Does “digital transformation” sound to you like something Harry Potter might perform with his magic wand? Abracadabra-shazam! Your business now runs itself. Keep the invisible cape as a bonus.
If you’re skeptical about what digital transformation could really do for your business, your hesitancy is warranted. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), “only 30% of digital transformations succeed in reaching their goals.” Even if you’re a betting person, those are dismal odds.
BCG should know the risks. The leading business research firm Forrester recently named the US consulting firm a leader in digital transformation services that deliver true value in terms of the customer experience and the bottom line.
According to BCG, the key to beating the odds and succeeding at digital transformation is “strategic insight”. They claim that “grounding your plans and priorities in clear strategic insight can flip the odds of success from 30% to 80%.”
But “strategic insight” sounds a bit mystical, doesn’t it? Like something you might need a crystal ball to reveal. You can’t really develop strategy until you gain insight, and insight isn’t something you can pick up along with file folders on your next trip to the office supply store.
You can, however, achieve insight through a disciplined process of discovery, analysis, and outcomes-based planning. No magic, just a lot of due diligence, which pays off in digital initiatives that boost efficiency, raise profitability, and foster innovation.
No one can walk this walk for you because insight is “inner sight”—it’s deep knowledge rooted in your organization, not imposed by an outside expert.
That’s why at iTransform we guide clients through an in-depth process to build a winning strategy, one step at a time. This method produces a digital roadmap that includes not just “plans and priorities” but also detailed directions for implementing digital solutions and measuring their impact.
What is a digital roadmap?
A digital roadmap is both a plan and a process.
In its final form, the roadmap gives you a clear path from your most pressing business problems to digital solutions that will resolve them and open up opportunities for innovation. While each roadmap is tailored to the organization’s specific needs, typically this plan:
- Identifies specific opportunities to improve business performance in areas such as operational efficiency, profitability, and the customer experience
- Sets a realistic budget, with breathing space to allow for changes as your digital initiatives evolve.
- Lists clear action steps that will take you from your current state to a future, digitally-empowered state.
- Targets “quick wins,” small investments that deliver immediate benefits, allowing you to reinvest in larger-scale initiatives.
- Provides guidance to help create the culture and training opportunities that will support your team as they implement digital solutions.
- Establishes key performance metrics (KPIs) that will enable you to monitor new initiatives and track your success.
But the plan gives only part of the picture—because a digital roadmap is as much about mindset as it as about measurable results.
Creating a digital roadmap requires you to approach business modernization with a traveler mentality. You must embrace the journey because it will be ongoing.
Digital transformation is not a final destination, a Mecca at the end of the pilgrim’s trail. Neither is digitally optimizing your business a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Starting down the path of digital transformation means gearing up for the long term, preparing to repeat the digital roadmap process and over again as your business grows.
What are the steps in the digital roadmap process?
At iTransform, we guide small and medium-sized businesses through a six-step process that engages both leaders and employees in the discovery and planning phases:
1. Discovery Session
In this initial conversation with your leadership team, we scrutinize your business from end to end. Before we can recommend any improvements, we need to understand your business model, your current strategic goals, and the barriers that are standing between you and those goals.
Together, we examine each business function, keeping an eye out for hitches in the workflow, other inefficiencies, and employee frustrations. These issues point us to opportunities—places in the business where you could implement a digital solution to improve or enhance performance.
2. Digital Maturity Assessment
Once we’ve identified the most pressing business problems, it’s time to gauge the state of your current digital foundation. What knowledge, tools, and cultural strengths can we build on as we develop a plan to modernize your business?
To complete the Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA), we get input from leaders, members of your IT team (if you have one), and front-line employees. Depending on the size of your company, we may do this through a survey or one-on-one conversations. Either way, the investigation gives us critical intelligence we need to develop a workable strategy for your business, including information about different perspectives among your team.
To get your business where you want it to go, we must make sure we build digital capability and capacity one step at a time. Misjudging your level of digital maturity can result in a plan that disappoints because it either forces you to stretch too far, or it doesn’t stretch you far enough to make a real difference.
3. Design Thinking Session
With the background research complete, the next step is a design thinking session involving key stakeholders. Modernizing your business requires a team effort, so it’s crucial to engage the right people in this creative conversation.
That may mean including a range of team members, from those who make budget decisions to employees from areas such as production and customer service. The more you can engage your team in early conversations about digital transformation, the better your chances of getting their buy-in. And as you well know, without your team’s willing participation, the greatest plan will never fly.
During the design thinking session, you and your team participate in interactive activities to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking. Focusing on the outcomes you want to achieve, together we explore various ways we could achieve those objectives. You may be surprised to discover the creative solutions that result from the facilitated discussions and activities. In fact, if you’re not surprised, we’re not doing our job!
4. Digital Discovery
Following the design thinking session, we move into the analysis phase. In consultation with your team, we assess the feasibility of the various solutions brainstormed during the design thinking session.
This means getting up-close-and-personal with the processes and tools you currently use to get work done. It also requires us to wear our Technology Skeptic hat. Based on our experience with small and medium-sized businesses like yours, we can distinguish a “digital fantasy” from a genuine digital fix. Keeping the unique needs of your organization in mind, we’re able to sift out solutions that wouldn’t suit your circumstances.
The outcome of the digital discovery phase is a list of specific recommendations to move your business toward modernization. These proposed digital initiatives rely on right-sized, workable solutions your team can get behind.
5. Business Idea Validation
But we don’t want you to just take our word for it. You’re the expert on your business, and we need to make sure that the changes we’ve proposed will work for your team.
The next analytical step, then, is for us to collaborate on validating the proposed solutions. During this process, we keep our eyes fixed on the business outcomes, not the technology. At the end of the day, digital transformation is about moving your business forward, not about chasing after shiny new technology.
6. Adapted Digital Roadmap Delivery
Finally, we’re ready for the drum roll. The discovery and analysis is complete, and the result is a digital roadmap adapted to your specific business needs. This document describes the steps to execute, provides a timeline, and assigns responsibilities. But it’s more than a work plan. It also includes metrics (KPIs) so you can track and measure success.
The roadmap is adapted to your special business circumstances—and it’s also designed so it can continue to adapt as those circumstances change. Milestones and KPIs give you clear checkpoints so you can assess what’s working and what needs to work better, adjusting as necessary.
Because you and your team have participated in developing the roadmap, it’s a document you can own with pride. It’s yours to grow into and yours to evolve as your business develops and becomes more digitally mature.
What can you expect from the mapping process?
First, you should expect the unexpected. If the changes your organization needs to make were obvious, there would be no need for in-depth discovery, analysis, and planning. So be prepared to step outside the zone of Business as Usual and explore innovative ideas that won’t just upgrade your business but transform it.
Second, expect to invest your time and energy in the process. Insight, remember, comes from within, so your collaboration in the research, inquiry, and analysis is key. You don’t want a paint-by-number roadmap; that’s something you can pick up at the corner gas station. To engineer your organization’s digital future, you want a personalized itinerary, and you’ll get that only by participating in the planning.
Third, expect to engage in challenging discussions with your team, not just about technology but also about your business’s values, work practices, attitudes toward customers, and other cultural norms. As you envision the future together, you’ll no doubt work through some conflicting assumptions and ideas. These discussions offer great opportunities for strengthening your culture and reminding your team of why you’re in business and why your organization is such a wonderful place to work.
It may sound cliché, but it’s true: the future isn’t something that happens to you—it’s something you create. Collaborating to produce a digital roadmap gives you and your team the opportunity to imagine an inspiring future you can all commit to creating together.