The key pillars of digital transformation and the mistakes to avoid

Victor Arfi, Mar 2021

Digital transformation is now a major challenge for companies of all sizes, regardless of their sector of activity. Digital tools help gain efficiency and prepare for future changes. This digitalization implies significant changes in processes and work relations. In addition to the technical challenges, the implementation of business applications is sometimes met with reluctance on the part of employees. However, adopting the right strategies allows you to succeed in your digitalization under the best conditions. Here are the pillars for a successful digital transformation.

The preparation stages: the pillars of your digital transformation

Successfully digitalizing the various sectors of your company is a major challenge. To guarantee the success of this approach, it is important not to ignore the preparation stages. Indeed, even before the deployment of the first technical tools, it is necessary to prepare the mentalities and to define a clear strategy. Do not underestimate the importance of these preliminary steps. They will save you precious time later on.

Les piliers de la transformation digitale

Create a true digital culture within the company

Your teams are made up of very different profiles. Some of your employees have grown up in the era of smartphones and connected applications. They are perfectly familiar with the digital world, and see technological innovation as a motivating factor. On the other hand, some of your team members may be very resistant to change. The digital world is foreign to them, and they are afraid of new ways of working that disrupt their established habits and take them out of their comfort zone.

Moreover, digitalization often comes up against irrational fears. The myth of the machine taking over and replacing the human being is still very much in the mind. You will have to reverse this mentality by showing how technology can on the contrary be put at the service of humans.

Take the time to change mentalities by multiplying communication actions around the pillars of digital transformation. Organize training sessions that allow everyone to understand the challenges. The implementation of new applications and the modification of work methods will be much better accepted if users have understood the reasons for these changes and have learned to see them as opportunities.

Build your roadmap

Digital transformation is much more than a simple project. It is a profound change in corporate culture and work practices. It is essential to establish a clear roadmap to avoid getting lost along the way.

Define the priority objectives. What are the sectors where digitalization can bring maximum results? Which business units are the most likely to adopt new applications quickly? How can you best prepare for these changes? Use these criteria to choose the starting points for your digitalization process.

Feuille de route pour une transformation digitale réussie

Avoid launching several projects at the same time. Start with a sector with reasonable objectives, and wait for the first feedback to refine the approach and to be part of a real continuous improvement process of the digitalization strategy. Once the transformation has progressed, you can gradually increase the overlap of the different sub-projects.

Identify digital ambassadors

You have managers and employees in all your teams who are likely to promote digital transformation to their colleagues. Identify them as soon as possible. This will allow you to integrate them in the early phases of the project. They will then be able to start communicating about the upcoming changes, and provide the first feedback on the level of acceptance of digital in the teams.

What are the pillars of your company’s digital transformation?

Every company is different. Many factors influence the choice of technical solutions to implement. However, there are pillars of a successful digital transformation common to all organizations. You need to focus on the human factor, by putting users at the center of digitalization.

The user-centric approach: make your employees your allies

Whatever the business applications, the basis of efficiency is the attitude of the users towards these tools. Your employees will have to make them their own and change their work habits. It is therefore essential that these tools provide effective responses to their real needs. Solutions that are too technical and far removed from the reality of the field will not be properly used.

l'approche user centric : un pilier de la transformation digitale

To guarantee a good adoption of digital solutions by users, you must involve them in all phases of the project. This approach has multiple advantages:

  • better understand the real needs ;
  • respond to concerns as soon as they arise;
  • adapting the tools in real time during the deployment phase
  • Strengthen user buy-in;
  • Implementing a change management culture within the teams.

The poor adoption of tools by users is one of the main factors of failure in digital transformation. By focusing on the user-centric approach, you can reverse this trend. Employees should no longer be subjected to change, but rather integrated into it and be the actors of it.

If users are aware that the tools have been designed with them in mind to provide maximum efficiency and comfort, they will naturally use them. This user adoption phenomenon will allow you to exploit the full potential of the technical solutions deployed. Moreover, it will contribute to reinforce the confidence of the teams in the digital transformation process.

Travail collaboratif

The transformation of processes and teams

As the digitalization of the company progresses, all work processes will be gradually modified. In order for the new tools to be successful, it is important to adapt the processes in depth. Simply replacing old tools with a technological solution would be a nonsense. New ways of communicating and collaborating must be put in place.

Digitization allows for the centralization of information that is conducive to the development of collaborative work, both within each team and between different departments. It is essential that managers support these transformations, in order to progressively build new structures in which everyone finds their place.

Transformation des processus et des équipes

The importance of communication and training

We have already mentioned the need to communicate during the phase of creating a digital culture. This communication must continue throughout the deployment of the various applications. Regular progress reviews allow all employees to become aware of the work accomplished and to anticipate future challenges. Remember to always insist on the final goal of the process, and to give motivating but realistic perspectives. Use the digital ambassadors identified in the early phases of the project to relay the information to their colleagues.

Also put in place an ongoing training strategy that ensures that users never feel overwhelmed by the technology. Education is never a waste of time. It allows employees to better understand the tools, but also to better accept them.

Control of the technical aspects

It’s no secret that the successful deployment of a new digital solution requires a qualified and efficient IT department. Don’t hesitate to strengthen your team by recruiting specialists in new software. Provide your employees with a powerful backlog management tool. Such a tool will save them a lot of time, especially by allowing them to distribute workloads efficiently.

All the work done in advance to obtain user support risks being lost if the technical implementation is done in poor conditions. Do not ignore the importance of the testing phases. It’s better to be a little late and present the end users with a completed solution, rather than letting them wipe the slate with tools that have too many technical issues!

La maitre du change management et des aspects techniques

What are the main errors to avoid for a successful digital transformation?

While some good practices can help you succeed in your digital transformation, some mistakes can seriously compromise the success of the process.

Focusing only on the technological approach

Faced with the technical challenges presented by digital transformation, we can quickly lose sight of the human aspect. As we have already mentioned with the pillars, the success of the digital transformation depends above all on the users. It is better to have a technically imperfect solution, but one that is well accepted and used, than a technological gem that no one wants to touch.

Remember that not all your employees are IT experts! The solutions implemented should not leave those who are less familiar with new technologies on the sidelines.

Go too fast

You are aware of the pillars and all the benefits that digital transformation can bring to your company. It is normal that you want to get things up and running as quickly as possible. However, wanting to rush things will probably lead you to failure. Resistance to change takes a long time to overcome, and changing mindsets can’t be done overnight. Take the time to develop the digital culture, and to convince the most reluctant users with examples of successful implementation.

Ne pas précipiter votre transformation digitale

Don’t throw out all your existing processes overnight and replace them with a brand new digital solution. The technical risk would be much too great, and the shock for your employees would be totally non-productive. Give them time to adapt to the new tools, feature by feature.

Not putting in place relevant feedback tools

Digital transformation is a complex process that requires constant changes, both on a technical and human level. In order for everything to run smoothly, it is essential to put in place an efficient feedback tool. Without such a solution, you run the risk of becoming aware of certain difficulties too late.

Users need to be made aware of feedback and the use of the feedback tool, and understand its importance. This requires training, but also taking their feedback into account. Seeing a change in the situation as a result of their feedback will encourage them to be more and more proactive in improving the tools.

It is also very important that the feedback tool is easy to use. Your employees will be less inclined to use it if it wastes time and efficiency in their work. On the contrary, an ergonomic tool will encourage them to give feedback on a more regular basis.

Mettre en place des outils de feedback pertinent pour une transformation digitale réussie

The collaborative aspect of feedback tools is also an important factor in continuous improvement. However, be careful not to let negative feedback accumulate and go unanswered. This could create negative sentiment, both against the business application concerned and against the feedback tool itself. On the other hand, a collaborative tool in which everyone can see that problems have been solved builds trust and motivation.

Ignore CRM transformation

If your company’s success depends on employee involvement, it is of course based on customer satisfaction. Faced with the many challenges of deploying business applications, it can be tempting to put off the digitalization of customer relations. However, it is one of the most important growth factors for your company. CRM tools are nowadays very sophisticated and easy to use. Their implementation can be a good entry point to digitalization. The benefits are immediately visible to the teams involved. Using the implementation of these customer relationship management tools as a pilot project is therefore an interesting possibility to consider.