Digital transformation is increasingly crucial for all manner of businesses. A successful transformation can make even the most complex organization more efficient, more nimble, and more competitive.

It can make everyday work cleaner, clearer, and faster.

But true, inclusive, lasting digital transformation requires overhauling not only technology but internal processes, culture, strategies, and more.

We are not just talking about an update or upgrade, but a committed, not-going-back, all-in molecular change. When buyers turn to an agency for help to guide that transformation, they need to find one that can help them both navigate digital strategy and actually put it into practice.

Putting it into practice is a massive investment of your team’s trust and time to make the implementation meaningful long-term. It also requires them to be able to adapt to new situations, new developments in the industry, various obstacles along the way, and your own evolving needs.

So what should you look for in an agency when setting out on your digital transformation journey? And when adapting during that transformation?

Your digital transformation checklist

To carry out an adaptive and effective digital transformation, you’ll need a strong base of strategic planning; a willingness to change the organizational culture; robust technology; and ongoing commitment. More specifically, this framework below.

1. Start with a clear strategy and vision

Come to the table with a well-defined digital transformation strategy that fits your organization's overall goals and objectives. Establish a clear vision of what digital transformation means for your organization, then communicate and socialize it with your stakeholders. Make sure to have a thorough idea of the TCO (total cost of ownership) and be prepared to update it if the situation changes as your transformation unfolds.

2. Get commitment from your leadership

Leadership at all levels of the organization must be fully committed to the digital transformation investment. Leaders should lead by example and actively champion digital initiatives, all while walking the talk by becoming familiar with the transformation’s terminology and concepts to create more constructive dialogue with the agency they invested in.

3. Prioritize an agile and flexible culture

“Agile” means “adaptable,” and moving away from the traditional “waterfall” project model (a long work process leading up to a full launch). Instead, use an “agile” model with multiple sprints of development and implementation mixed with short pauses to assess. A workplace with this culture of adaptability and continuous learning, where experimenting and taking risks (and then pivoting if needed) are encouraged, can weather the storms much better than one too rigid to bother.

4. Pursue cross-functional collaboration

A digital transformation should streamline bureaucracy and foster collaboration—both in its outcome and in its own process. Promote collaboration across different departments and teams to break down silos, encourage information sharing, reduce bottlenecks, and speed up both communication and action. To bring this to life, create cross-functional digital transformation teams, in which members bring different areas of expertise to tackle complex challenges.

5. Evangelize digital literacy and skill development

As the organization transforms, its workers should transform with it, supported by training and upskilling to ensure digital literacy and efficient skills and systems adoption. Give staff the resources, time, and opportunities to stay up on emerging technologies and provide the opportunities to share these new skills with the rest of their teams.

6. Take a customer-centric approach, always

Your adaptability is only as good as its focus on positive client outcomes. Shape your digital strategy by making it constantly measurable and open to customer feedback (with easy implementation of suggestions). Again, staying on top of industry trends, emerging tech, and customer and market insights will help prioritize the needs and preferences of customers in your digital initiatives.

7. Make decisions based on all the data

Being flexible is important, but adapting still takes time and effort. Make sure your decisions to adjust are well-supported and measurable by building a data-driven culture where decisions are based on trusted metrics and analytics. As such, you’ll have to invest in data collection, analysis, and visualization tools.

8. Invest in a foundation of technology infrastructure

Robust and scalable technology infrastructure will support your digital initiatives that require you to treat cloud computing, data storage, and cybersecurity as essential table stakes. Determine which services archetype (e.g. Software as a Service / SaaS, Infrastructure as a Service / IaaS, etc.) best suits your needs now and in the coming years. Such an investment is expensive, so protect it by educating yourself about the penalties and limitations of switching providers or formats.

9. Create a change-management plan to keep it human

Develop a comprehensive change-management plan to guide employees through the transformation process, ensuring to address resistance to change and supporting employees through the transition. Consider creating a game plan similar to a full Digital Plan to personalize the journey, by clearly outlining the plans and priorities, and what can be done in every different role to help get closer to them. Your employees still have their day-to-day responsibilities while your digital transformation is playing out, so consider breaking out implementation into smaller achievable stages.

10. Watch your business’ exposure to risk

In planning, identify potential risks and challenges associated with your digital transformation and have mitigation plans in place. Be prepared to adapt and adjust strategies based on changing circumstances, following those plans you laid out pre-emptively.

11. Monitor and evaluate regularly

Implement key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the transformation’s progress and impact and regularly review and adjust strategies based on performance data. Your regular, agile evaluations should involve both incorporating new information and re-orienting toward the original central priorities and plan in steps 1 and 2.

12. Keep your eye on compliance and security

Amidst the excitement of a new launch or initiative, our guard sometimes drops. It is your job to ensure that everything you do is compliant with relevant regulations and data protection standards, while prioritizing cybersecurity to protect sensitive data and systems of your daily operations.

13. Remember people and planet

Strive for digital efforts and long-term investments that are both sustainable long-term in terms of your operations but also environmental and social sustainability. Explore ways to reduce the environmental footprint of your digital operations today, to meet the future expectations from the public, the government, and your staff.

14. Transformation is about continuous improvement

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to persevere, you will need to encourage a mindset of continuous improvement and adaptation, rather than considering the work taken care of after a designated “end date.” After all, the agile process that got you through the transformation should continue well after it. Doing so helps you iterate and makes your new digital reality a responsive new way of being, not a check-the-boxes static status quo.

In digital transformation, it’s essential to be adaptive because technology and market dynamics evolve rapidly. Organizations that can adjust and innovate in response to these changing circumstances have better odds of long-term success in their digital transformation journeys. For a deeper dive into undertaking a digital transformation at your organization, read our free overview, or contact us directly for a quick check-in.

Discord/Jeff Hamilton

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