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Marc Noviello

Marc Noviello

Sr. Digital Transformation Specialist at Docufree | 20+ years experience enabling businesses with process improvement solutions | CPM, CLP, ECMc certified

A Digital Transformation Framework: Start Your Plan

Digital transformation is a growing subject in boardrooms across the world. In this insight article, we explore what it takes to lead and deliver a digital transformation program, using change management principles to mobilize your team for a successful project delivery.

The convergence of the cloud and internet of things (IoT) has led to a ‘digital explosion.’ Consumers now have 24/7/365 online access, anytime, anywhere, and across many devices and platforms.

The International Data Corporation (IDC), estimates that by 2025, 175 trillion gigabytes of data will be created 

Therefore, for enterprises to adequately compete in today’s digital economy, and simultaneously future proof their success, they must effectively leverage and manage data more effectively. One of the best ways of making data more effective is by eliminating paper-based processes. Companies that have already done so are helping information and content to be easily searched, retrieved, and assembled. Thus, making their entire process more straightforward, more cost efficient, and beneficial for employee productivity and customer experience alike.

You’ve decided to go digital. Great! But what’s next? 

The first thing to consider is what your ‘digital agenda’ is when it comes to digital transformation.

Digital Transformation can mean many things and cover a vast array of functions and purposes. In a nutshell, it’s the process of utilizing digital tools and technology to improve or renovate your existing processes. Ultimately, it’s not just about ‘disruption’ and technology,’ but rather how your business aims to benefit from going through this process of change. In the context of this article, we are focusing on digital transformation in freeing organizations from the burden of paper. Paper processes touch every single department within an organization. Therefore, by going paper free and digitizing paper-based processes, organizations can instead focus on:

  • Delivering better, faster, and more positive customer experiences
  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing market share by being faster to market with ideas
  • Facilitating easier access to data
  • Enabling more informed decision making

Benefits to a digitally-focused, paperless business model

While it may not be feasible to fully eliminate paper in every business, even a small reduction may yield cost savings and increased efficiency. Whether your company is a start-up, SME or large enterprise with well-established policies and procedures, reducing paper usage is always advantageous in both the short and longer term.

Prepare your company for digitization successfully. Speak to one of our Digital Transformation experts today

For many companies, digital transformation means simplicity. The ability to bring about real efficiencies in terms of processes and administration can be profound, particularly in terms of speed and cut through. More significantly, one of the most significant benefits is the market information and client insights that businesses can map.

Indeed, many businesses that undergo a true digital transformation program and seek to put data and information at the heart of their technology focused business models are shocked to see just how much information they had but were not utilizing properly. That is perhaps one of the core benefits: being able to simply utilize what a business already had but didn’t know it.

We’ve written countless articles on the benefits of going paperless, but in summary, here are the key benefits that all businesses can relate to:

  1. Efficiency gains and improved productivity. Less time spent hunting through stacks of paper, to increase response times.
  2. Reduced operating costs. The costs to physically store and manage paper records is usually the core driver of a paperless agenda. By eliminating paper, you’re freeing up valuable storage space.
  3. Improve security and compliance. Compliance is easier with less or no paper. Security measures can be put into place, for example, to restrict access to files, creating data backups, better data recovery and protection (paper is easily damaged by the environment).
  4. Sustainable. Reducing paper or going totally paper-free will significantly improve your organization’s carbon footprint.

Common objections and challenges with digital transformation

“This gap between aspiration and reality may help explain why a surprising number of leadership teams remain tentative about investing in digital technologies and capabilities.” [Source: Bain & Company]

The payoff from digital transformation can be impressively high, but the success rate is unfortunately very low, too. It is frequently cited that 70%-85% of digital transformation projects fail, so it’s understandable that the idea of embarking on a project of this nature, would be met with initial skepticism from business leaders.

Digital Transformation = Change Management? 

I’ve previously written about how digital transformation is business transformation. I strongly believe this to be true, as it encompasses change management strategy which can be defined as “any shift, realignment or fundamental change in business operations.”

When it comes to change management, there certainly is no shortage of educational materials and resources. For instance, a quick search on Amazon showed nearly 80,000 book titles that cover the subject of “change management.”

While these traditional change management methods have been successfully deployed for decades for various types of organizational changes, more often than not, these traditional change management methodologies follow a step-by-step approach that has a beginning and an end. They are ‘linear’ in nature.

“You will find it hard to manage change alone. And there will be people embedded throughout your organization who have the energy, skills, and passion to help push through that change of mindset, thinking and learning.

Identify these change agents, train them, and provide them with messaging. Keep change messages focused on the customers’ benefits and not the organization’s directly. It’s all about the endgame, not an end in itself” [Source: Cognifide]

Yet we’re now living in a digital world, and the nature of ‘digital business transformation’ is markedly different. The reason for this is because it combines higher levels of scale compared to traditional approaches; and has a stronger focus on agility and dynamism with the need to make fundamental changes to an entire organization – usually in the service of a new strategic direction.

Due to this fact, it’s clear that digital business transformation involves making big changes across multiple aspects of the business. For instance, ‘going paperless’ is not so simple a feat; and traditional change management is not fit for purpose in facilitating major changes – especially in larger, more complex organizational structures. With this in mind, ‘mobilizing’ your team and organization is crucial, as you’ll need to enable different resources company-wide, to reach your transformation goals.

Below, I have outlined several steps to follow, in order to maximize the success of your paperless ambition, offering key tips and questions you must consider at each step of your journey.

Before you begin though, I want to emphasize the importance of assessing your current situation before developing any goals and plans. You should examine and audit where you are now in terms of your digital transformation journey and analyze any gaps – which will later become the areas of focus and priority.

Step One: Outline your goals

Knowing what you want and why is a critical first step that must happen before you even consider approaching stakeholders for buy-in.

Key Action Points: 

  • Keep focused on a highly specific transformation challenge such as ‘to make XX division paper-free by XX date.’ This makes it more achievable, keeps everyone aligned to the goal and makes it easier to measure both the progress and impacts of the change.

Key Questions to Ask: 

  • Do you have a robust rationale and business case?
  • What is the intended outcome and in what timeframe?

Step Two: Set the strategy

Once you have outlined your objectives, the next step is to articulate how you plan on achieving those goals.

Key Questions to Ask: 

  • How will you deliver on these goals?
  • How will you translate the ‘excitement’ of digital into meaningful improvements?
  • How will you change the current business model to a digital one?

Step Three: Mobilize the team

This is arguably the most crucial step – helping you to align your strategy and goals to the delivery of the project and getting buy-in and engagement from the wider team. Making the transition to paper-free a reality needs sufficient time, and resources – human and financial. Moreover, it means your employees having to learn to do things in new ways, which can generate resistance.

Key Action Points: 

  • Ensure that the CTO works closely with other key leaders in the business, such as the CIO and those in charge of leading transformation. This will help to increase the overall level of digital business agility.
  • If you work in a large and/or multi-site organization, consider appointing “transformation leads” from other teams who can help execute the program across different divisions of the business. This is instead of creating a single ‘silo,’ to ensure the project remains agile and interconnected across the organization.
  • Keep in mind that digital transformation involves change at every level of the organization
  • The executive team should consistently reinforce the direction of the transformation. This means involving the likes of managers and individuals to invest and support this transformation.

Key Questions to Consider at This Stage: 

  • Is the purpose of the program understood and aligned to a clear strategy and vision?
  • Are the benefits and objectives of the transformation clear? How will it benefit the team as well as the company overall?
  • What roles will everyone need to play and why?
  • Do you have a clear roadmap of what you need to achieve, why and by when?
  • Are you getting the support and buy-in of key stakeholders?

Step Four: Develop your digital transformation roadmap

This is where you articulate your digital transformation ambition into an executable plan for coordinating and driving the change to paper free thought in the organization. As the old adage goes “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Without a clear plan, you are metaphorically wandering aimlessly without direction, which presents huge risks and expense. With a roadmap in place, you’re helping to fully mobilize teams on different parts of the program and keeping them aligned.

Core elements to include in your roadmap: 

  • What does paperless digital transformation mean for your company? How much of a paperless transformation do you want to make? What is “good enough”?
  • What are the key milestones that must be achieved and by when?
  • Outline the cost vs. the benefit
  • Budget and resource required
  • Responsibilities and skills required

The next steps towards your digital transformation program 

It’s clear that digital transformation is not a passing fad. Sooner or later, all businesses will need to adopt it. Indeed, research indicates that 85% of enterprise decision makers believe that if they don’t make serious progress on digitally transforming their businesses in the next 24 months, they’ll fall behind the competition and take a hit on their bottom line.

In the end, the main reason for most companies to go paperless is to improve efficiency, so that you’re able to take on more business with the same number of employees. Doing before and after comparisons of your essential business processes should give you a good understanding of everything you’ve achieved by going paperless.

By following the four steps in this article, you’ll be closer to delivering on your paperless digital transformation goals. Establishing a sound paperless digital transformation plan will help your organization find new opportunities, be more agile, increase profit and benefit your customers’ experience.

Want to prepare your company for digitization? To implement digital transformation successfully, speak to one of our Digital Transformation experts. Contact us today.

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