What are the steps of digital transformation?

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Digital transformation in business can help you reach more customers, improve business workflows, and augment your current technology footprint. It’s a smart way to attract new customers who view your firm as innovative and able to adjust to changing trends.

Emerging technologies such as 3D printing, cryptocurrencies, and 5G cellular service can make a huge impact on how you do business. The problem with any transformation, however, is that there needs to be a measured, careful implementation of that new technology. It’s important to analyze the technology itself, prepare your business for the transformation, make the deployments, and then evaluate the impact and adjust the technology as needed. 

By follow these major steps of digital transformation, you can make sure when you introduce new technology that it helps your business grow and evolve. Here’s how to make sure your digital transformation follows a set procedure and doesn’t interrupt the business flow.

1. Study the field

The critical first step with digital transformation is to know which technology trends are emerging. This can take time to study the markets and determine which innovations are actually valid and mature enough to deploy in your business. For example, 5G technology was always “on the horizon” for many years but is now making legitimate inroads in major cities and is much more viable. 3D printing is another fledgling technology that always seems to be primed for mass adoption, but from an industrial design and manufacturing standpoint, it is more than ready for deployment in certain market segments, such as automotive and product design.

Other tech innovations might not be quite ready, and it’s important to study those as well. Virtual reality gaming is a good example. It reached a pinnacle of hype in 2018, but in 2019 it took a slide and now major companies like Samsung have decided to stop offering the VR goggles. Once you know all of the shifts and fluctuations, it’s also important to know if the technology will last into the future or is merely a trend worth watching. One example of this has to do with wearable technology. Companies like Apple and Google are likely working on wearable tech glasses, and Amazon already released the Echo Eyeglasses. However, this was a failed experiment a few years ago when Google released Google Glass. (The company has since created a new version that is intended more for industrial use.)

2. Prepare your business

The second step with digital transformation is to prepare your own internal business process and workflows. With printers and copiers, for example, it’s important to determine whether your process will work with the transformative tech, such as 5G or Wi-Fi 6. That can mean more than upgrading drivers ahead of time and installing new firmware. It can mean adjusting the workflow because more devices will be able to connect and print, or because the speed improvements will mean employees make more use of your devices and you will need to improve your replenishment services. It can mean that you will need to look into your security platform and make sure the new technology doesn’t also expose your business to new methods of hacking. You may need to evaluate almost every business process, depending on the technology you want to deploy to make sure you know the impact on networks, servers, and workstations.

3. Deploy the technology carefully

After looking into technology trends and preparing your business process, the next step is to deploy the technology. This can involve pilot tests, limited trials, or a radical overhaul of the devices you use in a business. However, any deployment related to disruptive technology such as augmented reality, 5G data service, 3D printing, and other innovations should be careful and structured -- the technology is emerging and new, and yet the business process might not be ready for the new technology. It’s wise to deploy the technology if it will impact your business, but should be deployed in a way that doe snot cause additional problems.

An example here is with Bitcoin cryptocurrency in a financial service company. Yes, the emerging tech has benefits and advantages to the business, and it could be a way to attract a new type of customer, but Bitcoin currency is still fairly new and untested. It’s smart to deploy the new currency in a way that is limited and careful rather than a total replacement.

4. Evaluate the results

It goes without saying (almost) that any deployment of new technology should involve ongoing, structured, and intentional evaluation of the new technology. This allows any company to determine if the new technology is making a difference, helping lower costs and improve workflows, and also if you require further adjustments in the company and your process to make the technology even more viable and valuable. It’s also a critical step to determine if the transformation is actually working or if it’s better to pull the plug and start over.

An example here is with Wi-Fi 6, a transformative technology because it is faster and more reliable, and also because it is now officially certified. Wi-Fi is obviously incredibly popular and common in business, so if you decide to deploy Wi-Fi 6 by upgrading devices like laptops and printers, and purchasing new Wi-Fi 6-compatible routers and access points, it is critical to evaluate if those upgrades are helping or hindering the business. It might require upgrading additional equipment, adding new drivers to a standard desktop, training employees on any new apps or services, and even changing business workflows as needed.

Following these four major steps will help any companies make the most of the transformative technology. There is a vast opportunity to impact your business, but there is also a vast opportunity to create chaos and confusion with users. By studying the technology and making sure it is mature and viable, then deployed in a way that the disruptive tech itself is not so disruptive to your business, you can focus on the benefits and not the challenges.

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.