By Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer at Conga
Events of the past 18 months have proven that digital transformation is critical for business, but it is not necessarily easy to implement. A recent report by Gartner revealed that, in response to the pandemic, 69 percent of boards of directors accelerated their digital business initiatives, with the sales process and customer experience being some of the key drivers. However, as Conga’s own research indicates, most of these initiatives were rushed and rarely successful. Whilst COVID-19 has accelerated 71 percent of companies’ digital transformation plans, only 36 percent are considered somewhat successful.
As businesses prepare for and adjust to the post-COVID new normal – incorporating a hybrid workforce and flexible working patterns – they will need to review their business operations and plan how to drive employee engagement, while finding the right balance between in-person and remote work. As part of this, they will need to consider how technology will support them in future-proofing their operations.
Post-COVID digital transformation
For a generation of businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a far more profound effect and lasting impact than previous crises. Not only has it functioned as a catalyst of digital transformations for most businesses, but it has also dramatically altered the way people work, live, and interact. All of these factors are, of course, reshaping how organisations approach the way they operate and continue to evolve.
Despite this acceleration of pandemic-driven transformation programmes, the need to continue the digital evolution of business processes has not gone away as societies begin to recover from the crisis. In fact, Forrester expects 70 percent of US and European companies to pivot to a hybrid work model post-pandemic, requiring businesses to reflect on how they plan to use technology to enhance their business operations long term. Indeed, Gartner research indicates that, in the years to come, organisations will continue to invest in software used to automate tasks such as ERP, supply chain and CRM systems. The same research predicts that in 2022, the worldwide market for technology that enables hyperautomation will reach $596.6 billion, increasing from $481.6 billion in 2020 and a projected $532.4 billion this year.
When considering future technology solutions, it is important for businesses to remember that, while digital transformation offers many competitive advantages, it is not necessarily easy to define, plan and execute. Too many business leaders prioritise technology over strategy and do not have a clear understanding of the outcomes that digital transformation can and should drive. It is crucial that companies first establish where they currently stand in their own digital transformation journey, by considering their own digital maturity: how well they adjust to a digital business environment.
To do this, companies must first evaluate their operational model, assess its suitability, and identify any pain points along the entire business cycle. The key is to establish a clear understanding of how and where change is needed in order to progress and improve the organisation’s overall operability.
Organisations that identify the need for change and embrace innovation will likely be further into their transformation journey than those who don’t. With digital maturity comes flexibility, and businesses will be able to readily develop a transformation strategy that enables new approaches and identifies workable methods to implement them successfully.
How to digitally transform with the maturity model
Before launching into a transformation project, businesses leaders should always begin by establishing clear objectives and a strategy – the immediate focus should not be on technology. They should also determine their company’s maturity level by re-evaluating the current business model and, ideally, seeking expert advice.
After assessing their business’ overall digital maturity, leaders will have a clear understanding of the current state and what the next stage of their company’s digital transformation journey should be. Mostly, this will mean working on, and defining, an essential process that has a strong impact on the success of the company, such as the sales cycle or revenue generation. Of course, creating a strong strategy will also mean addressing the teams who will be involved in the change process. It is essential that these employees are on board from the start and realise the need for change, in order to ensure wider adoption across the company.
At the initial stage of the maturity model, processes may be unpredictable, reactive and poorly controlled. Employees may feel encumbered by manual procedures that do not translate well between teams. The next stage involves establishing a strong foundation, one central location for all product and pricing that can be accessed by all employees. If required, there may also be a powerful configurator to simplify the complexities of vast product and pricing. Then businesses need to consider their current system – a stage where any proposals and quotes are automatically created allowing collaboration and intelligent workflow approvals across sales teams and leaders, making for higher efficiency.
Once this is established, businesses can then consider automation and the acceleration of certain everyday processes, such as guided selling with intelligent product recommendations and deal-scoring tools. The increase of automated processes can empower employees to feel far more productive, allowing them more time and head space to concentrate on their customers. Following this, the next stage will involve exploring the possibilities of further integration between other systems such as CLM, ERP and fulfilment systems for more sophisticated multi-channel management, before proceeding to the final stage: intelligence. This stage allows businesses to utilise advanced insights and reporting for unparalleled sales performance reviews, ensuring that all teams are fully up to speed with each customer’s interaction with the business’ different teams.
Organisations will proceed through these stages of digital maturity at different rates according to the complexity of their structures. Some will have to go back several stages to tackle problems of efficiency. This is why it is important for leaders to reassess the business’ current state, so that they can identify ways in which the business could overcome roadblocks and perform far more effectively before building a strategy to suit.
At a basic level, it is all about reconsidering the relationship between people, processes, and data. For example, considering the everyday sales cycle and the number of documents and contracts involved from the first proposal, drafting an initial contract, any last-minute additions and even final sign-off. The less mature a business process is, from a digital perspective, the more complex and problematic the overall process becomes – it will undoubtedly lead to bottlenecks and issues further down the line. Simplifying and streamlining a critical business process is a key part of the strategy that makes transformation projects far more successful.
Future of work
Digital transformation is vital in today’s business world and will only continue to grow as organisations plan for long-term remote working scenarios. However, with tighter budgets expected in the near term, organisations can no longer afford to waste their investment in new technology. By embracing change, understanding the concept of digital maturity, and continuing to evolve their business, organisations will excel and continue to thrive after the pandemic, whether they are planning to adopt remote working models long-term or not. Focusing on establishing clear strategies that improve their company’s digital maturity, with the appropriate technology to help deliver these outcomes, leaders will reap the rewards of digital transformation.