Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about digital transformation

Abstract image depicting technological advancement with diagonal lines in purple, white, pink, and navy blue, symbolizing digital progress and forward movement.

Digital transformation involves a cultural shift of the entire business. It’s not just something that you can switch ‘on’. It involves everyone in the business, and it requires time, investment and commitment. Understanding this is key to running a successful transformation project.

Kit Cox

Founder and CTO at Enate

Technological advances in AI and intelligent automation are paving the way for huge shifts in not only where we work, but how we work and the kind of work we are able to do. Today’s IT leaders have the huge task of delivering this digital transformation while ensuring they lock in a strong commitment to change from the wider company culture, carrying over legacy systems and work, with minimal disruption to business as usual. No big deal, right?

Digital transformation is occurring at a rapid pace across sectors, so no matter what industry you’re in, digital innovation should be a headline priority. From work systems or sales and operations routines to online meeting software, there is a clear need to consolidate tasks and make everything as digitally functional as it can be in order to maximise productivity and functionality. More than just a pathway to extra efficiency, digital transformation is a non-negotiable undertaking for businesses wishing to stay competitive in a market evolving at breakneck speed.

We’re going to cover every aspect of digital transformation, from the reasons many projects fail to the tactics to make sure yours is a success. First, let’s start by looking at what digital transformation means when it comes to business.

What is digital transformation?

Infographics for blue digital data to segregation

Digital transformation uses new technologies to improve and refine business operations on both a macro and micro scale. The goal is to deliver better customer and employee experiences, manage business risk, and save money. Think of it like a full digital makeover for your company.

There can be a vast array of tools, solutions, and procedures involved in a digital transformation endeavour, dependent on the unique demands of a business and its existing set-up and objectives. For many, digital transformation is a wide-ranging move away from individual, siloed processes or environments towards an integrated solution.

Without a plan to strategically digitise, organisations can find themselves left in the dust by competitors who can use their technology to work more effectively and at greater scale. Usually, there’s process orchestration and automation at play, a combination that synthesises the backend, so the employee and customer experience at the front end is outstanding.

Digital transformation not only helps companies stay on the cutting edge of technology, but also creates the agile infrastructure necessary to constantly innovate and adapt to rapid change and consumer demands.

Why is digital transformation important?

AI tools will enhance workflows, freeing up employees for high-value tasks, boosting efficiency, and creating growth opportunities. I fully expect that AI will be a crucial tool for creating lasting relationships with customers and employees, ensuring retention through personalized digital transformation experiences.

Katie Swannell Gibbs

UK CEO at Cognition

Businesses are investing in digital transformation for a reason. The benefits are big and plentiful, here are the main ones.

  • Getting hyper-efficient. When solutions like a centralised system are introduced to a business, workflows, and communication flow smoothly.
  • Cutting costs. Organisations get x-ray vision into their operations, illuminating pesky bottlenecks and unnecessary hold-ups
  • Giving customers more. An upgraded and tailored service does wonders for your reputation and gives your customers a better experience than ever before.
  • Making every minute count. When dull and repetitive tasks are automated, your staff have more time to spend on the work that really matters.
  • A data goldmine. Predictive analytics and machine learning, among other technologies, give you superior insights and pave the way for data-driven decisions.

However, although the rise of AI comes with plenty of opportunities to accelerate digital transformation, it also comes with a suite of challenges such as the threat of jobs. Enate’s Founder, Kit Cox, believes augmentation is the answer.

We all know we need a productivity boost in the economy, and it’s true that AI's the golden ticket for that. But here's the kicker – it's not about AI taking over jobs; it's about AI giving jobs a supercharge in terms of digital transformation.

Kit Cox

Founder and CTO at Enate

What is the link between digital transformation and customer experience?

Successful transformation requires clear planning for delivery, collaboration with stakeholders, and taking into account the end-to-end view of the customer experience.

Gerald Pullen

Managing Director at Gobeyond Partners

One effect of digital transformation is the way it’s impacting customer expectations. As businesses modernise, it’s customer experience that sets a product or service apart from the rest, driving innovation and upping the competitive ante. Customers expect a consistent, unified experience across all channels, devices, and interactions - making a long-term digital transformation strategy vital.

If customer experience is the driver of digital transformation, then there is a clear need to have a real understanding of your customers. Ask yourself, what are they looking for in a digital customer experience? What are their pain points? What expectations towards a digital experience do they have? Data and analytics are the key to answering these questions, along with a system to make changes happen and a holistic interpretation of results. Even digitally, no interaction occurs in a vacuum, and a true digital transformation must touch on all aspects of a digital journey.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process, what works today may not work tomorrow, and the true secret to success is keeping the customer at the centre of your digital strategy.

4 main areas of digital transformation

vector showing data graphics from computer

While digital transformation comes in many forms, these are the four areas its most advantageous to focus on.

1. Customer experience

Customer expectations are constantly evolving. Investing in digital transformation is an impactful method to keep up the pace and continually improve the customer experience.

Make it user friendly

A well-designed, easy-to-navigate website (whether on a desktop, tablet or phone) is a must. This is an important part of your brand image, but it also plays a role in converting visitors to paying customers. Most people spend time browsing and researching before committing to a purchase and a difficult-to-use website is a quick way to a high bounce rate.

Next-level communication

Live chat and chatbots are increasingly popular methods for customer service, providing a significantly faster way for customers to get their problems and answers resolved. Removing the need to spend ages listening to hold music, or waiting for an email response, means swift communication and happier customers.

Improved wait times

Another way to reduce the workload for your employees is to automate processes where possible. In the retail sector, for example, returns and exchanges can often be processed online without a customer having to get in contact. The entire process is automated from start to finish, minimising frustrating delays.

In the banking sector, for example, new customer information needs to be verified under a Customer IdentificationProgram (CIP) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) record. This can be slow when done manually, but automating this procedure saves time and reduces the risk of error.

2. Data and analytics

To train and use AI models for digital transformation, you need to share data with them. Start by getting a grip on your data management rules. Clearly define what data can and can’t be shared with public and private AI models.

Kit Cox

Founder and CTO at Enate

Using digital technologies to collect and analyse data will help support your organisation in numerous ways.

Enriched data quality

Many organisations are still dealing with bad data that is poorly recorded and unreliable, but installing a digital model is the first step to fixing this. The result? More reliable data sets and improved analytics are of higher value to your business.

Leave legacy systems in the past

If your business still uses an ancient legacy system, you’re not alone. You may also be familiar with how expensive they can be to maintain and the difficulties of integrating them with the rest of your systems. Upgrading to an end-to-end solution will save you money in the long run, plus it will greatly improve your data procedures and security.

Solve data silos

When one part of your organisation has access to a data set, but it’s isolated from the rest, it restricts information sharing and collaboration across departments. This gives different teams and departments an inhibited view of the wider business and obscures the bigger picture. Centralising your data allows for easier access and better analysis.

3. Business model transformation

Organisations that are quick to adapt to the developing digital landscape have a significant advantage over their competitors. With technical innovation, the reimagining of your business model must follow. There are two aspects of this to consider.

Redefining your business operating model

The world is constantly changing and you must plan how your company will respond. Revisit the fundamentals, such as the exact purpose of your business, what your goals are, the way you will operate to achieve these goals, and the leadership that will steer you there.

Prioritise customer insight

How well do you know your customers? This knowledge is particularly valuable when understood in direct correlation to their business operating model capability. Customer segmentation, journey mapping, and value engineering are all essential components of this.

4. Digital operations

Efficiency starts with the ability to view, manage, and track all work using one end-to-end system. This is where Enate can empower you to achieve your targets. Here are some of the key areas in which our platform can transform your digital operations.

  • Visibility and autonomy. Why is your Berlin team more productive than your London team? Enate opens up a full-picture view, helping you to identify weaknesses and make impactful changes.
  • One simple platform. With Enate you can manage and organise all work on one intuitive system. Scattered processes are streamlined in one place and interdepartmental communication flows freely.
  • Automation. Enate allows you to integrate with technology partners at UI Path and Blue Prism, so you can automate repetitive tasks. While robots can speed up task efficiency, keeping humans in the loop will ensure you can troubleshoot any problems that arise.
  • Operational clarity. Never drop the ball again. Assign the right task to the right human (or digital worker) and get work done on time. Clear timeframes, responsibilities and workflows assist with productivity across the board.

Reasons why digital transformation projects fail

Failure in digital transformation can come from a lack of clarity on the problem, overemphasis on ‘cutting-edge’ technology rather than alignment with strategy, overlooking essential project disciplines, insufficient executive sponsorship and funding, and a lack of the right team with the right skills.

Gerald Pullen

Managing Director at Gobeyond Partners

Statistics from Deloitte show that an astonishing 70% of projects fail. This digital transformation failure rate is naturally a concern for those considering making their own changes. Transformation requires a significant investment of time, money and resources. As such, few can afford to see their efforts fall flat.

Understanding how many digital transformations fail is the key to achieving success yourself and narrowed it down to the five main culprits.

1. Lack of defined goals

When you see your competitors making big changes and upgrades, it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon as quickly as possible. No one wants to be left behind, but adopting digital transformation measures without a clear idea of what you want to achieve is one of the biggest reasons for failure.

You need to know what success looks like for you beyond a shiny new website or futuristic-looking technologies. Is it improved efficiency? If so, in which areas? Perhaps you’d like to increase your profits, in which case, you need to set a clear target.

This will help you avoid the trap of all-flash and no substance. More importantly, it will give you direction, inform your budget, and enable you to set an actionable timeline.

2. Being unprepared for setbacks

As with any project, digital transformation is not always smooth sailing, especially when making big changes. A good example of this would be upgrading from an old legacy system to a new model, with all the data and intricacies that this involves.

Even with the greatest care and planning, there is always the possibility things can go awry e.g. migrating to a new system may take longer than expected. So before you start any project you need to anticipate the potential setbacks. Think about how you will respond to them in advance, so you’re not caught by surprise.

Most importantly, in the event a project is delayed, you need to have a contingency plan in place. This will offset any potential financial impact and keep everything afloat until you can get back on track.

3. Conflicting priorities

The reality is that within any organisation, priorities on digital transformation are not going to be uniformly the same. This starts with leadership, where you may find it challenging to get the support and funding necessary to implement your plan.

What’s more, priorities from department to department can be vastly different. The finance and accounting departments may want to improve internal efficiency and improve work processes. Whilst the marketing department is focused on increasing external website traffic.

Getting the organisation behind a unified vision is the goal here, which is achievable through strong leadership, cohesive management, and a clear step-by-step plan for change.

4. Poor technology adoption

When it comes to selecting new software or technologies to install, the choice can be overwhelming. This is a decision worth taking your time over. Do your research and carefully consider your needs, because one of the most expensive causes of digital transformation failure is choosing the wrong technology.

Businesses are often working with ancient legacy systems and decide to install new software to improve their processes. If this is the case, you don’t want to find out that it’s incompatible, fragmented, or not fitting with the needs of your business. Choosing incompatible technology could mean that the whole system breaks, which defeats the object entirely. You need to confirm with your technology partners early on that any new software you adopt will work effectively with your existing systems.

5. Poor internal engagement

When moving forward with digital transformation, be sure to align ops and IT teams on goals and get buy-in from senior stakeholders early on.  Introducing Orchestration is a change management exercise, as it impacts the way you organize and assign work.  There is no way round this and no promise that you can deliver 20% productivity without changing a few things.

James Hall

CEO of Enate

People can be creatures of habit. Introducing new technologies into their working lives may not always be welcome, or you may encounter some change management resistance in getting your employees to engage as they should with new technologies.

This can be frustrating when a lot of money and resources have been invested in providing these upgrades. However, more often than not, the reason for this resistance is a lack of confidence in the new system or a fear of the unknown, making it easier to fall back into the old way of doing things.

The solution to this is training. A detailed and structured training plan is integral to digital transformation and will help get your workforce fully on board.

Digital transformation dos and don'ts

Digital transformation is an evolving project that requires an overarching strategic plan and cultural change rather than a quick fix.

Gerald Pullen

Managing Director at Gobeyond Partners

Our own research with Shared Services Link found that despite so much technology at our fingertips, many senior leaders are swamped with manual work (43%) and rely on manual methods such as excel to track the progress of tasks (63%).

To help ensure success, we've compiled a list of do's and don'ts for digital transformation, with the help of Cognition.

Dos and don’ts of digital transformation

We asked Katie Swannell-Gibbs, UK CEO at Cognition and member of the Intelligent Automation Collection to share her expertise on digital transformation. These are her trusted do’s and don’ts…

DO Focus on the overall digital strategy

Often when business leaders think about the IT tools they need, they are thinking of how to solve a very particular problem. Many haven’t taken a step back and thought about what technology the organisation needs as a whole in order to fulfil its overall strategy.

DO Prioritise change management

At the heart of any tech project must be the people who use it. Delivering real and lasting transformation typically requires a major reset in mind-sets and behaviours, something that few leaders know how to achieve. Make this a focus.

DO Secure the support of executive leadership

Get buy-in from the top early on. You need the new technologies and processes you implement to be embraced organisation-wide.

DO Get on with it

Business transformation can feel a little overwhelming. You can spend ages investigating, analysing and discussing transformation without having anything meaningful to show for it.  The only way you are going to know if your plan is going to work is to try it. Get started to defeat analysis paralysis.

DON’T Believe the tech hype

With all the noise surrounding shiny new tech, it’s easy for business leaders to get carried away by the promises of greater efficiency and cost savings. Having a clear strategy and trusted partners is crucial.

DON’T Underestimate perception

Many people fear losing their job to a robot! Reframe transformation plans as augmentation, rather than artificial intelligence, and emphasise that technology empowers people to work more intelligently.

DON’T Be afraid to outsource tech

High competition for IT talent can make it difficult to recruit the workers needed to carry out tech projects successfully. That’s why it’s important to act quickly when you know you need outside help

DON’T Make processes ‘one size fits all’

Flexibility is key when dealing with different regions, customer expectations, and service demands. Resist the urge to standardise processes across the board and instead focus on achieving a consistent experience.

How long should digital transformation take?

There is no definitive answer to how long a digital transformation project will take, but you can make a rough estimate based on the size of your business. Gerard Pullen, Managing Director at Gobeyond Partners, advises:

“Aim for around 6-12 months for small organizations, 12-18 months for medium, and 18-24 months for large organizations.”

There are a few other contributing factors that will also affect your timeframe. The first consideration is how ready your business is for transformation, for example, the state and age of your existing systems and processes. Your project can also be affected by the length of time it takes to approve your budget and plan. Finally, the complexity and scale of your organisation must also be taken into account. Naturally, the more wide-reaching and complicated your operations are, the longer it will take.

Remember, transformation is not an overnight fix or as simple as adopting new technologies and letting the chips fall where they may. Successful transformation requires a complete cultural shift, which can only be achieved through a comprehensive strategy that’s fully aligned with your business goals.

The future of digital transformation

In 2024, those already experienced in AI deployment and transformation, labeled as 'Stormers,' will significantly expand their AI usage within the initial stages of service operations. By employing AI at scale, Stormers will enhance their inbound communication and service delivery efficiency. Meanwhile, 'Strivers'—those new to AI—will begin their journey by implementing AI in decision-making processes, focusing on customer intent categorization and sentiment analysis. As ‘Strivers’ grapple with their inaugural AI projects, ‘Stormers’ will solidify their lead in service operations, showcasing a clear divide in AI maturity and application.

Kit Cox

Founder and CTO at Enate

Every business will need to make critical decisions around technology adoption and strategic planning that will have long-lasting consequences, for good or bad, in the years ahead. These aspects of digital transformation are likely to be of greatest import going forward.

Strategic adoption of AI

The automation capabilities of AI are set to raise the bar in operational efficiency, opening up growth opportunities for businesses of all sizes. This essentially removes the choice of adopting AI. Those businesses that strategically integrate AI into their operations will position themselves as industry leaders, while those who fail to do so will struggle to remain competitive.

Data challenges

While organisations may sprint towards automation, there are likely to be some stumbling blocks up ahead. Data quality, security, and compliance will be pressing issues, potentially hindering the realisation of the full potential of AI-driven tech. Managing the vast data sets required for this task will demand a comprehensive data strategy.

Regulatory navigation

Big regulatory changes are looming and businesses will need to be ready. As Kit Cox says,

“2024 is shaping up to be a game-changer for AI regulation. It looks like the EU AI Act might finally kick in, and it's a big deal. It's not just about ticking boxes; it's going to affect how we all work with AI, big time. Organisations are going to need to be properly on top of compliance as they deploy and roll out AI.”

Citizen development and no-code tools

The democratisation of technology has arrived in the form of citizen development and no-code tools. These tools are set to be trending upwards going forward, due to their easy accessibility to those without technical expertise. Low and no-code tools come with serious cost-saving, customer experience, and employee engagement benefits, unlocking innovation in operations and people.

Managed services

The technical debt created by Automation Centers of Excellence (COEs) is already prompting businesses to rethink their strategies. As they seek to offload the complexities of managing automation initiatives, they are turning to managed services. This shift will become increasingly popular as companies seek the long-term agility and scalability of automation.

About Enate

No matter what stage of your digital transformation journey you are at, Enate can help you to accelerate your digital transformation journey. Our workflow orchestration software wraps around your current tech stack and legacy systems and everyone in the business can be trained to use it. Automate repetitive tasks, organise operations, assign the right work to the right resource and get the job done on time.