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Your digital transformation journey: More than a tech upgrade

Jan 06, 2022

The past couple years of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed organizations of nearly every size and type to expand digital offerings, both to customers and to employees. Yet many organizations across industries often come up short in achieving true digital transformation.

Let’s look at financial institutions as an example. The 10th annual Retail Banking Trends and Priorities report revealed that, “while many organizations quickly created ways for consumers to open accounts and apply for loans using digital channels, the consumer experience remains far from satisfactory. In fact, most organizations believe they had fallen behind where they were last year in using data and analytics, supporting innovation, investing in technology, and preparing their teams for a digital future.”

Why might this be? Perhaps it’s because digital transformation is more than a tech upgrade. It’s a holistic shift in the way your organization uses that technology.

Making connections and realizing results

Investments in digital modernization can help your organization stay competitive and responsive to the customer experience. Technology upgrades can provide distinct benefits, such as long-term ROI or faster responsiveness. But these types of projects typically involve an update to or improvement of a solution or technology you already use rather than the implementation of a new way of using technology to approach your business and serve your customers.

But what does digital transformation mean for your organization? And how do you build the leadership mindset, employee skills and technology infrastructure to make it happen?

It starts by understanding that digital transformation is about improving the way employees and customers connect. Organizations sometimes lose sight of what they’re trying to do with digital transformation, but you really have to change your organization and processes.

For example, you can unify online and in-person systems and automate customized offers for customers based on different factors. You can also use enhanced data insights to halt costly advertising generating low-quality leads.

Digital transformation also enhances your ability to integrate with customer relationship management tools such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Salesforce so you can market to your customers in more meaningful and efficient ways.

Don’t stop here

Technical upgrades or digital modernization are certainly an important step toward digital transformation. But stopping there can shortchange your organization, and planning tech upgrades without taking the larger picture into consideration can spell trouble.

Harvard Business Review points to such confusion as a primary reason for the failure of transformation efforts. Rather, businesses should build a strategy around the way their processes and organizational practices can change to take optimal advantage of digital technology’s potential — then implement upgrades as necessary to achieve that vision.

Taking on digital transformation

We recommend keeping these points in mind as you take on digital transformation:

1. Use digital transformation to improve experiences

Your aim in digital transformation should be to improve the employee’s experience of serving customers and the customer’s experience of being served.

For employees, that may mean creating a 360-degree view on one screen of services, service requests and the status of requests. It’s automating data currently tracked in clunky spreadsheets. And it’s consolidating multiple system logins to a single sign on. After all how can you serve the customer if you have that many systems to log into?

For customers, it may mean using first-, second- and third-party data and/or artificial intelligence tools to anticipate and deliver the products consumers are searching for online. It’s using data to improve the “digital body language” of websites and driving customers to the next best online action. It’s knowing more about your customer’s financial search experience before they even reach your website.

2. Integrate systems in real time

Some organizations have many legacy systems that can be difficult to integrate, but it’s not impossible. You have to figure out a way to have an engagement layer — how to integrate data in real time, not in near time, and not in batch processes.

3. Gain leadership buy-in

Digital transformation requires the dedication of your chief executive officer, a plan and a commitment of resources. View digital transformation as akin to the construction of a “digital” branch. And you wouldn’t build a new branch without an architect, the commitment of management, and dedicated personnel and financial resources.

4. Build the strategy, roadmap and plan and then adopt the technology

Taking a technology-first approach to transformation is not the way to go. Digital transformation first requires a holistic look at your organization and the way you function. Then build a strategy, roadmap and plan across each area of the business to determine how to achieve your strategic goals.

Too many organizations chalk up transformation failures to technology. It might not be the technology, though. It might be that you need to look at your people, processes and then technology.

The strategy should have regular milestones, cost estimates and success metrics. And don’t set the plan and forget it — fail fast, be agile, learn from mistakes and adjust along the way.

5. Manage change

Your strategy should include plans to manage the impact of change at the personnel level and across the organizational culture. For instance, as you eliminate paper processes, consider redeploying or upskilling personnel into newly created positions. And don’t assume that everyone is eager to embrace change, especially if they’ve been inundated with new technologies and processes. Build change management into your digital transformation roadmap.

Getting started in digital transformation

Wipfli works with clients every day to bring about digital transformation. We provide business intelligence and analytics to drive better decision making. We shore up gaps in your digital maturity, strategy and security. We even implement and manage the technology applications that modernize your systems and transform your business. Learn more about our digital services.

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Billy Collins
Senior Manager
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