Rethinking Digital Transformation in 2021

Rethinking Digital Transformation in 2021

COVID-19 accelerated and, in many cases, rushed digital transformation (DX) in 2020. Think about how your business had to quickly adapt to keep operating amidst the pandemic. Maybe your restaurant had to move to an online food delivery platform or maybe move towards a delivery-only business structure with a ghost kitchen? Perhaps you had to change the way you delivered your professional services? Turning knowledge into courses and virtual events overnight. Did your retail store have to scramble to go online? Quickly scaling e-commerce strategies and responding to new customer demands to weave together inline and offline experiences.

Whatever your situation, the reality is that most digitisation in 2020 happened at speed and without warning. Instead of being the result of careful planning and strategy, most digital transformation activities were put quickly in place to keep businesses afloat during a crisis.

In many cases, the need to rush through change to continue to serve customers, led to businesses skipping important stages of digitising their business. The result? Solutions chosen in the heat of the moment that may not truly align to the overall goals or strategy of your business.

While being quick to adapt in a global pandemic is great, it can come at a great cost if too many compromises have been made in the name of expediency. That’s why it’s vital for small business owners to stop for a moment, catch their breath, and take stock before rushing into 2021 all guns blazing to catch up on lost sales and revenue.

So, instead of rushing headlong into a new year with processes and technologies that may not be fit for purpose, it’s time to rethink your digital transformation and analyse where you are right now. The new year is the best time to audit what you have in place, revisit your processes, and follow a best practice approach.

Why It’s Time To Rethink Digital Transformation

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for tactical rather than strategic digital transformation (DX). Due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, businesses have had to react quickly to adjust to rapidly changing trading conditions. Just consider how fast your business adjusted to the new normal by adopting remote working, moving to digital channels, or transforming services to meet the changing needs of customers?

In the blink of an eye, businesses somehow leveraged new technologies and new ways of working. For some, 2020 saw digital projects implemented in mere weeks rather than the usual months or years required. While this quick response is remarkable, there are concerns that these rushed, reactive initiatives addressed a short-term need at the risk of long-term success.

AppDynamics recently surveyed IT professionals to gauge their opinion on COVID-19 related digital transformation activities. While there is concern that DX processes have been “hastily implemented, in a way that’s not future-proof”, 83% believe that many of the processes deployed during the pandemic will lead to ongoing spending on the digital customer experience.

While you may have changed how you operated on the fly as a temporary measure to survive the pandemic, those changes are more than likely here to stay, with more on the horizon. So, it’s crucial to review the DX you’ve already undertaken to ensure it aligns with your business, represents the best possible investment, and delivers real value to you and your customers.

The Risks Of Rushing Digital Transformation

Throughout 2020, I’ve witnessed businesses making rushed decisions on technology, resulting in suboptimal outcomes. Business owners have forced tech solutions onto inefficient manual processes, chosen options with complex implementation processes or made the fatal mistake of not bringing staff along for the ride. The fact is quick procurement processes don’t often identify the best fit or produce the most effective solution.

Because of rushed decisions, in some cases, business owners have gone for an option with all the bells and whistles, when a simple solution would have been a better fit. Or tried to save money with a basic solution that doesn’t meet the business needs or changing customer experience.

In each case, the need for a quick tactical win overrode the more important need for long term strategic planning. The impact of COVID-19 and the pressure to catch up lost sales, resulted in many businesses ‘spraying and praying’ on tactics without any strategy. I saw this play out time and time again as I helped businesses during 2020.

While the next new shiny tool might seem irresistible, it’s important to take stock and think before you leap. Strategy always comes before tactics. Always.


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The myth of the digital marketing ‘silver bullet’

Equally damaging is the ever-present belief in a digital marketing ‘silver bullet.’ Expecting a single magical tool to do everything for you is just not realistic. Just like digital transformation, testing new tools and strategies is essential to finding the most effective digital marketing strategy.

The reality is, there is no single quick and easy way to secure sales and increase revenue. In fact, continued belief in the silver bullet invariably results in marketing being seen as a cost, rather than as a valuable investment. It’s important to see through the novelty and hype of a new approach and critically evaluate its effectiveness to ensure it’s the right fit for you.

SEO and social media are tried and true digital marketing tactics that can deliver big results if they align to your overall strategy. Remember, strategy must come before tactics. There’s no point jumping on the latest social media craze if it doesn’t contribute to your overall strategy. As I’ve said before, it’s vital to join the dots to make your digital marketing work.

Start with your business fundamentals. Why do you do what you do? Who do you serve? What is your core product and/or service? How do you deliver value? Once you understand these elements, you can start formulating a strategy to guide you forward, to help you select the right tactics, tools, and techniques to reach your business goals and connect with your target market.

It’s also crucial to identify:

  • the problem your product or service solves
  • the information potential customers are looking for to make purchase decisions
  • the platforms and channels you can use to reach your target market
  • the value your product or service gives to potential customers
  • your point of difference
  • the action you want customers to take
  • how you will measure progress and success.

To help you with your strategy, check out our handy Brand Statement worksheet which takes you through the process in easy-to-follow steps.

So, instead of rushing towards the next big thing, it’s vital to take a holistic view of your business and look for solutions that align with your goals, plans, values, and the market. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to review your digital transformation strategy to ensure it will deliver the results you need in 2021.

Roadmap for evaluating digital transformation

2020 was a whirlwind, with everything happening at dizzying speed. While it’s tempting to keep up the pace as we enter a new year, resist the temptation and slow down to make sure you truly are on the right track. Evaluate your digital transformation process to ensure it aligns with your overall strategy. It’s an investment that will pay off in time, revenue, and efficiency – trust me!

To get started, follow this roadmap to guide your evaluation and help your business get on the right track for 2021. These steps will help you make sense of your existing DX processes, review whether they align with your strategy and build solid foundations for future growth in 2021 and beyond.


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Step 1 – Be strategic

The first step is to identify your business needs and goals and build a strategy from there. Don’t start with your technology – look at your 5 to10-year plan and evaluate where you are now and where you want to be to get started. Do you need to streamline processes, create experiences, or develop a new product line to reach your business goal? In the end, DX is not a one-off project, it’s an ongoing process to position your business for future success.

Step 2 – Engage staff

Whatever the size of your business, getting staff on board is key (including yourself if you’re a sole trader!). Despite the name, people, not technology, lie at the heart of DX. You can implement the most advanced technology but if staff aren’t on board it won’t make a difference. If you have a clear vision, solid strategy and know the benefits of your businesses’ digital transformation then it’s so much easier to engage staff and ensure a successful process.

Step 3 – Start smart

Consider starting small with a project that will get the most bang for your buck. You don’t have to do everything at once! Identify the biggest bottleneck and start there. You might find that eliminating a problematic process or procedure will deliver as much benefit as installing a more costly and complex solution. It’s also easier to measure progress and success when you start small. Getting an early win really helps build momentum towards future growth.

Step 4 – Choose technology

Once you’ve set your strategy, engaged your people, and identified where to start, it’s time to choose the technology to support your digital transformation. Technology is the tool to help your business transform, rather than the driver for transformation itself. It’s important to understand your processes before choosing a technology to meet your needs, and it’s equally vital to choose a technology solution that meets the needs of your entire business.

Step 5 – Find the right partner

It’s impossible to take on digital transformation without specialist assistance. So, it’s crucial to seek out the right partner with experience in your industry and the skills to help support future growth. When seeking help with your digital transformation process, your chosen partner should share a similar vision for your business, have proven results, understand your needs and have a solution that improves your whole operation, not just one part of your business.

Step 6 – Know your metrics

Without clear metrics, it’s hard to know how successful your DX process really is. Define KPIs and set measures of success throughout the process to see how things are really going. External measures such as customer satisfaction are as important as internal metrics, such as cost per order. Clear communication is key to keep everyone on track, so ensure all involved (including staff and partners) are aware and accountable for their deliverables.

Step 7 – Be ready to scale

The digital transformation process is an ongoing one. Leverage early successes to gain momentum and generate collaboration across your business. As DX progresses, harness new ways to improve connections between your products, processes, and people, to create lasting change. Look at how you can leverage digital transformation to continually improve the user experience, enhance interactions and find new ways to serve your customers.

Remember, DX is a journey, not a destination. A successful digital transformation will be a critical part of how your business remains competitive, differentiates products and services, and drives efficiencies in the future. That’s why it’s important to take the opportunity now to retrace your steps, evaluate your current DX journey and address any issues before rushing into 2021.

Marketing Sense is here to guide your small business toward marketing success using the power of social media. Give us a call to discuss your needs and download your FREE copy of our Brand Statement Worksheet to get crystal clear on your business, your offering, your audience, and your competition.

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