Priming the Pump: Checklist for Digital Transformation

Apr 4 2017
By Joseph Knecht in Insights

Digital innovation. Digital transformation. These are phrases everybody is hearing bandied about in the new age of business. Terms like this refer to an understanding of technology that would have been wa-a-a-y beyond most of us in “the information age.”

In that era, digital tools were used to congregate, customize and communicate ideas — information. In this new era, digital tools are used for much more, including complex business functions like influencing stakeholders, achieving and proving ROI, and increasing loyalty.

Some companies are still trying to make the transition. For one thing, they are realizing some serious prep work needs to be done before digital transformation comes gushing out. If you don’t prime the pump, you could be standing there pumping that handle forever without anything happening, but, because you’re working so hard, you might think you’re doing something real. Nobody wants that. So, how do you know if your company is ready?

Let’s make it simple. There are two basic phases of preparation for digital transformation: 1) defining what digital transformation means to your organization specifically, and 2) setting the stage to get there.

Defining digital transformation

We tend to think of digital as an endgame. If we get our ducks in a row on social media, the website, mobile and the Internet of Things, then we feel like we’ve accomplished what we need to accomplish. If our staff is using tablets in the conference room and creating digital forms, we think we’ve arrived!

There’s only one problem with that. Such activities are not necessarily intelligently or effectively linked to the foundations of our businesses. You have to begin transformation with the traditional core priorities of business. None of those priorities have changed just because you are planning to become more efficient or effective through digital transformation.

For example, your first business priority always has been and still should be your customers. You have to understand where you’re at on the playing field, and then you need to figure out how you can use technology to improve customer experience. That’s what leads to authentic and sustainable digital transformation. People want their web experience customized to fit their digital needs. The process is a journey it never ends.

Setting the stage for digital transformation

Once you understand in-depth how technology could bring new perspectives to your business, then you can get down to the nitty-gritty and create a plan. Through the process of helping many different types of companies achieve successful digital transformation, we have formulated the basic priorities in the checklist below. These steps almost always provide a perfect framework for digital transformation, into which a company can insert its own priorities.

Remember, this is only a place to begin. Every company is different. Every industry is different. Every product is different. Be smart about the actions you include with these basic steps. And make sure they reflect your enterprise, not somebody else’s, or you’ll come up dry. (We can help — let us know if you believe your business is ready to dive in!)

Preparation checklist for digital transformation

  1. People/Leadership. Identify one person who has the skill and frame of mind become your digital leader and champion. More than likely, this means hiring from the outside. We have found companies with less than $300 million in sales don’t have the budget to hire a Chief Digital Officer or CDO. (This describes many Proteus clients. Our processes provide this capacity in lieu of a CDO.)
  2. Needs/Competition. Ask your CDO or digital transformation vendor to launch a discovery effort determining what your company’s needs/competitors are doing digitally. You won’t necessarily do the exact same things, but you may find clues to not only guide your digital maturation process, but also compete more strongly with them later. The big hint here includes just asking your customers what they are seeing and how you could help them more.
  3. Vision. Give your digital leader his or her first assignment: develop the company’s vision of digital transformation. Involve all departments and begin by capturing everyone’s ideas in brainstorming session. Again the main focus on this level should be customer centric.
  4. Team. Assemble a digital steering committee to focus the ideas you’ve gathered into a concrete plan. Use the same group of people to execute the plan, and don’t forget to give them the authority they need to make the decisions required for real change.
  5. Process/Roadmap. What are the exact digital innovations and improvements you will make to turn the vision you created into reality? Your team needs to create a step-by-step roadmap to guide them as they — and everybody else in the organization — make it happen.
  6. Platform. Now, you can start identifying the specific digital tools you need to put in place. This is where the Proteus platform fits.
  7. Measurement. This process, as you would probably guess, is incomplete without measuring the effectiveness of your efforts and making adjustments to increase your success.

Once you define how digital transformation will coordinate with your traditional business priorities and then create a plan, you can uncover costs and timelines for execution, and therefore begin to understand how technology will affect profit and other important KPIs. That information will help you set priorities in the roadmap (by the way, cutting off digital innovations you might love but are not going to get you where you want to go). NOW, you’re ready to start pumping that handle.

Joseph Knecht
Post by Joseph Knecht

Joseph Knecht is the CEO at Proteus and loves to cover the topics of entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and web product commercialization.

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