Digital transformation is here and it’s happening all around you. Businesses are harnessing the fourth wave of the industrial revolution and finding ways to make digital technology work for them. By doing so they are re-imagining themselves in a rapidly changing world where mobility, hyper-connectivity, big data and apps are all revolutionising the way we do business.
Businesses have a choice – fight the change and be pulled under or swim with the tide and thrive through digital technology.
In this guide, we explore how to align technology with the growth of your business. We start with a review of the changing technical landscape and what it means for operational excellence. Then we reveal a five-step process to align IT with your business. To bring digital transformation to life, San-iT case studies demonstrate how technology helps businesses grow.
The Digital Future Is Now
Digital transformation. Digital Disruption. These terms are bandied about like cricket balls at Lords. But what do they actually mean?
Digital transformation refers to the process of change caused by emerging digital tech. These innovative, new, mainly online technologies have impacted the way existing products and services are perceived, offered and valued. As new business models emerge, existing approaches are disrupted and need to be re-evaluated.
According to Russell Reynolds’ recent Digital Pulse survey, digital disruption is something all businesses will need to be positioned to deal with. As the chart below shows, regardless of your industry, digital disruption is set to increase.
Source: Russel Reynolds
Rather than seeing this as a cause for concern, many companies are seeing it as an opportunity to re-evaluate how they work and the way they service their customers. And, according to research from Pwc, the first-choice solution for most businesses is technology.
Digital Disruption in Real-Life
Airbnb is a digital disruption case in point. It’s used advances in web-based technology to take on the hotel industry around the world by allowing homeowners to rent out their property.
This has posed a significant challenge to the hotel industry which is fighting back through, you guessed it, better use of technology. By exploiting digital, hotels are dealing with complaints, enhancing service levels and improving customer communications and marketing.
What Does This Mean for You?
Like Airbnb, digital technology can revolutionise the way you do business. Or, like the wider hotel industry, it can help you make small yet significant operational enhancements that add up to a more competitive whole.
In fact, many commentators believe that this is such a time of significant change, it’s better to act now than try to catch up. According to Frank Gens, Senior VP and Chief Analyst at technology consultancy International Data Corporation (IDC):
“Over the next three to four years, digital transformation efforts … will become the core of what industry leaders do and how they operate. In effect, every (growing) enterprise — no matter its age or industry — will become a ‘digital native’ in the way its executives and employees think and how they operate.”
Sticking with outdated technology isn’t an option.
How do we know? Because we’re specialist IT consultants with a tried-and-trusted approach to aligning IT strategy with business goals. And more of our customers are moving to digital solutions than ever before.
Which is why it’s time to embrace digital and position your business for growth. In the next section, we explain how.
How to Assess Your IT Capabilities
When leading organisations want to align technology with their business aims, they follow this five-step process. You can implement the same process in your business, although you will need specialist IT support.
Step 1 – Business Analysis
Keep One Eye on The Horizon
To steer a course through these new digital territories you first need to know where your business is going.
It may be that your offering is solid but you want to encourage more intimate communication with your customers. Perhaps your digital marketing strategy is leading to a growth in sales and business success relies on inter-departmental collaboration. Or maybe you plan to increase headcount and open new offices.
Wherever you’re heading, your organisational objectives will impact your IT requirements and the degree to which they need to be scalable.
Solve Problems Along the Way
While future-proofing your IT solution is critical, it also needs to address any existing issues. This means a candid review of your existing IT provision to identify any gaps in service or failing technology that frustrates employees and customers.
A deep understanding of the processes your team follows and how they work is also instrumental. Mobile employees who work from different locations will need different solutions to those who tend to be office based.
Keep the Engine Running While Change is Afoot
Although change is coming, keeping everything ticking over in the meantime is business critical. A security review should be completed to identify and mitigate any risks that could undermine business continuity.
Digital transformation might mean evolution, not revolution, for your business. If this is the case, it’s worth identifying if there are any elements of your existing IT systems that currently work well and could fit with future solutions.
Being clear about your priorities will help direct your budget so it can be spent in those areas where it will deliver greatest returns.
Step 2 – Identify the Right Tech for the Job
Whether you’re working with an in-house team or an external provider, you will need expert input at this stage. Your tech support should have their finger on the pulse of the latest solutions and the most reliable providers. And you should be presented with scalable solutions that meet your business objectives and fit your budget.
A good provider will consider the key elements of a digital technology solution including:
- Data protection
- Cloud services including online systems and software
- Backup and recovery
- Online communications
- Staff training
It’s a good idea to set some service level agreements for your new solution. This way you can ensure it’s having the intended impact and hold your provider to account with hard performance metrics.
Step 3 – Design the Operations and Technology Architecture
Thanks to their deep understanding of your business objectives and operational processes, your IT support will be able to establish the best way to structure your new systems. All systems should be scalable and the system architecture should allow your new solution to be adapted and built on so your business is future-proofed.
Step 4 – Identify an IT-strategy roadmap
Once the right approach has been agreed, your provider should map out the different steps required to begin your digital journey.
Key investments that help to ensure business continuity and close the gap on your desired business position should be implemented early on. And any changes that impact employees should be supported by training.
This means your business will remain secure and your customers and team will start to feel the benefits of the new technology.
Step 5 – Review Your Technology Needs
Your IT provider should give you regular reports identifying performance against service levels and any areas of strength or weakness with an action plan to address issues.
Your digital technology needs should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure everything is fit for purpose and to understand any emerging business challenges. You might be surprised to find how easy it is to add additional digital services to your existing solution to enable your business to adapt and grow.
Grow Your Business Through Technology
Aligning business growth with digital technology all sounds great in theory. But what does it look like in real life? How is digital technology any different to the servers, software, backup and disaster recovery you already have in place?
In general terms, digital technology replaces some of the hardware, and other services you currently have and provides them online. By removing your local server and storing what you need in the cloud, you benefit from the scalability and enhanced security measures most SMEs simply can’t afford on their own.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a whole range of other benefits too.
Instead of talking about technical solutions in general terms, we give real-life example from some of our customers. Each story provides concrete examples of how their move to digital services has unlocked value and delivered improvements for the business, customers and employees.
How Tech Helps Customers Better Access Your Offering
Seamless access to your offering means different things to different businesses. For our client, training consultancy CQM, their service relies on the expertise of their people. This meant it was essential for their consultants to be easily accessible to their clients.
But the company’s traditional IT systems were putting up walls rather than aiding communication. Because CQM consultants regularly worked at client sites, devices that relied on locally hosted servers were practically useless. This posed a big challenge to communication and meant employees were unable to access centrally held documentation when working away.
Having established the key constraints, we implemented a range of cloud-based service which included:
- Installing Office 2016 for each user so they could work from up to five devices including mobile, tablet, laptop and PC
- Moving all documents to a cloud-based SharePoint system providing a single retrieval point that could be accessed from any device in any internet-enabled location
- Setting up Yammer (like Facebook for business) to help employees share information and ideas
- Implementing Skype to reduce phone bills through internet phone calls and providing employees with the technology to hold meetings remotely via video conference
Not only did this resolve the issues that employees had been facing, it also meant the business was able to offer a better service to customers. Consultants could also be far more productive when working off-site.
The technology provides CQM with the platforms they need to share the knowledge and ideas that form the beating heart of their service offering. And it positions them to be competitive in the future too. That’s because the IDC predicts 67% of business IT infrastructure and software will be cloud-based by 2020.
Of course, seamless service could mean something completely different for your business. Which is why it’s important to work closely with a specialist, who takes the time to understand your business and deliver the right outcome for you.
Business Effectiveness Built on Reliability
For San-iT customer, Union Colours, a quality product offering means a reliable one. As the business grew, this global pigment manufacturer wanted to ensure they maintained the high-quality standards that were central to their business, even in the event of a catastrophe.
Implementing a comprehensive disaster recovery programme with a failsafe solution so systems would continue to be available 24/7 was the cloud-based solution to their concerns.
The technology also allowed us to configure advanced alerts and process management systems. This means that should a disaster happen, everyone will be well-informed and directed to take the right steps. Which will protect valuable business assets and retain customers even in the worst circumstances.
Digital Customer Service
With more businesses swapping to digital technology, customer expectations are already being influenced and raised by the way modern business is conducted. Today, all customers expect to deal with a business via email. But when technology becomes obsolete and is past the point of repair, even this most basic business requirement can become difficult.
That’s what one of our clients, McCrory Brickwork, found when their Microsoft Office 2007 platform began to fail. As suppliers of labour, plant and materials for major contracts to blue chip clients, seamless communication was central to operations.
Not only was the system prone to errors but staff were becoming increasingly frustrated as emails failed to send or disappeared before they reached the recipient. Large attachments were a complete no-no and email wouldn’t update across devices so workers could only be completely productive in the office.
Instead of simply thinking of IT as a way to resolve an email issue, we worked with McCrory Brickwork to implement a digital solution that would future-proof their business.
We knew that updating the existing software wouldn’t give the business the flexibility it needed. Which is why we recommended the implementation of Microsoft 365. By installing Office for each user and migrating all emails, contacts and calendars for a seamless transition, we set McCrory Brickwork up for the future. They could work from multiple devices making productive flexible working across phones, tablets, laptops and PCs a reality.
This solution offered other benefits: not only can employees do the basics more effectively, but the product also allows people to collaborate and update a single document avoiding the confusion that arises with multiple versions. Plus, the cloud-based software receives automatic updates so history won’t repeat itself.
Enabling Employees to be Their Most Effective
As your business grows, you need existing staff to be more efficient and productive, and you may need more staff too. Updating systems and software, and balancing new equipment purchases with a changing workforce is a challenge and comes at a cost.
Leading recruitment firm, Adam Recruitment, were experiencing IT growing pains. As their customers increased so did their employee headcount and the existing IT support was very reactive. As Richard Gahagan, CEO of Adam Recruitment, tells it:
“Our previous outsourced IT provider was ok for us up to a certain size but we started experiencing challenges as we grew. Service levels dipped and our move to the cloud was only half-hearted. They had tried to talk us out of cloud computing and to stay with traditional servers which sounded completely counter-intuitive.
We had become too big to outsource to a 1-man band IT consultant but not big enough to have our own IT department. I preferred the outsourced model, but I wanted a provider who were experts in the cloud, proactive to help us grow and responsive, as we don’t have any IT technical experts on site.”
San-iT stepped in and conducted a full business review to understand existing issues and where the business was headed.
With servers going down and phone lines not working, employees couldn’t work effectively. This was impacting morale, productivity and the profitability of the business. And our security audit added insult to injury when it revealed failures in the backup system that was leaving the business exposed.
The leadership team wanted to move to cloud services because they knew traditional servers were relics of the past. So, we:
- Fixed the ongoing IT issues and put in place effective cloud solutions to enhance security and reduce downtime
- Implemented new technology to ensure their data was secure and backed up
- Provided ongoing support so new starters could hit the ground running and to deal with any day-to-day technical difficulties
By delivering a proactive IT support service we helped the business improve productivity and put in place the technology foundations for growth. We helped them streamline their operations by automating a multitude of previously manual procedures:
We implemented SharePoint Workflows to increase the efficiency and accuracy of reports
SharePoint Workflows are mini-applications that automate business processes. Now, when someone updates a daily sales summary sheet, this automatically updates a global monthly sales sheet, that everyone can view, reducing reporting time and the risk of human error.
We installed Microsoft Forms to reduce repetitive tasks
Microsoft Forms have helped Adam remove repetitive data entry. Previously, when a new candidate or client came on board, information would have to be replicated across various systems. Now, new contacts simply complete their information in a Microsoft Form which then sucks the data into the system and replicates it across various applications such as Bullhorn or Xero.
We employed Microsoft Flow to remove manual processes
Microsoft Flow is an application that makes automating processes easy. Now, when certain tasks are completed, automated tasks run in the background to remove manual processes. For example, if a mailing list is updated, the data is refreshed across other applications or if a candidate becomes available, alerts are created in the CRM system Bullhorn.
We implemented regular service level reporting to ensure our provision was completely transparent. As Gahagan says:
“San-iT is very good at helping us change our process to make our IT work for us, and vice versa, changing our IT to make our processes work better. But more important than their knowledge of recruitment is the fact that they understand the way a good service business works and therefore they know how to improve the service we deliver to clients by making our IT work for us.”
Digital Transformation Starts with Consultation
As the pace of innovation increases, speed and agility are business game changers. And they are also expected by customers. Your business needs to be more flexible than ever to adjust to dynamic markets and keep up with competitors who are undergoing their own digital transformations.
San-iT’s consultancy-based approach ensures you get the right digital transformation for your business. For operational effectiveness and competitive advantage get in touch with San-iT to make the most of the digital revolution.