On the surface, digital transformation is a simple process.
You take a business activity that is old and ineffective/inefficient and re-energize it with new technology. This could be moving your spreadsheets to cloud software or even going so far as to move up from paper to digital.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this process, but the way digital transformation is deployed often misses powerful opportunities ripe for the taking. Specifically, we’re talking about how digital transformation efforts routinely fail to take advantage of the data they provide access to.
The Problem with Digital Transformation
In recent years, digital transformation has become less about overall digital development and more about finding a specific solution to a particular problem. For example, a business may need to enhance their financial recording, so they invest in a fancy piece of software that helps them do that.
Often, this is about cutting costs, or adding automation, or making life a bit easier. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but the problem with specific software solutions is that they rarely look at the big picture or provide any benefit outside of a very narrow function.
With our example of a financial solution, you may have brought it in to help manage invoices — which is great. But think about it. All those invoices have reams and reams of valuable data that you can use to create reports, forecasts and direct management decisions. If the software is not used for this purpose and instead was deployed to do one thing only, then valuable data is lost — or at least, not utilized. There are a lot of discussions about data breaches these days, but more innocent types of data loss can be more common and serious.
Short-sighted digital transformation developed in this way is rampant across the business world, but there is a way to avoid it.
Getting More from Your Digital Transformation
There are two ways to get more from your digital transformation.
The first is to essentially work on IT consultation and look at the bigger picture of what goals your business is trying to reach and what data you’ll need to achieve those goals.
Instead of seeing an advert for a product and thinking, “that looks like what we need,” the idea here is to think about your goals and find tools to provide you with the data you need.
You’re looking for the product rather than the product’s advertising finding its way to you first.
The second way is to take the digital transformation tools you already have and learn how to extract more value from them. Tools developed during digital transformation efforts are usually loaded with features and functions that nobody knows how to use. These are rich with data insight, hidden behind the easier-to-understand elements of the product.
You’ve bought it to solve one problem, and it can solve lots more, yet it’s not used to do that. But you can change that.
Microsoft 365: Our Quick Example
The Microsoft Ecosystem is a great example.
It’s a powerful software toolset with a low barrier to entry, and it’s used by millions of businesses across the world thanks to its accessibility and portability. But very few people know how to use Microsoft 365 to its full potential as part of their digital transformation efforts.
The service is full of features that can empower data access and reporting and give you incredibly valuable insights into your business. If you have Microsoft 365, getting more from digital transformation doesn’t mean adding more options to your application list. It just means figuring out how to get more from what you already own.
The Power BI platform gives you deep access to high levels of detail within your data. You can learn more about your business than you ever thought possible by understanding the hidden tools within this commonly used software suite.
Why Are We so Focused on Data Strategy?
Data is currently the world’s most valuable asset.
Data can tell your business everything, from how productive your staff are to where you’re losing money. The benefits of focusing your digital transformation efforts on developing your data management strategy are difficult to describe because they’re so comprehensive.
To keep it short: Knowing your data gives you knowledge, and knowledge in business is power.
With digital transformation, you often open up your business to new access to data, but many don’t know how to find it, use it or interpret it. Putting serious consideration into how you can access and leverage the information your business collects is something many digital transformation strategies are missing, yet they should all incorporate.
How to Empower Digital Transformation Through Data Strategy
Businesses’ biggest mistake is a failure to form strong foundations within the digital transformation strategy for extracting data later. Proper solutions are not set up to harvest data — data gathering does not go granular enough.
Take, for example, a work management solution that tracks individuals’ work time. Now, you could set this up to see how many hours per day are worked. Or, you could set this up to see exactly when they work, hour by hour, day by day. Knowing more details allows you to collect more information which gives you greater management insight. This data can only be collected if you take steps to harvest it.
While you could go back and make changes to data collection, the best thing to do is to start in the right way. Going back in to make changes is a slow process that can hamper progress in the long run.
The next thing to think about is successfully validating and cleansing data to make sure it’s accurate, valuable, impactful and genuinely useful. All too often, data collection focuses on fancy visuals and graphs that look good without really getting into the weeds. It’s vital to make sure that the way data is recorded is being done to a high standard — and that it has any use. It’s very easy to store a lot of useless data that means nothing because it looks interesting on a report. You may also find that if you don’t take steps to verify your data, it ends up being incomplete, with holes and gaps of information.
IT consultancy services can be an essential tool, ensuring your digital transformation strategy is properly leveraging the power of data. By working with experts, you can start to understand what kind of data you have. Also, what data you’re missing but could be recording and how to implement new technology in a way that empowers your data strategy and gives you access to a world of new and valuable information.