Traditional businesses began with talking about targets they wanted to reach and then planned on what to do, who would buy, and how would they do things to reach that target mark. A digital organization works on a flipped model which begins by asking who are the people they are targeting and then goes into details of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. The result is an automatic upgrade to the level of earning revenues from business activities.

Are you a traditional organization or a digital organization? Many companies even today work on the traditional model, but with the business world changing so fast, and customers getting more sophisticated, every organization needs to embrace the change and bring a digital transformation in the organization.

But how do you go about it?

Digital transformation (DX) is one of the most confusing terms as it has been described in many ways. Some say, it is an integration of technologies into business while others say it is about reconstruction of products and services using latest technologies. According to Wikipedia, DX is about solving traditional business issues with the use of digital systems. CIO.com talks about delivering value to customers through digital technologies and Salesforce talks about modification of existing processes using technologies. When the definition of DX itself is debated, it is no surprise if you are confused on how to go about transformation.

If we skip the idea of digital and just look at the word transformation, would it be easy for you to understand what you need to do? While other things remain obscured, one fact is true for sure – Transformation is a change. You need to change the way you work if it is not working the way you want.

So, how do you start with the process of transformation?

Begin with understanding what is happening in your organization. Understand your customers, review your growth milestones, acknowledge the facts, and then ask yourself – Is my company reaching where we expected to reach?

If not, you need a change and the change has to be brought about in areas that are troubled because of traditionality. Silos have to be dismantled and agility has to be increased. There are five stages of digital transformation that you can follow once you have a clarity on what areas you need to work on.

Stage 1: If you see chaos in your system its time you become organized

How are your internal processes doing?

If you have been taking orders on phone and depending on the memory of your sales people to get the customer into your funnel, its time you give your employees a system to enter order data for processing. If you have been sharing spreadsheets to and from between your employees just to enter data, its time you adopt the cloud platform and have a single document shared between all, so that everyone can work on it at the same time and delays are avoided. If you are heavily dependent on reports when taking critical decisions for your organization, you may want to have a reporting system installed that generates custom reports using organizational data.

What are your brand touchpoints, where you connect to the world outside?

If your customers depend on a mobile phone to call you for an inquiry, you might want to add an email service into your system that allows your customers to reach you through alternate ways. If you have your customers giving orders over email and your delivery conversation trail is going long, you might want to install an order management system to take care of order placement process. If you have a team located in different offices and communicating over calls and emails very frequently, it would be better to use a collaboration tool to interact with each other.

Stage 2: Formalize your processes and systems

While you identify the things you need for bringing the change, you might not get to a real implementation without having right resource’s deployed. At this stage, you need to create processes and deploy resources on those processes. For ex., if you want your teams to collaborate over a seamless system that works across your organization, you will begin with installation, training, and enforcement of its usage in your employees.

Stage 3: Get Strategic buy-in

You have a system which can do you a good, but unless it is used by everyone who can get benefited in the company, it would bring no real results. You need to get the buy-in from everyone who matters. Start with the top management who can help you reinforce the formal rules you created for adapting to change. Your CEO might want to use dashboards and this can become the reason for your employees to agree to put every data into the system, because if they do not then they are not working as per the system which is monitored by your CEO.

Stage 4: Innovate through digital technologies

You have a few technologies newly installed at this stage and now, you need to shape your enterprise to make the best use of your digital systems and might want to innovate to achieve more. After changing email based ordering system to a digital ordering system, you would try customizing usage of technologies and assign the right people to right processes within the digital space. You might want to identify more areas where digitization can be put to use. With a collaborative system for your employees, you might also want to add an invoicing package into your system that keeps track of sales activities and helps you bill your customers in a formal way.

Stage 5: Walk on the new technological journey and adapt to the changing business world

When a modern digital technology becomes the heart of transformation, you have a huge arena to explore but at the same time, you would also face resistance to change in your organization. Eliminate this resistance and make your people and systems ready to consume the fruits of digital transformation. Walk on the digital path and keep adapting till you reach a stage when technology starts solving your business problems.

You do not stop at this stage but only begin. As your organization gets ready to adapt, new technologies keep joining you and your organization keeps experimenting. When you know that something is not right, you find out the root causes of your troubles and utilize digital technologies to solve them. And then, you make your organization adaptable so that you keep changing as new waves of technologies keep arriving.