The three pillars of digital transformation for mid-sized businesses

September 2019

Digital transformation has been a buzzword for a while now. Many large companies have undergone the first cycle and are huge advocates for the process. However, a lot of mid-sized businesses assume it will not affect them.

What is it and why does it matter?

At its core, it is about rethinking outdated operating models, experimenting more through calculated efforts in innovation and becoming agile enough as a business to respond quickly to customers and competitors. All in an effort to future-proof the business.

Digital transformation, in essence, is about reimagining a business to thrive in the digital age (as in, like...today).

The three pillars of a digital transformation

You first need to unravel what digital transformation means for the business, as this will vary across organisations. It will usually consist of updating legacy systems that are holding you back; a desire to increase productivity and efficiency; and a desire to future-proof.

Whatever your objectives are, you should be able to categorise them under the below headings.

Internal communications and culture

The key to a successful transformation starts with how you communicate it internally. All employees of an organisation need to be told what is going to happen, why now is the right time to do it, the reasons for doing so and how it will affect them. Chances are if your business genuinely wants to transform in an attempt to secure its long-term success, people want to get on board and be a part of a successful turnaround.

You also need to look at the leadership team around you. Before anything can progress, every member has to be fully bought in to the plan. With a strong leadership team adopting a digital mindset and then cascading this down throughout all the pockets of an organisation, through internal communications, you create a culture of enablement.

Adopting a digital mindset from the outset, and putting this at the forefront of your communications to employees, encourages digital behaviours within your organisation, leading to an increase in innovation.

Marketing and branding

Now, marketing and branding here does not mean how your digital transformation will affect them as functions within the business. Things like reducing expenditure and improving process sit firmly under operational and technological excellence below. It means how you position yourself as an organisation that is transforming and how you then go about conveying this new you to the world, externally.

You need to tell existing customers and clients how you have/are transforming and how it will affect them for the better. It would be unwise to think they are not willing to move to a competitor that makes their life easier (think Blockbuster to Netflix, Toys-R-Us to Amazon, Blackberry to Apple etc).

Then comes the slightly harder process of convincing new customers and clients that you can comfortably operate in this space.

Operational and technological excellence

This is where, for large organisations, the majority of transformation happens, as it is the most impactful and beneficial. It makes sense. In one swoop, large organisations can spend huge sums of money and implement company-changing systems.

It's not to say this isn't the most important aspect for a medium-sized business, but the above is just not as realistic.

The approach has to be a little less impactful initially, as you build a digital foundation with which you grow.

Start by looking at systems that can be improved, rather than replaced. Perhaps an initiative around cleaning up and better utilising your CRM system. By taking smaller but consistent steps, a medium-sized business has less chance of putting off a transformation until it is too late.

To conclude

As a medium-sized business, your digital transformation has to happen in smaller, more gradual steps. You may not have the budget or requirements to implement whole systems overnight that will revolutionise how you work. However, you can be smart, calculated and agile in how you transform and implement. A benefit you must exploit as a medium-sized business.

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