Whether B2B or B2C, customers now expect seamless digital interactions. Any delay in service is viewed as frustrating and unacceptable and, however strong the brand, customers will only put up with slow service for so long before they move to a competitor with a smarter offer.
In order to expand business opportunities and improve operational processes, every business should be looking to adopt a digital mindset. A recent survey conducted by Smart Insights found 34% of business already had a digital transformation programme in place, with a further 31% looking to launch a programme imminently. However, it seems Europe, in particular, is lagging behind: just 5% of manufacturers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea) are digital champions, according to a recent PwC study.
Many businesses delay the process due to fears around upfront investment costs and disruption to services. However, if this reluctance ends up costing a loss of business, the reasoning begins to wear thin. The tangible economic gains relating to efficiency, productivity, increased revenue and investment should be motivation enough for companies to consider their journey to digital.
The dawn of Industry 4.0 means that almost all sectors can benefit from a digital transformation.
However, companies should be wise to a few golden rules to achieve the most from the process.
The ‘Whole-Digital’ Approach
The first way to make the most of your digital transformation is through the ‘whole-digital’ approach. This approach aims to convert all business operations to digital systems, rather than converting one-by-one over a period of months of years, and enables businesses to deliver a competitive process that leaves no gaps in service for customers.
For example, if you convert your warehouse supply chain system into a digital process but the finance department that processes payments are still using manual, paper-based invoicing, the efficiencies for business operations will only be partially realized. By converting all elements of the warehouse supply chain at once, simple integrations can be made at each stage to automate many more stages of the pipeline.
Full integration offers better oversight of systems and processes and reduces the risk of error- insights which are harder to spot when technologies across the business don’t connect. Additional software solutions and smart algorithms can also be applied, reducing the amount of time analysts need to manually sift through data. By taking this approach, businesses can hope to create greater efficiencies more quickly and catch up with digitally-native companies.
Maximizing the Return on Investment
Companies worried about the high upfront costs associated with new digital technologies would be wise to understand how the process can actually generate savings in the long-run. In Europe, spending on DX-related technology is growing by more than 16% every year, yet it should be viewed as an investment.
If applied to business operations correctly, upfront costs can be recouped in as little as one year, through an increase in overall productivity. Further savings can be gained by ensuring employees work on the specialist tasks that fit their expertise, no longer wasting time on fiddly processes and paperwork. Studies also show that digitally-savvy companies are better able to attract and retain top talent, all of which will impact the success of the business over time.
However, before rushing forward with a new digital plan, companies must be sure to plan carefully and wisely. Overambitious transformation ideas might sound exciting, but risk wasting time and money in the long-run. The best digital solutions fit the needs and the size of the company.
The Power of Change Management
Managing change always requires work and digital transformations are no different. The importance of keeping both employees and customers engaged and up to date with changes linked to the project should not be underestimated. In fact, companies that prioritize internal engagement can expect to see a 47% higher return on investment overall.
Company employees are the ones who will be facing the changes, daily, so their buy-in is essential. Clear communication and strong leadership helps to smooth the process as staff adopt new ways of working. Businesses should look for digital integration tools that support their existing infrastructures to reduce the impact of new development tools and processes.
Any changes to customer processes must also be planned and communicated well in advance to minimize disruption and the risk of disgruntled clients. By letting digital experts take care of the transformation process, your company can focus on the human elements of staff and customer satisfaction.
Planning for Industry 4.0
Each industry will face specific challenges around business operations, data protection legislation and service delivery. Finding the right partner who understands the nuances of your industry should be the first, most important step on the journey to a digitally-minded company.
Nikolay Patrikov is the CEO of Zigiwave.
Digital transformation stock photo /Shutterstock