What is digital transformation?

We’ve left analogue behind for a digital world, but the transformation isn’t over yet.

Two people review notes in Dropbox Paper instead of physical notes as a part of their company’s digital transformation

What does digital transformation mean?

Digital transformation is the use of technology to transform analogue processes to digital. We’ve experienced digitalisation in all areas of our lives, from smart watches to artificial intelligence home assistants. Digital transformation refers more to how technology has revolutionised businesses with new areas of technology like machine learning, big data and the internet of things. Your brand may not have to worry about these heavy topics just yet, but you definitely do need a digital transformation strategy in place.

What is the impact of digitisation in business?

Digital transformation in business is a little more complex than switching snail mail for email. It’s about using technology to improve your customer experience, supply chain, stakeholder management and overall business processes. So when we say digital transformation, we mean it. To fully embrace digital technologies, you also need to prepare for total business transformation. If you’re still operating in analogue, it’s time to press go on your transformation initiatives.

Why should a company have a digital transformation strategy?

There are endless reasons for any brand to go digital, not least because the world is doing likewise. Any new start-up’s business strategy will be digitally native in these modern times as the old processes are being left behind for new business models. These modern brands are not subject to the ‘digital disruption’ that has impacted older businesses, so they are already ahead of the game when it comes to operational efficiency. That means if your brand wants to keep up, you’ll need to update your workflows for the digital age.

It’s not just about staving off competition, though. Going digital can work wonders for your team, company culture and overall productivity.

Examples of digital transformation

Switching your business over to digital tools doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds. Sometimes, even the smallest efforts can reap big rewards, and it’s something you’ve probably noticed in your own daily life. For example, the following all count as digital transformation:

  • Digital banking
  • Digital shopping vouchers
  • Digital customer loyalty cards
  • Click-and-collect services
  • Self-service online customer accounts

All these changes may seem like minor changes on the surface, but in reality they have used automation to transform user experience for the better. That means happier customers.

What are the benefits of digital transformation?

You can’t really argue against the virtues of becoming a digital business. Here are just some of the ways it can help improve your brand:

Improve your resource management

A filing cabinet here, a desktop document there, one program for one team and a different one for another. The old ways are not the best ways. Digital processes like cloud computing and cloud storage can unify your team, giving you one centralised, online hub. That means collaboration that once depended on sales passing that document to finance whenever they had a spare moment can now happen instantly from a safe and secure shared folder.

Documents, pictures, even long videos can all be safely stored online and easily accessed from PC, laptop or mobile device, wherever you are.

Be more efficient

A digital process is almost always speedier than an analogue one. Contracts, for example, used to take days or even weeks to be finalised. Digitally, you can narrow that down to mere minutes. Electronic signatures mean you no longer have to worry about printing contracts and sending them off in the post. You can simply request a signature via email on your digital document and your recipient can sign it as soon as it lands in their inbox. Even if you’re working with hard copies, you can still make everything more efficient with the Dropbox doc scanner. Just use your phone camera and have the document transformed into a digital file, ready to be emailed, shared or safely stored on your Dropbox account.

With everything running more efficiently, you have time to get on with more important things, a lesson even an historic institution like the University of Sydney was able to learn. The CIO explains, ‘We want to offer the best choice of collaboration for our staff and students, so they can focus on their important work, and Dropbox fits perfectly into this.’

Improve company culture

Bureaucracy is the nemesis of a happy team – who wants to be lost in paperwork and long back-and-forth emails? Going digital can help improve your team’s overall work experience in a way old tech never could, whether that’s breaking down work silos by opening communication channels like instant messaging to allow informal chats without anyone leaving their desk, or by championing accountability with shareable to-do lists. You may have seen company benefits like free lunches and shiny new offices being touted as key to company culture. But the rise of distributed teams and all remote companies has brought about a greater need for team empowerment and loyalty that an office environment can no longer provide. To truly empower and inspire your team, no matter where they are, ensure they have the tools to do their best and always be improving. Modern business leaders should make digital a priority if they want to boost employee satisfaction.

Reach your business goals

It may be a bold claim, but going digital will help you reach your business goals faster. Whether that means profits or customer experience, digital, in this day and age, is the only way to go. Take e-commerce, for example. Offline retailers can’t take advantage of social media to show off new products, mailing lists to secure repeat customers or data analytics for deeper customer insights. These are all things that are part of modern customer expectations and hold a lot of weight in the buyer decision-making process. Failing to deliver on what a customer needs means lost conversions, lost customers and lost profit.

How do you make a digital transformation roadmap?

If your business is ready to use new technologies, then you’ll need a digital transformation roadmap to guide you. Your transformation efforts can take many forms. After all, every brand will have a different transformation journey, but here are some things to guide your way:

1. Define your areas of transformation

Yes, your whole company is about to undergo change, but you’ll need to specify precisely where you’re going to concentrate your efforts. There are endless digital tools out there, and it’s easy to just throw money at them all and expect the job to be done. In reality, investing in the wrong tools won’t do much for your business, so try to divide your business into core areas and then look into what changes they need in order to be as efficient as possible. Common areas include:

  • People and culture: How you can improve your company culture, e.g. by adopting an instant messenger
  • Process: How you can improve core work processes, like using financial software with shared access for things like expenses
  • Customer: How you can improve your customer reach and retention. This can be as simple as getting online, or a little more complex, like updating your online store’s CMS

2. Budget

Make sure you have enough investment behind your digital efforts and ensure you are placing it on the best tools. Multi-functional tools make for the most cost-effective options. Dropbox, for example, is not only a secure place to store your files, it’s also a platform for easy collaboration, communication and team efficiency. Make sure you also consider your choices in real time. Not ‘we’ll have X for an undefined time’, but ‘we will budget for X for a year’s subscription’. Many digital tools work on a SaaS model, so be prepared for continuous investment and not a one-time fee.

3. Assign personnel

As much as digital can make things more efficient, it can also introduce completely new processes into your team. For example, a social media presence will need a social media coordinator, a website will need a content manager. This can be a great opportunity for your team to up-skill and take on new challenges, but it may also mean you need to recruit new talent for these key roles. If you are just starting to go digital, you’ll need a solid team at launch. That might mean new starters, and that goes back to ensuring you’re on-budget.

4. Revise your work methods

Digital processes have created whole new ways of working, such as Agile. These processes concentrate on communication, team work and keeping productivity high. It’s crucial you look at your current work processes and update them where needed. Be warned that, as with anything, this will probably come with teething problems, so make sure you have those extra few weeks factored into your roadmap.

5. Post-launch nurturing

Digital transformation success doesn’t happen in a day. The modern world is quick moving, and now you’re part of the new digital ecosystem, you’ll have to keep up the pace. Ensure you are up to date with digital best practice and fundamentals. Ongoing professional development also has a huge positive impact on your company culture and retaining talent, so it’s win-win.

Start your successful digital transformation

Get started