Frequently used, but more often misunderstood, the term ‘digital transformation’ remains a hot topic for organisations. But what does it really mean? And is there more to it than just adopting new technology?
Digital transformation. It’s become the key to survival for every organisation. It’s the message that dominates every IT event keynote, webinar or article.
By now, nearly every organisation on Earth is acquainted with the term and feels the pressure to be doing something about it. What isn’t so clear is what ‘digital transformation’ really means or how to go about achieving this monumental change.
In a way, the term ‘digital transformation’ has been so overused, so widely applied, that it’s begun to lose its meaning. Whilst that may be true of the phrase itself, the change it implies still has very real value – and very real results.
In this blog, we’ll bring some meaning back to the phrase and help you understand exactly what it means, what you need to know about it, why it’s worth your time and how tools like ServiceNow can help you achieve it.
Defining digital transformation
At its simplest level, digital transformation is the process of adopting digital technology into every area of your organisation to fundamentally change how you operate and deliver products and services.
However, that transformation process is going to look very different depending on the nature, size and complexity of your organisation. This is where a lot of the confusion stems from. The change required for a small logistics business will be vastly different from that of an international manufacturer, national charity, or professional services business, and yet all can benefit from a digital transformation.
Digital transformation also goes far beyond the technology itself – requiring organisations to re-examine every aspect of how they operate and embrace new ways of doing things. This often results in a large cultural shift, as it can involve a significant departure from the ‘old’ or established way of working.
The best way to approach digital transformation is to treat it as an umbrella term that represents the vision of your organisation’s future. Within that, begin to get specific with what exactly you want to achieve.
Do you want to improve the customer experience? Increase productivity? Optimise your operations? Generate and measure data and insights? Defining what ‘digital transformation’ means for your organisation specifically is essential to coming anywhere close to achieving it.
Why is digital transformation important?
It may be overused as a phrase, but digital transformation has persisted as a movement for the better part of three decades – and its momentum only continues to grow.
The coronavirus pandemic brought the importance of digital transformation to the fore. Almost overnight, organisations had to quickly adapt to a new, continuously changing, set of circumstances.
When that happened, those organisations that had already invested in new cloud-based technologies found themselves able to adapt much faster than their competitors.
As a result, digital transformation jumped up the priority list as organisations scrambled to catch up, stay competitive and adopt new ways of working.
With these new ways of working and delivering services here to stay, interest in digital transformation shows no signs of slowing. According to a 2021 Gartner study, 91% of businesses are engaged in some form of digital initiative, and 87% of senior business leaders are making digital transformation a priority.
The pace at which you need to innovate and enhance how you’re operating only gets faster, so the days of digital transformation being a ‘nice to have’ are over. It’s now imperative to adopt new technologies and keep up with an ever-changing world.
The benefits of digital transformation
So, digital transformation is a must to stay competitive. But the best transformations aren’t driven by fear, but by positivity; the belief that technology and digital transformation are an opportunity to evolve and do things better, to become more.
Alongside maintaining that competitive edge, there are a whole host of reasons you’ll want to explore the potential of your own transformation:
As mentioned above, your ability to adapt – and even thrive – in the face of changes largely hinges on the flexibility of your IT infrastructure. Most organisations operate on a mix of on-premises and cloud IT technologies, and integration between all of your IT assets is key to making changes quickly and at scale.
It would be common then, in a programme of digital transformation, to unify your IT services and operations under a single platform or suite (usually based in the cloud) for greater visibility and control.
By consolidating your IT so that it can be managed in a single place, you can make changes to your operations and services much faster than if your IT is spread across technical silos and disconnected data sets.
This makes you far more resilient and agile in the face of uncertainty – a key advantage in today’s business landscape.
Every organisation needs to protect its data and avoid the costly disruption of a cyber attack. With IT networks continuously expanding to include new solutions, servers, devices and users – it’s essential you can keep track of all that activity and respond appropriately when an incident is detected.
Digital transformation offers the opportunity to make security a business imperative and establish consistent visibility and controls to keep your network secure. Again, this is where unifying your IT on a single platform is crucial.
Creating an integrated environment with a common data model helps you make sense of what’s happening where and when. That integration and understanding can then be leveraged with intelligent security automation tools that quickly identify and remediate threats before they can do damage.
Accurate insights and data collection
If you’re viewing your organisational data in isolation, you’ll never see the big picture. You need to be confident that the data you’re collecting is both accurate and useable. As part of your transformation, aim to lift data out of silos, establish a consistent data model, and then make that data available for analysis.
That way you’ll get a realistic view of how you’re performing and make informed decisions that drive growth.
Digital tools play a crucial role in allowing your people to communicate and collaborate.
By enabling faster communication with access to shared documents and services, all managed in a single location, you can eliminate hours of wasted productivity.
Better collaboration also has a knock-on improvement in other areas, such as customer service and innovation. With new ways to share ideas and repetitive processes heavily automated, you can deliver a better service and bring new products to market much quicker and more efficiently than before.
Enhanced productivity, reduced costs
A main driver behind digital transformation is the potential to use technology to do more, faster, and for less.
With increasing AI and automation options available, organisations can significantly reduce the time spent on essential but repetitive tasks.
This frees you up to focus on bigger, more strategic initiatives and elevate your team out of the day-to-day. It also reduces your overhead and production costs by cutting downtime, increasing efficiency and offering an opportunity to simplify the number of IT solutions you’re paying for.
Digital tools allow you to do much more with fewer resources. And, thanks to the flexibility of the cloud, your IT requirements can scale up or down as needed.
This helps you keep control over your spending and allows you to easily adopt new products or solutions when you need them.
This process is even faster if your IT is consolidated into one platform, as you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues.
Digital transformation challenges
Now, all of the above sound great and are key drivers behind why organisations pursue digital transformation. But with 70% of digital transformations ending in failure, there are some common pitfalls to be aware of before you begin.
Lack of support from leadership
Digital transformation is as much a cultural change as it is technical. If it isn’t supported by key stakeholders at every level of the business, it’s likely to fail. That goes double for those in senior leadership roles.
Before you begin any transformation project, ensure everyone is invested in the ‘why’ behind it. Then assign supporting roles and accountability so the project keeps moving and the intended outcomes are always clearly positioned.
If your transformation project is to succeed, good communication is vital. Too often, digital transformation initiatives are created without input from IT or other key areas of an organisation.
This leads to confusion and resistance when changes are suddenly requested with no buy-in or understanding from the people required to implement them.
It’s a common problem and one that has dead-ended many a transformation project. True transformation doesn’t happen in isolation – and the real transformation is always in the way people work and use the technology, so keep them in the loop.
Overly ambitious projects
This ties back into the need to be specific with the intended outcomes of a digital transformation. If the scope is too big or tries to do too much at once there are likely numerous complexities and issues that will frustrate and derail the project.
Think of a digital transformation as a series of smaller projects that tie into a greater vision. If you bundle large changes into one project without considering their potential impact and disruption, any negative result could cause internal resentment and put people off the idea.
This will make enacting any future changes or projects much harder.
There’s an irony that many transformation projects designed to cut costs end up failing because they become too expensive.
Organisations that dive straight into adopting a new solution frequently find they need additional work, or even other solutions, to bridge the gaps created by making changes without planning for the big picture.
That’s why it’s important to start small and strategically, to have a clear understanding of what’s required, what the outcome will be and get a realistic estimate of the work and licensing costs involved.
This is where working with a partner organisation to support your transformation will help, they’ll have a much better idea of what’s realistic as they’ll have already been through this process with other organisations.
This will save you from having to guess and encounter unexpected costs as the project progresses.
Digital transformation strategy
The strategy behind your digital transformation will vary depending on your organisation and intended outcomes, but there are some common stages you can build it around.
1. Find your ‘why’
As we mentioned at the start of the blog, defining what ‘digital transformation’ means for your organisation specifically is crucial to coming anywhere close to achieving it.
If you go into a large transformation project without a clear and documented ‘why’ behind it, your project is highly likely to fail.
Start with the ‘why’ and then find the technology to achieve it – not the other way around.
Draw on your strategic goals to help shape the key drivers behind the project or projects. Where are you trying to get to in the next five years? What needs to change to get you there?
Having a clearly identified outcome or result will also help you establish KPIs to determine if the project has been a success once it’s been completed.
2. Manage the change
Digital transformation is a team sport. Unless everyone, at every level of the organisation, is bought into your established ‘why’ you’ll hit resistance as you try to implement the change.
Human beings in general are resistant to change. If your people feel ambushed by a transformation project that has been formed in isolation, they won’t be motivated to see it succeed or understand why it’s needed.
To overcome this, you need to effectively manage the change throughout your transformation. This begins at the senior leadership level (who should be instrumental in shaping the ‘why’) and is communicated clearly throughout your organization.
As part of the project roadmap, there should be clear channels of communication with identified types of comms, their topic, and when they’ll be distributed. Regularly ask for your people’s feedback and, when ready, support them with training and resources to ensure your new technology and ways of working are successfully adopted.
If everyone understands the ‘why’ and feels included in the process, you’ll see a much better result than simply bringing in new technology and expecting people to just start using it.
3. Set realistic goals
The sheer ambition of digital transformation projects can sometimes feel overwhelming, with the gap between your present state and desired future state seemingly insurmountable.
Think of that future state as the destination and then think about the steps that will get you there. Each step will have many related tasks and jobs associated with it, so look for opportunities to group them into projects and phases that will form the larger journey you’re undertaking.
Strong project management is key to keeping everything moving along and in the same direction. Coming back to that ‘team sport’ mentality, you’ll need a core group of stakeholders from across each department to champion the transformation and report it into an overall project plan.
They’ll also be able to help identify some ‘quick wins’. If the overall goal of a transformation seems far off or unattainable, buy-in will quickly die out. Look for the projects that will have the most impact in the shortest time frame, this helps demonstrate the value and potential of digital transformation – helping to build – and maintain – momentum.
4. Consolidate your IT
Once you’ve got your ‘why’ in hand and a roadmap to get there, you can begin to get into the detail of the technology.
Think of technology as a tool to help you achieve those intended outcomes. What does it need to solve? What do your people need to be able to do better as a result?
Depending on your need it may be a single solution or several. But digital transformation typically sees organisations consolidating their IT into a single cloud platform or suite for easier management and customisation – and to set themselves up for scale.
Over the years, IT environments have become increasingly siloed and integration is now key to unlocking transformation. By using a platform like ServiceNow, you can bring all your IT needs together into one place and establish a consistent foundation to build on.
Whatever challenge it is you’re trying to solve, this is a good approach towards enabling you to access new automation and AI capabilities that drastically speed up or remove time-consuming manual tasks. An issue found in almost every organisation.
5. Don’t go it alone
There’s danger in a DIY digital transformation. Too many transformations have been kicked off only to discover the required resources, skills and experience to make it happen are missing.
The more common route is to look for a key partner who can support you across both the technology implementation AND make sure it’s adopted correctly.
The advantage of this approach is that a reputable partner will have seen and experienced most of the challenges you’ll encounter. Their knowledge of what NOT to do as well as applying best practices will drastically increase your chances of success.
Look for a partner who specialises in your chosen technology and aligns with your needs, company culture and long-term strategy. They should augment and support your transformation journey rather than being a ‘one-and-done’ engagement.
6. Continuously improve
Once your digital transformation projects are underway, look to regularly gather feedback and adjust your approach as necessary.
One of the benefits of adopting cloud technology is that it allows you to be much more agile in your approach. As your organisation modernises, you’ll have increased flexibility and analytics to identify what is and isn’t working.
And if something isn’t working, that’s ok. An innate part of digital transformation is getting comfortable with the idea that not every new initiative will work out. The good news is that you’ll always be learning and refining your approach to bring you closer to the results you want to see.
Digital transformation examples
At FlyForm, we’ve helped hundreds of clients to digitally transform. If you’re still struggling to identify what your own journey might look like, here are some examples where we’ve used our ServiceNow expertise to support our clients in their transformation.
As one of the UK’s leading Apple Service Providers, Jigsaw24 had been operating for nearly 30 years when it decided it needed to undergo a digital transformation.
With improving the customer experience as its key driver, Jigsaw24 sought to move from its legacy IT solution, which had become sprawling and unfit for purpose. ServiceNow was the chosen solution to facilitate a more flexible and dynamic customer experience.
Moving to the Now Platform and ServiceNow’s Customer Service Management (CSM) module, Jigsaw24 saw two key benefits. The first was that its service desk now had end-to-end case management capabilities in one easy-to-use interface. The second was a new service portal for customers which featured Virtual Agent and Live Chat – providing customers with greater self-service options and saving thousands of hours spent on unnecessary tickets.
As part of the project, we made sure to engage with user training early on and took an agile approach to development, meaning we could regularly gather feedback and refine the platform to Jigsaw’s requirements.
As a result, Jigsaw24 saw its customer satisfaction levels hit highs of 90% – a core KPI established as part of the ‘why’ behind its transformation.
The challenge for Sanne Group was scale. As a rapidly growing financial services organization, an increasing number of acquisitions meant that data reporting and visibility became difficult.
This was further hampered by Sanne’s reliance on manual processes and spreadsheets. By consolidating their IT into the ServiceNow platform, we helped Sanne establish a consistent data model.
This, in turn, unlocked that ability to automate and digitise many of those manual processes that were slowing Sanne down. With intelligent workflows, Sanne could quickly integrate new systems and data into the Now Platform, make sense of it all, and grow with confidence.
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
The RNIB supports over two million people a year. But its operations were becoming increasingly inefficient due to its disjointed and out-of-date legacy IT systems.
As a charity, the RNIB needed to quickly demonstrate the value of a digital transformation in both the short and long term. In ServiceNow, the RNIB could modernise its operations using a configuration management database (CMDB) and IT Service Management and demonstrate the immediate impact.
Incidents, problems and changes could be more easily managed and implemented, and the introduction of a service portal helped it move away from generic mailboxes and manual processes.
We used virtual training sessions to help ensure successful adoption and then provided ongoing support with a managed service to help the RNIB keep innovating and get the best out of the platform.
Digitally transform with ServiceNow
There’s no shortage of IT solutions competing for your investment, but there’s a reason ServiceNow is a frontrunner in helping organisations achieve their transformation goals.
Used by more than 80% of the Fortune 500 and named as a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for over nine years, ServiceNow offers a single cloud platform to help unify your IT and transform the way you operate.
Thanks to its flexibility and powerful automation and AI capabilities, the Now Platform serves as an excellent foundation on which to build your digital transformation. Whether you’re seeking to remove manual processes, increase efficiency, or better integrate your business departments with your IT – ServiceNow can help you achieve all of it.
And, with some help from us, you’ll have the approach and support in place to ensure you achieve your intended outcomes instead of throwing good money after bad on a transformation project that’s dead in the water.
- Digital transformation begins with your intended outcomes, not with technology.
- Digital transformation involves a complete reimagining of how technology can be used to change how you operate and deliver services.
- The adoption of new cloud technologies and platforms is now essential for organisations to maintain their competitive edge.
- True transformation involves a clear vision and strong project management processes to achieve it.
- Digital transformation requires a cultural, people-driven approach if it’s to succeed.