Embracing digital transformation

Posted: Dec 1, 2020

As we've all learned in 2020, the business landscape can change in an instant and it's hard not to notice the reality of digital transformation and the impact it is having on many. Transforming work processes to digital has been a top outcome of the pandemic for many businesses. According to recent research digital transformation will be critical to business recovery in 2021 following the impact of Covid-19. Head of Digital Jo Gibson gives her veiw on digital transformation.

Since the 90’s the pace of change has been gradually increasing to the exponential rate of change that we are observing today. The last few decades have seen the spread of digital technology from almost exclusive use by the military and research professions to almost every aspect of modern living, both in society and business . Whether it’s “Alexa, what time is it?” or using automated fork lift trucks in modern warehousing facilities there is no escaping it!

And it’s not about to slow any time soon, the latest buzz words of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Business Intelligence (BI), Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT) are banded about in connection with anything loosely connected with data processing or data analytics and lets not get started with blockchain!

One of the questions I am regularly asked is whether the robots are taking over? To which my response is it depends! We are seeing digital technology replace or certainly reduce the need for low skilled labour across a number of sectors, (just think about the future of Amazon deliveries by drone!) and whether you use this as an opportunity to reduce costs or re-deploy precious resource to other areas of your business, it presents you with an opportunity to drive your business forward that didn’t exist previously.

Having spent a considerable amount of time discussing digital transformation with owner managed and privately-owned businesses throughout the North West, the attitude to embracing “digital” has a very wide spectrum as does people’s perception of what digital means for them and their business.

Jo Gibson

Some are starting their transformation journeys slowly with small areas of automation such as invoice processing or automatic bank feeds and gradually building a modular solution approach so that they can make changes when they have time and causing minimal business interruption.

Others are taking the global business view to understand companywide what the opportunities are, assessing the impact, cost and urgency before rolling out a firm wide strategic plan and making wholescale changes to the fundamentals of how the business operates.

As with all things, there is no one size fits all solution.

Embrace change: It is coming whether you like it or not and will fundamentally change how we all do business in the future. HMRC have been a significant catalyst with the introduction of MTD for VAT, and they are not stopping there. They envisage all taxes being digital in the none too distant future.

Have a clear digital strategy: Invest time in exploring what the opportunities and challenges for your business are and have a plan of where you want to be and how you are going to get there.
Accept that you may not be the best person for the job: As a business owner you should be focusing on where you add most value to the business, and the likelihood is, is  that it’s not in implementing your new technology strategy. So understand if the skill sets exist in your business, and if they don’t, outsource or recruit individuals who are better suited to change management, implementation and learning new technology.
Small efficiency savings add up: Automation of a single manual process which saves just 1 hour a week is the equivalent of creating an extra week’s capacity over the course of the year. Imagine the impact of saving two or three people over 5 hours a week and the savings soon add up.
Make your data work for you: You are constantly collecting invaluable data in your business on a daily basis, whether its product, customer, supplier or operational information, but how well do you use it? Making some basic changes to what and how you capture the information can give you the opportunity to have better insight into your business operations and help you make better informed and insightful decisions in real-time.
Spend wisely and understand the pricing: Most SaaS (Software as a Service) products are subscription based and dependent upon the number of users or transactions. What is a cost-effective solution today may not be as you scale your business. In addition, most software is priced on per entity basis so you may need to duplicate the cost if you have multiple companies.
Be wary of the ‘new kid on the block’: The approach to software development has changed with products often taken to market earlier on in their development stage with new customers as the test subjects. So I would always recommend that you try before you buy. Most SaaS providers offer free demo’s which can be invaluable in assessing whether it suits your needs and understanding any limitations.

Employee expectations are changing: As generation Z are becoming an increasing proportion of the workforce and Alpha generation not too far behind, it is unsurprising that the workforce of the future expects their employers to be more digitally enabled. After all they will be the first generations to have grown up with smart phones and voice commands as mainstream technology. So in the ever-competitive market of attracting and retaining talent, how digitally enabled you are will become an influencing factor.

Regardless of how you embrace ‘digital’, it is important to remember that all areas of commerce and business require judgement and decision making and how skilled you are at this dictates how successful you are. Using technology to assist you in making better informed and thought through decisions can only ultimately help you succeed, but it can’t make the instinctive judgements and decisions that make entrepreneurs what they are.

Ultimately it will all come down to competition, if your closest rivals are doing it slicker, quicker and more cost effectively than you are, irrespective of your industry, you will get left behind. The only thing that is constant is change and the pace is quickening. The earlier you can get on that treadmill, the less risk you will have of falling off it!

If you would like to learn more about the journey to digitilisation, feel free to contact a member of the HURST Digital team either by emailing inspired@hurst.co.uk or by calling 0161 477 2474.