business entry and a website, you’re ready to enter the digital world.
Five years ago, businesses could get away with just having a mobile-friendly website but today, almost every business has their own app. Try to think of a clever way to offer your services and access to useful features in your app like schedule management, mobile ordering, checking account balances, or even playing games. If you’re looking for cutting-edge features, consider giving your app a delightful Smart Home skill. Of course, if you’re just getting started with the mobile app scene, a simple application that will allow your customers to chat, text, or call your customer service line is enough, to begin with.
Online Document Management
Document management is one of the central themes of the digital transformation, in part because there are so many businesses that are still drowning in paperwork and filing systems. Once you find a DMS that works well with your industry and business style, the biggest challenge is scanning all your physical documents into the system, organising them, and getting everyone used to the new system. Employees often handle the scanning process more enthusiastically than expected because they’re eager to leave the paperwork behind.
Once you’ve got your paperwork completely digitised, this is where you really start to enjoy the whole digital transformation experience. Documents don’t have to be printed, collated, stapled, or filed. You never have to run back to the office for a blank contract or a customer’s file, and making copies is instant and weightless. Your team will also be able to access, write, and work with company documents from anywhere on mobile devices and computers.
Customer Relations, Financial, and Inventory Software
Getting to a more complex approach to digital transformation is the software you use inside the office. Your business software suite is often never seen by a customer but it matters a great deal to your employees because it determines how easy it is to do job tasks. The first piece of software most businesses start with is the CRM or Customer Relations Management. Programs that are CRMs or include CRMs in a larger feature set creates a profile for every customer, lead, and contact and then allows you to track your relationship with them. ThiHis can include profile information, a buying history, browsing history, records of interactions with customer service, and so on.
The other major players in early software integration are financial software to help you keep your books in order and inventory software to help keep track of stock, incoming, outgoing, and shipping to customers. With these three pillars of business software, your office will speed up significantly as everyone from customer service to the accountants make use software to streamline their work.
The final aspect of a basic digital transformation is network security. Now that your business can function almost independently on a combination of cloud-stored documents and business software, it’s important to realise that hackers have become your biggest threat. Viruses that get onto your network can crash and even destroy all of your business and customer data. This means that you have a new vital responsibility to protect your computers, network, the mobile devices of your employees, and the stored personal information of your customers.
The first layer of network security, like everything else in the digital transformation, is software based. This should involve, at a minimum, a well-configured firewall and a versatile antivirus program. Many computers come with basic versions of these programs and but you’ll want to upgrade or at least properly configure them for optimal protection.
The next layer of protection is a disaster recovery plan. Done correctly, this should allow you wipe your entire system back to factory settings, re-install your programs, and restore data from backups in case anything goes wrong. A good disaster recovery plan can have you covered for anything from ransomware to earthquakes. While there are many approaches to disaster recovery, the most important element is comprehensive and regular backups so that your data is ready to be restored at any time.
Finally, there’s procedural protection. Start by encrypting everything from the moment a piece of data enters your control. Encryption protects your data from theft and it protects your customers from fraud. The latest trend in hacking is to crack into a company’s database and steal a collection of names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers for a variety of financial and identity fraud opportunities. However, if your databases are encrypted, hackers won’t be able to read anything they manage to look at or steal. Make sure your app encrypts logins on the customer’s end so passwords are never sent as text and use network monitoring to detect any viruses
Once you have reached this point, you have officially completed your digital transformation. Equipped with a website, mobile app and blog, a complete set of basic business software and have locked down your network security, you have caught up with the tech startups that began completely digital. From here, the only way to go is up with better software, more efficiency, and a great deal of something called analytics. We’ll get into all that in the second half of this two-part article. Join us next time when we’ll be talking about Software, Marketing, and Business AI. For more in-depth information on digital transformation, make sure you download our guide for Asia-Pacific: