Digital transformation: What does it actually mean?

04 July 2019

Tanya Titman , Head of Strategic Innovation |

Digital transformation is a hot topic at the moment, but what does it actually mean? All too often, people discuss digital transformation in theory without knowing what it really looks like in practice. At BDO, we see digital transformation as two-pronged, whereby you find ways to improve processes, while still keeping the customer front and centre.

How do you ‘do’ digital transformation?

Digital transformation is about continuous improvement. Start by understanding how information flows in a business (i.e. what are your processes?). Then, find ways to improve them, ultimately finding ways to get things done more efficiently.

Take a business process that tends to encounter roadblocks and takes longer to complete than it should. Review what happens at each particular stage, and map the whole process in a flow chart that covers:

  1. How many hands the process passes through
  2. How many times it is passed back and forth
  3. What actions each step entails.

Next, consider what the ideal process would look like, particularly how much time you would like it to take. Look at the current process and find ways to get it to your ideal. This could be through investing in technology or people and process transformation.  Always ask yourself ‘what is the problem I am trying to solve”, when challenging how you do things as a business and ensure you are solving the right problem.  Too often, we jump to the solution or a piece of technology before truly understanding the underlying issues.

Keep the customer at the heart

It is all very well implementing new processes, but if it is at the expense of the customer's user experience, revenue will suffer.

We can take a deep dive in to a learning experience that my team went through as an example. A few years ago, we invested in an excellent piece of technology that allowed us to create a customer portal. It was great for the firm, and achieved great efficiency in our process as well as eliminating internal pain points for the team. The problem? Our customers hated it. They found it difficult to use and kept forgetting passwords – making it a very tedious task from a client perspective. This meant that even though it was better for us, it was much worse for our clients.

To fix this, we looked at the process from the customer experience and worked backwards. Eventually, we created a portal that sped up internal efficiencies but also made things easier for the customer.
Ultimately, you have to solve problems for the team and the customer - that is the secret of effective digital transformation.

The caveat? Change fatigue

Be aware of the organisational impact when it comes to digital transformation.   Continuous transformation is great for promoting efficiency and improving the customer experience, but don't do it at the cost of your team's mindset.

There is only so much evolution a team can handle, and change fatigue does happen. So remember, while digital transformation is excellent for improving revenue; make sure you are giving your team time to bed in a process to make your changes as effective as possible.

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