New technology and solutions may be interesting in their own right, but it is not always easy to see the business perspective—how any given tech will influence the revenue and bottom line.

And even if you, as a tech-savvy professional, can identify potential business value, the stakeholders of your company will not necessarily follow suit. To open that door, we have gathered six keys to unlock business value with digital transformation.

1. Get an orientation

First you need to orient yourself in the shifting landscape of digital and business. You might know what digital transformation entails, but your stakeholders can be in the dark. To identify what digital transformation really is, use our essential definition:

Digital transformation is the comprehensive effects of rapid digital innovation on core business functions and processes.

The corresponding new technology enabled by digital transformation enables new methods and improves old methods to solve traditional tasks and deliver customer value. Existing operations may be rendered obsolete in terms of competitiveness on the market—something any business-minded stakeholder will understand.

After understanding the fundamentals of digital transformation, your organization needs to ask itself what, how, and why? What core business functions should be enhanced by digital, how are you going to achieve that goal, and why should you do it? Will the functions work just as well without fancy, new tech? Or will it genuinely be boosted in terms of revenue?

Identifying digital transformation and the needs of your organization marks a great beginning for creating a formal corporate strategy to address the matter. In this stage, you also need to think about whether you should cut cost or increase revenue. Authors Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed certainly embrace the latter option in their book The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think.

2. Receive blessings from the leadership

A thorough orientation, strategy proposal, and potential business case are tactics you can employ to involve the leadership of your organization. Without their blessing, any attempt at unlocking business value through new, digitally fuelled means will be hampered at best and shut down at worst.

As mentioned, a business case that showcases success stories will be an integral part of involving the C-suite, and may represent the tipping point in getting them onboard.

Also, make sure to include numbers, graphs, percentages, and any visual means that demonstrate your digital transformation business case. CIO.com lists 4 such success stories, including Walmart and Ferguson.

3. Gather the team

You can’t carry the burden of unlocking your organization’s business value through digital transformation all by yourself. You need a team, and not just any team—you need professionals with digital specialization.

Your team members should have the right skills and you should only assign the roles needed to fulfill your goals. Skills to overcome digital transformation for the sake of business values may include project management, solution architecture, UX design, web development, back-end development, CMS vendor expertise, continuous development, content production, accessibility, SEO, testing, and operations. This is of course a lot to keep tabs on, but the hallmark of a great organizer and leader is just that—to find the right people with the right skillset to perform the right role.

Skills are not enough, however. Your team must also facilitate a specific strategy and environment to successfully leverage business. A clear-cut digital strategy, modern teamwork principles, a sharing environment, and a productive technical platform will also contribute to success.

Read more: How to lead a successful digital team »

4. Spot the weak links

Your digital organization is not stronger than its weakest link. While your organization might have introduced e.g. processes of automation, self-service, and beacons in certain departments, it might prove futile in the long run if core business functions still run by obsolete means.

When you and your team are looking for operations and processes that can be digitally transformed to improve efficiency, you need to work systematically. You need to inspect every facet and aspect of your organization—no stone must be left unturned. Ask yourselves about what can be digitalized in accordance with the principles detailed under the first point in this article.

You should also identify non-essential activities performed by colleagues in your team, in the different departments, and finally in your organization as a whole. Removing or outsourcing these kinds of non-core activities will free resources that can be used to improve efficiency and increase the bottom-line in more productive endeavors.

5. Introduce agile and lean principles

The door to increased revenue and business value is a sturdy one, with solid, heavy-duty locks to protect the rivers of gold and honey beyond. Hitherto we have gathered the keys of general strategy, stakeholder involvement, a highly skilled team, and the identification of areas of improvement. We are almost there, but we need something more—we need a framework for working methods, as hinted at earlier.

Involve your HR department to plan how you can introduce modern working principles as smoothly as possible. Encourage your colleagues to test new and exciting technology and work processes, while simultaneously introducing agile, lean, and scrum principles.

These processes allow for continuous feedback and improvements, and may let you quickly go from an idea to solve a specific problem to a high-fidelity prototype in as little as a week. Examples of concrete kits within these frameworks include Google’s design sprint, Jobs to be Done, and LeanKit.

See also: Digital transformation: current status and preparation »

6. Measure business value and reiterate

As a final note after you have successfully unlocked business value by the keys above, you need to prove the worth of these efforts by measuring, analyzing, and reiterating.

Identifying real KPIs within digital transformation that impact revenue is no easy task, but ask yourself how a given technology increases revenue, whether the tech can lower cost, and how it can improve productivity.

For instance, will a self-service machine in a store increase the number of orders as opposed to the traditional interaction with a clerk? Will the introduction of AI discover feasible shortcuts in your supply chain and thus lower cost? Will the lean method demonstrably make your colleagues do more tasks in less time?

Factors like these are measurable, and by measuring them you can analyze, optimize, and improve every process, service, and product—and thus increase business value.

Bonus: Keeping up to date

Keeping up to date on all the trends, news, research, surveys, and reports on digital transformation is no simple undertaking. Here are some tips on how you can keep pace:

Find sources

If you haven't already found reliable and fresh news sources for digital transformation, now is the time.

Digital Adoption has curated the following list, which might prove a decent starting point: 

Set up a feed in a news aggregator

Browsing through dozens of separate websites for news on digital transformation can be a chore. That's when a news aggregator can come in handy. These services read into the RSS feed of any website that offers them, and you can then compile your own news feed in one place.

Here is a list of some news aggregators, courtesy of WPBeginner:

Set up Google Alerts

If you want more instantaneous notifications about new mentions of a given search term or even your own brand, you can set up Google Alerts.

Setting up an alert is simple: Enter your designated search term—for instance "digital transformation"—before you choose alert frequency, sources, language, region, result type, and your email address.

Search social media hashtags

Social media can be a treasure trove of information, where industry professionals share invaluable tips and essays on their industry and developments.

It's not easy to find all these posts, however, but one way to navigate the plethora of information on these networks is through the use of hashtags. Search LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and the likes with #digitaltransformation and related terms to find thought leaders on the subject matter.

Partake in communities

In addition to passively receive information, you can also join one or more communities that focuses on digital transformation. These professional networks often arrange events where participants meet to discuss common challenges and experiences, which can be an invaluable asset and source of information for your endeavors.

A few examples of digital transformation communities include:

Create business value with the digital customer journey

First published 9 October 2019, updated 9 September 2020.

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