The five ‘W’s of Digital Transformation


Most likely this year’s winner of ‘buzz phrase of the year’ digital transformation is something we have all at least heard of, if not experienced. Paid for a coke with Apple Pay? Digital transformation. Used DropBox to save and share work files? Digital transformation. Work on laptops and tablets rather than PCs? Digital transformation.

Yet, if I asked you to describe in one sentence what digital transformation is, I’m quite sure you would struggle.

And that is the issue. Digital transformation is considered a ‘must-do’ for almost every organisation across every industry. Increasingly – and rightly so – businesses are looking at how they can apply new technologies as services to better their customer’s experiences and consequently benefit their businesses.

But who really understands why? Let’s use the tried and trusted five ‘W’s to find out.

Just WHAT is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the bold journey one undertakes through applying new, innovative technologies into its business. The aim? To drive greater business agility, productivity and collaboration across the business – all while creating a seamless experience for both customers and employees alike.

This means taking what some would consider a ‘brave’ step and adopting new technologies into the business – cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile devices etc. When used in unison, you have the solid foundations of an effective digital transformation.

Sounds ambitious – WHY should I do it?

Heard of the flexible worker? Want to reduce data storage costs? Thinking about expanding overseas? These are just some of the capabilities and benefits of ‘going digital.’

One of the industry favourites is providing the ability for both customers and employees to log on from any location, at any time, from any device. The Mobile Workforce is here, so businesses need to adapt to keep employee morale high while also offering a new level of flexibility to their customers.

Businesses looking to grow can benefit from the scalability that only digital solutions offer. Networking, storage and other computing resources – owned and hosted by a service provider – can be accessed as and when they are needed. This ‘pay-as-you-use’ style model also gives organisations the option to turn up or turn down capacity, dependent on their requirements. This will then, in time, have a big impact on the bottom line.

WHERE should a business digitalise? 

Digital transformation needs to be holistic. Too often too much focus is placed on making services look appealing to a customer while the employees are living in a mountain of paper and excel spreadsheets. This is inefficient, costly, and does little to enhance the morale of the workforce.

In fact, research found that while that 73% of employees see digital as vital to the future success of their organisation, 55% feel they are not provided with access to the right digital services to do their job sufficiently.

To take advantage of this fourth industrial revolution situation, and keep up with this demand, businesses need to ensure there is investment in relevant digital solutions in the right areas – both for the paying customers and the “internal customers” of the company.

I’m sold. WHEN should I do it?  

Digital transformation should undoubtedly be at the top of any boardroom agenda. If it’s not, put it there. If organisations want to remain competitive, this is a necessity. Fact; new digital business models are the principal reason why just over half of the names of companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000. This is because fresh-faced start-ups are entering the market with a clean-slate luxury – not having to worry about legacy systems and are instead built with digital DNA.

To see what “good” looks like, consider companies like Nike and British Gas which have trail-blazed ahead – demonstrating how by embracing digital, a business can move even closer to their customers and reinvent themselves for the modern age.

So when should you embark on your digital journey? Yesterday.

WHO should lead us on this journey?

Easy – the people. A dedicated team of tech-savvy employees should take the helm and lead on this journey. It is vital for IT departments to listen to the people who are using the services day-to-day, speaking to those who truly understand what their clients and customers want, not just how to deliver it. Senior leadership need to support this transformation and enable it, while remembering it’s not always an inexpensive or smooth process.

Jump on the digital bandwagon before it passes you by

Digital transformation is inevitable. In fact, your workplace has more than likely already begun the journey through the subliminal use of web-based applications and company WiFi supporting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

But to truly reap the rewards of digitalisation, organisations must first understand it. With a clear understanding, businesses can closely align their goals with digital assets. While initially it might seem daunting, in due course it will help businesses overcome complexities and thrive.

Lee Nolan, Director of Solutions at Insight UK