In the Digital Age, Tangible Data Still Matters?

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For companies incorporated before the digital age, one of the biggest challenges is digital disruption and successfully managing a complete digital transformation. The contemporary customer is more connected than ever, with their digital devices acting as virtual assistants. It’s all about access with sites such as Airbnb, Spotify, Postmates, Lyft, and more.

In addition, a bevy of flexible startups are vying for their attention. In order to remain competitive, companies must adapt to the digital world. When it comes to digital transformation, it’s now or never — but many challenges and road bumps lie ahead.

What Does Digital Transformation Require?

Digital transformation is a major shift, comparable to major shifts in the supply chain, workflows, or how a company interacts with customers (and in fact, digital transformation might just impact all three). It’s essential for modern organizations if they want to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands, needs, and desires. Done right, digital transformation can help a company compete in the evolving marketplace.

Certainly, businesses must meet changing market forces or face the reality of failure. If companies don’t anticipate and embrace technological changes, their product and/or service could become obsolete.

And, with AI, machine learning, the cloud and more, companies must embrace technology at a much faster speed in order to meet current customer expectations. Today’s consumers expect immediate outcomes from interactions with brands, and they’ve grown accustomed to having information and access at their fingertips — and that’s what today’s companies aim to provide through digital transformation.

Tangible Information Still Matters

Despite the growing demand for digital interactions, there are many situations in which tangible, visible data is still paramount. Likewise, a gap in technology adoption plays a role — QR codes, for instance, have become commonplace, yet some consumers are far less likely to pull out a smartphone to scan a QR code for information, instead preferring to read visible signage or access a website in the traditional way.

In other cases, regulatory concerns preclude organizations from making a complete transition to digital. It’s not practical to scan QR codes or even visit a website to obtain essential emergency information, for example, and regulations stipulate that such information is clearly displayed and readable next to emergency exits and emergency defibrillators, and displayed in a prominent location (in form of metal nameplates or other signage) on heavy equipment or machinery.

These circumstances don’t prevent an organization from carrying out a digital transformation. Many companies are able to go completely digital while augmenting digital measures with required signage, nameplates, and visual safety displays.

Leading a Successful Digital Transformation

If you’re ready to embrace the digital world and lead your company into the future, there are three important considerations to keep in mind.

1. Have the Right Objective

A serious pitfall many businesses face is not having a clear path towards digital adoption. Without clear objectives and a refined plan, many technology implementations can fall short – or worse, end in complete failure. That’s not always because the technology doesn’t work, but often because companies try to implement the latest technology (“new shiny object” syndrome) even if it’s not relevant to their customers’ unique needs. According to a Tech Pro Research study, only 20 percent of respondents said they had a comprehensive digital transformation strategy in place.

One thing is certain: You’ll encounter challenges along the digital transformation journey. So not only do you need a Plan A, but you also need a Plan B in the event that Plan A doesn’t pan out. It’s also imperative to get buy-in from all key stakeholders – meaning every department head, every board member, and so on – and all stakeholders should have a clear understanding of how the technologies will affect and benefit their respective interests as well as the company as a whole.

A well-defined goal is necessary from the start. You can’t just install a smorgasbord of technologies and hope that one of them will pan out.

2. Look at the Company Holistically

Another reason digital transformation projects fail is because the transformation team often fails to look at the entire business holistically. Digital transformation affects the company from top to bottom – in every single department. Going digital doesn’t mean merely switching a few storage servers to the cloud or updating the front office.

Digital transformation isn’t about just one component. To be successful, a digital transformation project must integrate mobile, the cloud, social, AI, analytics, IoT, and more. Furthermore, all employees must be brought on board, offered training where needed and be ready to accept the changes. You just can’t do this in parts, because technology evolves at an increasingly rapid pace – which is just one of the reasons you’re probably considering a digital transformation in the first place.

It’s also necessary to shift your focus from an operational viewpoint to one that analyzes how new technologies will provide business value. Every employee, like all key stakeholders, impacted by the change should be on board and invested in the transformation.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

It’s important not to overestimate the capabilities offered by leveraging data. You’re not going to change your entire company overnight just because you now have better data and analytics. Instead, make data-focused changes gradual and take them step by step. A whirlwind of changes will confuse both your employees and your customers.

A digital transformation is not for the faint of heart, but companies must embrace it to remain competitive in the modern marketplace. Complementing digital transformation with visible, tangible data not only maintains regulatory compliance, but it can also help to ease your organization into the digital future.

Cynthia is a frequent contributor at Cornerstone Content. She’s been writing on a variety of topics and trends since 2014.