BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND Beginning a digital transformation can be a daunting task. Jargon and buzzwords confuse us to the point that we’re not sure what to do first, or what some of the technologies can do for us. Rather than focusing on technologies and their specific benefits, start from a business process approach. What does an ideal world look like for you? Does it mean automated material ordering? Can you envision plants that schedule themselves based on booked orders and material availability? Developing and nurturing a future vision will ensure that you’re making the right choices along the way. Define what you want your journey to accomplish, then select technology to meet these goals.
ANALYZE PEOPLE, PROCESS, AND TECHNOLOGY Once you know where you want your journey to take you, you’ll need to understand where you are today by analyzing the current state and effects of change on the people, process, and technology in your organization. For example, what challenges do people face that a digital transformation could solve? Are they entering data multiple times? Do they receive data without context or too late? What about your processes? Will they require significant changes in order to catch up to the vision? Are there certain processes that the solution(s) need to be tailored to accommodate? For the technology piece, ask yourself questions like: Which of my current systems can I leverage as-is? Is the manufacturing equipment capable of communicating with new systems? Don’t be Afraid: 7 Steps for a Successful Digital Transformation Analyzing these things in-depth will allow you to understand the challenges you are about to undertake with open eyes. You will understand what pain points you will encounter, and which areas can provide “quick wins” to gain user adoption and excitement.
CREATE A ROADMAP Once you understand where you are by your People, Process, and Technology (“PPT”) analysis and you have a vision in mind, it’s time to create a roadmap. Inspect each identified area for transformation and determine what needs to occur to complete the objective. Do you need to invest in network infrastructure first because your technology analysis shows that you don’t have the connectivity you need? Perhaps you have identified a quick win by simply going paperless for quality checks. No matter what you find, focus on how you’re going to get from point A to point B.
START SMALL, SCALE FAST One of the reasons digital transformation can sound so intimidating is the sheer scale of work that might need to occur. If you think that attempting an organization-wide digital transformation in one fell swoop is likely to fail, you are correct. Many implementations fail simply because there are too many moving parts and too many processes are changed at one time. Therefore, it is advisable to start small. Remember the quick wins we identified when you analyzed your PPT? Now is the time to go after those. Pick a highROI and highly visible project that can be completed in a short amount of time. Use the momentum to scale and build your digital transformation until your vision is realized. Don’t be afraid to throw quick wins in the middle of your transformation as well! You’ll need to keep people excited about the opportunities in front of them.
HAVE A CHAMPION Even when outside partners are used to develop and deploy your digital transformation it is important to have an internal champion (or several!) to be the face of the transformation and work with all levels of the organization to ensure a successful outcome. This person should be excited about the opportunity and doesn’t need to be a technical person. It is most important that any champion understands the value of the transformation and communicate that to the rest of the organization.
SELECT THE RIGHT PLATFORM(S) In this age, there is an abundance of software available to assist you in your digital transformation. Some are monolithic software platforms that can perform almost any task. Others are point-solutions intended to do only one thing. Depending on what you have defined in your roadmap, you might discover that multiple products fit your needs. Below are a few tips to help you select a product or platform:
- How will you integrate any existing and legacy systems to the new platform? If the new platform provides the same functionality it may be more effective to replace the legacy system than maintaining it for years to come.
- Consider scalability. How will your infrastructure requirements change as the system grows? How will licensing costs change as the scope increases?
- Modularity is a must-have. Why would you want to pay for features you will not be using for a year or two? Paying only for what you are using ensures that you are receiving a payback on your investment.
- Who will implement this? Does the vendor do their own integration? Is there a partner in the space with which to team up?
CHOOSE A PARTNER Digital transformation is not a road you must travel alone. Chose a partner to help you along the way. An ideal partner would have experience in your industry, be qualified to deploy the system(s) you choose and be committed to a mutually beneficial relationship. This allows you to focus on solving the business problems at hand without worrying about implementation details or technical feasibility.