Digital transformation is a term you will likely have some familiarity with. It’s a buzzword, a trending topic, a phrase heard in boardrooms far and wide.

It represents progress and positive change for many businesses as they seek to move forward and stay ahead of the competition. It represents a fundamental change in the way business is done.

But what is digital transformation? What does it mean? Why are business leaders from various sectors looking into the benefits of and investing in digital transformation strategies?

This blog will examine what digital transformation is, how long it might take, and the best way to achieve success.

What is digital transformation?

Using digital solutions to answer business problems. That’s the long and the short of it. It’s all about turning to digital tools and technologies to resolve those typical issues, inefficiencies and headaches that businesses face.

Digital transformation can be embraced by businesses in different ways. Chances are it’s already happened in some ways within your company. Are you still sending letters out via post instead of using email? Thought not.

But the real promise of digital transformation is using the enhanced efficiencies that digital solutions offer to not only make processes easier, but enhance them in ways previously unattainable. This can penetrate into your sales and marketing, be advantageous internally and cover pretty much any business-related activity you can think of.

The strategy behind and impact of digital transformation naturally differs from brand to brand. But fundamentally, moving from manual or traditional ways of working to digital processes gives businesses the chance to benefit in a big way.

Digital transformation can allow you to reach more people, open new avenues and create business processes that get more out of your staff.

What are the benefits?

At its heart, digital transformation is all about building a business that centres around the customer and embraces innovation.

Digital transformation creates:

  • New ways to work in a changing world
  • New revenue streams
  • An IT environment that helps to lower risk
  • The opportunity for businesses to better place themselves to deal with disruption in their industry

Digital transformation is all about moving with the times, positioning your business to adapt to change and thrive in the age of digital transformation.

What’s the best approach?

Be realistic about what you want to achieve and look to bring in processes and changes that will allow this to happen without seeking too much.

Speaking at The Drum Future of Marketing event, IBM’s chief strategy officer Jeremy Waite said that 85% of digital transformation fail.

So what’s the key to avoiding failure and ensuring your digital transformation project works?

  • Be organised – Introducing wild, ill-judged changes isn’t the way to go. Identify areas to target that suit your business model and pin down why they could make such a difference.
  • Be open to advice and guidance – Digital transformation isn’t easy. It’s only going to be more difficult if you go it alone and think you can do everything off your own back.
  • Be brave – It’s not easy to change what could well be the habit of a lifetime. Things that are done in a certain, non-digital way within your business may have proven successful over time. But times change, and embracing digital innovation and adopting digital strategies can futureproof your processes and your business.

Digital transformation is not about reinventing the wheel. It’s about doing what you do better, and finding new things to do that can enhance your business in a positive way.

At Williams Commerce, we can act as your digital partner. We offer consulting and strategy services that can help you pin down areas of your business and play a key role in developing a roadmap around the digital strategies and technologies that can benefit you.

How long does it take?

There are a couple of ways of looking at this.

Firstly, be aware that when changing fundamental processes within a business, expanding into new areas or introducing new initiatives, you might not notice an immediate upturn. There’s an inevitable bedding-in period, and digital transformation benefits are not necessarily instantaneous.

If you research the length of time digital transformation takes to truly sink in, in a lot of places five years is what you will see as the ballpark figure.

McKinsey for example puts digital transformation at five years in the financial services industry. IBM’s Jeremy Waite said last year that digital transformation would take ‘around four years’.

However, putting a specific date or time period on something as progressive as digital transformation isn’t a great idea. The reality is that in this digital age, digital transformation is forever ongoing and changing. It’s not a quick fix – it’s a long term investment.

New opportunities arise and the moment a company rests on its laurels and thinks the transformation is complete, the chances are there is something new on the horizon that their competitors could well be taking advantage of.

So while being strategic and identifying where to invest and embrace on your digital transformation journey, be aware that it’s not a journey with a definitive end point.

Whether you’re interested in retail ecommerce, digital marketing, system integration or something else, our team can discuss what the right approach might be for your requirements.

Get in touch with our team of experts to discuss how digital solutions might be able to benefit your business.