60-minute plan to move your business light years ahead

Any journey, starts with a plan and in just one hour, using nothing but pen and paper, you can lay the groundwork for a plan to take your company from its current state to a future, fully digital state.

Shifting from a traditional business to a fully modernized business can feel like participating in the space race of the 1960s. Morphing your company processes from manual-based systems to technology-enabled systems is a shoot-for-the-moon goal.

Only in this case, the competition isn’t just to get to the moon first. It’s also to avoid being left behind when everyone on the planet of Business As We Know It moves to the brave new world of Digital Business.

Without the resources of NASA at your disposal, how can you equip your small or medium-sized company to keep up with changes that are happening at warp speed?

Any journey, even a space odyssey, starts with a plan. And in just one hour, using nothing but pen and paper, you can lay the groundwork for a plan to take your company from its current state to a future, fully digital state.

Start by taking your bearings (20 minutes)

Where are you now in terms of your existing business processes and systems? Draw a chart showing the three kinds of business activities every company engages in:

For each type of activity, write down preliminary answers to the following questions. (You’ll refine your answers later.)

  • What processes have you established?
  • What processes have you started to develop?
  • What elements of technology have you started to use?

As you think about these questions, you might want to start with those aspects of your business where processes appear most obviously, such as finance and accounting. You probably have a process for invoicing, for instance, and for tracking accounts receivable.

Then take your thinking further. Consider ALL the different aspects of your business, from the customer experience to you’re the way you run team meetings.

For example, trace each step of your customer’s journey, from the moment they first hear about your products or services to the moment your relationship with them ends. Are there hidden processes you haven’t officially documented but that serve as unstated “rules” your team follows?

Imagine your destination (20 minutes)

Getting the Apollo 11 crew to the moon took more than technology. First and foremost, it took imagination.

Now that you’ve created a quick overview of how the different aspects of your business are currently working, get bold. Envision how you wish your business could function if it operated as a seamless, smoothly operating organization, from end to end.

Yes, this is about wishing. Throw off the “ifs” and “buts” that limit creativity and indulge in full-blown speculation. One way to do this is to do some quick journaling about the different kinds of experiences you want to deliver to your key stakeholders, including yourself.

Write out short answers to each of the following questions. (Don’t worry about your answers sounding realistic. Remember, this is about imagining—you’ll get practical in the next step.)

Describe the gap between the present and the future (20 mins)

You should now have a clear picture of how your business is running now and how you’d like it to run. The next step is to measure the distance between the present and the future you’ve imagined.

Return to your chart of the three kinds of business activities. What do you need to adjust so that you can fulfill your vision for the customer, employee, and stakeholder experience?

As you review the entries in each column, ask yourself three key questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What could threaten our survival if we don’t fix it?

Capture your reflections in bulleted points or a few sentences. These will give you the outline of a framework you can later use to start creating a metrics-based gap analysis, drawing on the resources of your team.

Next step: turn your preliminary plan into a complete gap analysis

You can only build what you can both imagine and measure. If you’ve completed the three steps above, then you’re well on your way to imagining a fully modernized version of your business. Next, it’s time to get your team involved so you can turn your visionary plan into a strategic plan with precise targets.

Metrics will make this possible. Harness the power of whatever company data you have to create concrete, measurable improvement goals.

Your aim at this stage is to describe in specific, quantitative terms your company’s present state so you can contrast that with the future state you’ve envisioned. Once you’ve done that, you can measure the gap between the two states and devise a step-by-step plan for bridging the distance.

Neil Armstrong didn’t get to the moon on his own, and you won’t make your business moonshot without help either.

Now that you have a vision of how you want your business to evolve, it’s time to get your team excited about it. Enlist their skills and enthusiasm to help you turn your image of the digital future into a paint-by-number canvas you can complete together, one section, and one win, at a time.

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