What are the prerequisites to a successful digital transformation process?

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It’s too easy to deploy new technologies these days. Say it’s a new Wi-Fi technology that is on the horizon. For some companies, they can simply purchase new routers for an office and turn them on. Employees can connect at faster speeds. Which all seems fine, except that digital transformation doesn’t really work like that. Often, there are several prerequisites that must be met. In the case of Wi-Fi, it might be that devices will need to be upgraded, employees trained in how to connect differently, or servers will need to be upgraded.

The prerequisites do not need to be overly complex. Often, companies should look into whether a new technology is ready for a specific market segment and train employees before even choosing that technology and rolling it out. The basic idea here is to be prepared. Companies that follow a few prerequisites for digital transformation will find that introducing new technology is not as complex or fraught with road-blocks and problems as they surmised.

To help, the following prerequisites will help you prepare for the new technology and make sure the transformation is smooth and well-received.

1. Company workflows solidified

The most important prerequisite for a successful transformation to a new innovation has to do with your workflow. A business workflow should remain mostly immune to technology trends because it is primarily what works for your business, your customers, and your market segment. 

With a health-care company, for example, your business process will mostly deal with patient privacy, security, compliance, and safety. If that process is well-established, then you can safely introduce new technologies without having to overhaul what you do. In fact, if you do have to overhaul your business workflow for a new technology, it might be worth considering whether that makes sense. It’s better to solidify the process and experiment with slowly with digital transformation than introduce new tech only because it is trending and popular.

2. Your market segment is ready for the change

Not all innovations in business are a match for your particular market segment. A prerequisite to the innovation actually taking hold and making a difference is that the business is primed and ready for the change. 

What does this look like? Business leaders should make sure there is a good match between the emerging tech and the business. In the real estate market, for example, everyday home-owners looking to buy a house might not be ready for the Bitcoin revolution. However, a gaming app that allows customers to purchase and sell goods might be primed and ready for the innovation. Truth be told if your company does make a gaming app and you haven’t investigated Bitcoin you may already be falling behind. 

3. The innovation is mature enough

It’s important to analyze new innovations before ever deploying them to see if they will make an impact and improve your business or cause serious problems. Call it the digital transformation litmus test. Too many companies adopt new technology before it’s mature and that can make the digital transformation process an embarrassing failure. 

One example of this is when cloud computing first emerged as a way to store documents. Some companies jumped onto the bandwagon too early before waiting until the new storage medium was secure enough. This turned into a nightmare for some companies because some of the early cloud providers were not able to provide enough security and others went defunct, leaving companies out in the cold. If the innovation has matured enough, you’ll find the deployment will be smoother. 

4. You know the impact of the innovation

It’s too easy to move into deployment mode before a company knows the impact of new technology. This is where early adopters often fail: They don’t analyze the new tech, how it will impact their business process, and also how easy it will be to integrate the new tech. 

One example of this is when companies deploy a new wireless technology. There’s no question 5G data service is going to make a major impact with consumers; the question is whether it will make an impact on your business. It is important to know all of the variables. Will you need to change a product or service? Train employees on the use of the new tech? Change a business process so that it won’t be negatively affected? Once you know all of the ways a new transformation will change your business, it is a good time to move forward. 

5. Employees are well-trained

One of the ways digital transformation can fail is when employees are not well-trained beforehand. This can be a problem because the business process might be solidified, the business is a prime candidate for the new tech, and the timing is perfect because the new innovation is definitely mature enough. 

With artificial intelligence and chatbots, for example, the technology has matured and is readily available and well-tested. However, employees might not be trained in how to use a chatbot or how to take advantage of the AI. In fact, it might seem like everything is going smoothly with a deployment but only after a miscommunication, misunderstanding, and a failed rollout will companies realize it was a training issue. 

6. Business partners and stakeholders are ready

One last prerequisite is to prepare business partners, executives, and customers for the new technology. This can involve some training but it is mostly an act of communication and preparedness -- e.g., there will be changes, they will make an impact, but stakeholders need to be ready to embrace those changes and the new impact on the business. 

This can also take time. As mentioned at the outset, it’s often easy to deploy new tech innovations, but preparing business partners and stakeholders will make the process smoother. The alternative is to deploy first and then deal with the questions, problems, and eventual fallout when things don’t quite work as they should or (more to the point) work differently than they did before. 

John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.