Joanna Grimbley-Smith
3rd November 2020 · 19 min read

It’s obvious.

Isn’t it?

It’s obvious what digital transformation is. Even without knowing the official definition, pretty much anyone can determine that it’s the digitalisation of a business’s process that leads to an overall change in a business.

What isn’t quite so plain to see is why businesses across the world are now signalling the start of their own digital transformation.

A digital transformation is defined as the integration of digital technology across all components of a business. It changes how a business operates, delivers value to its customers and clients, and puts in place a digital culture.

It is much more than simply downloading new software or trialling a new marketing tool; it is a strategy that requires constant rethinking across the entire board - including all of your employees. It is neither a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, nor is it a ‘quick fix’, either.

Sure, the opportunity of a digital transformation has already been seized by a number of CTO and managing directors at an increasing pace. But what has triggered the sudden spike in demand for a technological revolution now?

From Covid-19 to changing consumer needs, a number of new ideas and innovations have caused a shift towards a new way of operating.

someone wearing a mask on a video call on a smartphone
The new normal is here - how will it look for your business?

Even prior to the Coronavirus pandemic technology spending and operational strategizing was on the up with companies spending $2 trillion on DT in 2019. That being said, only 7% of firms so far have fully implemented a digital transformation.

A vast range of businesses in a wide array of industries have begun transforming - has yours?

From individual sectors to the size of the business in question, deciphering why businesses are joining the digital revolution is a complex task. And that’s what’s up for discussion today.

This article will determine the reasons behind the current increase in digital transformation from the benefits and opportunities of digitalisation, to the influence of Covid-19 in accelerating the process.

Outpace Competitors

You might know the tricks of the trade - but you need a technology team beside you every step of the way.

Chapter 1
Because Of The Opportunities Of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is still a relatively new concept. Conceived during the computerisation of businesses back in the 1990s, 30 long years of slow growth, incremental innovation, limited adaptation of processes by businesses began to push the strategy forward.

It started with fundamental digitisation and the building of basic websites, both of which are now necessities for even the smallest of businesses. And as adoption increased, disruption did, too.

Up until December 2019, when the Covid-19 pandemic was first flagged by international organisations, digital transformation was seen as a necessity for overcoming disruption.

However, as the need for digital transformation becomes more apparent the opportunities it can provide become clearer as well.

According to the Digital Marketing Institution, 27% of companies claim digital transformation is a means of survival.

Yet despite this need to overcome the threat of disruption, there are a number of opportunities that digital transformation can provide for a business.

business team having a meeting at a table with laptops
From daily meetings to new marketing initiatives, technology is the future.

In fact, nearly half of these same businesses claimed improving the customer experience was the primary factor that triggered their transformation process.

Consumer Connectivity

While the focus on digital transformation appears to be on the technology itself, as discussed one of its priorities is the customer. Most, if not all, business strategies aim to increase sales and elevate customer experience - but it's digital transformation that puts a new spin on customer service.

Technological advances have changed how we engage with our customers. Their wants and needs have evolved. And your competitors have picked up on this, already.

With traditional sales tactics no longer sufficient when competing for the focus of your customers, creating worthwhile experiences that engage customers via the latest technology and streamlines the buying process is essential for your business’ survival.

Not only can seizing this opportunity set your business apart from your competition but it creates more loyal customers, too.

67% of consumers claim they will pay more for a positive customer experience.
(Salesforce)

Uber is just one example of a business taking the opportunity and creating a digital ripple throughout the sector it operates in.

Or is that a tsunami?

Uber threw the taxi industry into the 21st century almost overnight with its customer-oriented app. Booking a taxi was both simplified and streamlined with nifty software that connected driver and passenger.

Each and every taxi company that wanted to survive Uber’s extreme disruption has now adopted a similar app just to stand a chance of competing with their innovative customer experience.

A Business-based Digital Culture

Digital transformations are often harnessed merely to keep up with the competition. But this operational strategy isn’t just used to survive disruption; it’s now used to inspire a digital culture based on innovation.

From managers to interns, the entire business taps into a digital transformation. By implementing digitalisation across a business’ operations, every employee can experience the latest technology and recycle their new skills back into the company.

student doing remote learning on computer
Every sector is due an overhaul, no matter what is sells or who it serves.

We live in a world fostered by the latest technology. Businesses need to meet the customers’ expectations by mirroring their digital know-how. And by implementing digital transformation continuous change can be enacted. The technology put in place can adapt more easily and quickly as your industry evolves and your staff can help implement the latest technological innovations.

However this digital culture needs to be enforced to ensure the full range of potential opportunities possible through transformation can be seized upon.

70% of digital transformations fail - and employee resistance is cited as the most common cause of this.
(Forbes)

UK-based grocery store the Co-Op is a prime example of how to do it right: they focused its attention on driving a learning environment amongst its employees via digital blogs. In turn, this has allowed its software developers, for example, to contribute to the future strategy of the business.

Higher Efficiency

The latest digital technologies won’t just capture the imagination of your customers - digital transformations are also put in place to supercharge efficiency by streamlining operations and ensuring the future technology implemented is adopted at a faster rate.

Specialist software, custom applications and digital marketing techniques all leverage the benefits of digitalisation.

By cutting out costly human error and automating tedious tasks businesses can redirect their employee’s attention to other responsibilities and lower their costs, too.

And with additional workflow tools that help manage daily responsibilities, the latest tech can restore order to your business and elevate collaboration - no matter where your employees are. Slack and Asana are just two examples of tools that elevate efficiency and keep it on track.

Executives in 2019 claimed the top benefit of DT was improved operational efficiency.
(PTC)

Basecamp is just one of the companies that has reaped the benefits of digital transformation.

By using technology that allows communication with employees anywhere in the world, they maximised efficiency, increasing productivity and cutting out issues often associated with remote working.

Chapter 2
Because Of The Benefits Of Digital Transformation

In these unprecedented times, seizing an opportunity amongst rising disruption is essential for your business to stay afloat. But prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the need to transform wasn’t quite as striking. Instead, it was the many benefits associated with digitalisation that drove its adoption by the business world.

And with more and more industries unlocking the potential of digital transformation, taking full advantage of the latest tech is necessary to stay ahead of your competition.

executives walking together outside
How is your business planning to beat out disruption in your sector?
Low Costs And Better Resource Management

Machine learning and AI was the kind of technology once reserved for the likes of sci-fi films and high-tech businesses on the cutting edge of their industry. But they are both vital and common components of digital transformation - no matter the tech your business already uses.

They allow companies to complete repetitive tasks faster and with less errors, effectively reducing the employee time spent on such jobs.

And with added accuracy also on offer, product delivery and distribution can be streamlined, lowering costs, faster.

Dedicated software and custom apps now take the place of many employees - but this isn’t to say the value of your staff is diminished. Rather it means they can apply their skill sets elsewhere.

56% of CEOs claim their digitalisation efforts have increased the revenue of the companies they work for.
(Gartner)

AmerisourceBergen is just one example of a digital transformation that has been founded on this: to enforce a new culture of innovation, the company established project teams which took leadership of a specific component of a business.

This resulted in improved resource management and thus cut excess costs in each individual department.

It is claimed that on average digital transformations can lead to 5% lower business costs, driving up profits for businesses.

And speaking of profitability…

Increased Profitability

There are a number of ambitions that can support a business. But no matter the desire of the CEO, the directors or the employees working for the company, profitability is a necessity for the survival of any company.

The profitability of your business is a sure sign of the success of your marketing, your customer service, and your business’ operations. That means if your business’ digital transformation is successful, it can effectively increase revenue and cut back on your costs.

Digitally mature companies are 23% more profitable than their less mature peers.
(MIT Initiative On The Digital Economy)

Target is one example of a business that has expanded its profits via digital transformation. They did so by stripping back their online shopping presence on Amazon and remodelling both eCommerce and physical stores to create a more uniform customer experience across the two. By introducing new in-store technology to revolutionise the shopping experience and a social media presence reinforcing their digitally-driven strategy revenue increased by $6 billion.

someone using smartphone and bank card with laptop
The world has gone online - is your business there to catch these customers?
Chapter 3
Because Covid-19 Has Accelerated The Process Of Digital Transformation

In recent months the world has changed.

A revolution in the way we work and the way we live has taken place and businesses operating in every sector have had to adapt to fast-tracked changes - changes that equate to a digital transformation.

Companies exploring digitalisation have had to push forward their new technology and evolve at an unprecedented pace to survive the disruption to every industry. On top of this, the disruption has meant the businesses already ahead of the curve - i.e. your competitors - are expanding their influence in your industry.

Simply put, digital transformation is no longer a nifty tactic to compete in your sector. It’s essential for survival. But how has Covid-19 accelerated digital transformations?

Changing Consumer Tastes

Thanks to legal quarantine measures and national lockdowns everything has gone online. How we work, catch up with friends & family and shop has been pushed onto the web.

If you thought consumer tastes were sensitive before, any indicator of change now alters the retail sector overnight.

customer in a grocery store with a face mask on
The customers have had to change how they spend their cash. Is your business ready to evolve with it?

It’s the volatility of your customers’ wants and needs that has forced businesses to evolve in-step with them.

96% of enterprise leaders have prioritised their digital transformation as a result of changing consumer tastes.
(Econsultancy)

The switch to online shopping has revolutionised the retail sector, and one example of this is the drive for click and collect grocery deliveries. In the UK for example, retailing giant Tesco saw their online customer base rise from 600,000 to 1.5 million between March - August 2020, creating 16,000 jobs in response to the hike in demand for its online business.

Intelligent Workflows

How your customers are responding to the pandemic is not the only symptom of a much-needed digital transformation.

Your processes are also in need of a deep-rooted revolution - a revolution that is informed by intelligent workflows. AI and machine learning are at the forefront of this and have streamlined business processes through automation.

In 2019 business leaders claimed they spent 3 to 4 hours per day on manual admin tasks.
(ASL)

This allows businesses to follow safety precautions by limiting employee activity in offices and ensuring data can be extracted. This in turn further streamlines operations to guarantee businesses can compete in their sector.

Data-driven insights, marketing, and processes are the lifeblood of digital transformation. By infusing this into a vast array of businesses, more digital transformations can continue to take place into the future.

documents showing graphs and data
Channel your efforts into data-driven solutions.

In 2012, toy and game manufacturer Hasbro harnessed the power of data-driven insights for marketing purposes.They utilised their social media data to understand both their customers and their changing needs on a new level, opting to direct their marketing towards the parents (who actually make the purchases). With an ad spend increase of 1100%, the digital marketing initiative pushed through a significant increase in sales.

Remote Working

Working from home has always been heralded as the future of the 9-to-5, but thanks to Covid-19 the value of remote working is more evident than ever.

It’s just one of the changes brought about by the pandemic that has forced office workers across the globe to reconsider their entire daily routine post-pandemic.

And as remote working has received such positive reception in a vast range of businesses - from its lower costs to its higher efficiency - it has engaged employees digitally. This is the jumpstart required for your digital transformation beyond Coronavirus.

In fact, many businesses are now making remote working a permanent option with Twitter one of the first firms to publicly champion this new trend.

In the US alone 35% are still working remotely as of October 2020.
(Washington Post)

WFH solutions have supported firms that are basing themselves on the web, allowing them to reap the benefits of happier and more efficient employees alongside lower office costs.

Strengthened Digital Infrastructure

At the core of the individual changes driven by Covid-19 is a stronger digital infrastructure. As the pandemic has forced businesses to reconsider their operations in a futuristic, consumer-driven light, every process has been given the technology-treatment.

Remote working has brought digital solutions closer to home, online learning has revolutionised how we teach even in the classroom and contactless payments have heralded a new era of shopping.

Just as your employees drive your business’ digital transformation through a tech-driven culture, the new technology forced through the Coronavirus pandemic has meant any future changes can be seamlessly integrated with your operations.

Conclusion

Covid-19 kickstarted the disruption necessary for digital transformation to take place. But the thing is - digital transformations lead to disruption, too.

Digitalisation was already underway prior to the Coronavirus pandemic; it merely forced businesses to face their future and put the necessary infrastructure in place to continue their transformation.

DTs have been brought to the forefront of each and every sector and is now imperative at every level. Big businesses and high-tech firms are no longer the only companies pressing on with a digital overhaul.

female employee coding on laptop and screens
Who's going to lead your business' digital transformation?