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Normalising the digital: Beginner’s guide to DX


Johannesburg, 22 May 2020
Read time 8min 50sec

Digital transformation or DX is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of CEOs everywhere when forced to reassess the future of their businesses. “What is digital transformation?”, “How do we transform?” and “We aren’t a digital company, why should we care?” are all common questions that crop up when the topic of digital transformation rears its head.

“Put simply, if you don’t digitally transform your business, you’re in trouble, as was seen recently with the scramble of businesses to enable their staff to work from home with the onset of lockdown restrictions,” explains Peter Scheffel, chief digital officer at international custom software solutions development company, BBD.

“COVID-19 was the one event no C-suite anticipated. It separated those businesses that transformed when there was the opportunity to, against those that did not.” Digital transformation is a simple enough truth to get to grips with, but rather complex to implement. If the extent of your DX understanding is scanning and saving documents to a computer, read on – DX is critical to your business’s survival, and will become even more so as the world establishes a new norm we all will have to align to.

Key digital transformation considerations

So, what exactly is digital transformation? Put simply, it is the use of technology to reimagine and reinvent your core business, both from a client servicing point of view, as well as a culture and operations point of view. But there are a few more things to consider when first encountering DX:

1. A necessary shift in mindset

Although it is about using technology to optimise and reinvent your business processes, DX is more about a shift in mindset and how you approach your business strategies and value propositions. DX goes beyond upgrading your business’s technical infrastructure; its successful implementation relies heavily on re-envisioned business thinking and strategies in the minds of your employees.

2. Thinking like your customer

The shifting customer market is coming to expect DX from you and other service providers. Strategies such as being ‘always on’ and automating your processes all contribute to a transformed and enhanced value proposition. Pushing the envelope to constantly find new ways of offering value is imperative in a digitally transformed economy and embracing the benefits of DX from the point of view of your customer will help your employees shift their thinking. From there, strategies and approaches can be reassessed with digitalisation and ultimate customer value in mind.

3. The changing competitor landscape

The reality of today’s world is that your core systems, customer service and distribution channels all need to reach a broader audience, quicker and at a lower cost in order to meet customer expectation, giving you the upper hand over your competitors. But the competitive landscape of your industry – and every industry – is changing, and new competitors with considerable brand equity who have made the shift to digital are emerging in markets you’ve served for decades. The essence of their competitive edge lies not only in the fact that they have a digital offering, but that within their digital advantage they prioritise a great user experience and communicating transparently in layman’s terms.

4. It all comes down to your customer experience

A pleasant customer experience is a must in an environment where your customer can easily access your product or service digitally, with no inertia, via a personalised experience that has been tailored to them, based on your proactive use of the data gathered about your customer. “Technologies such as big data and AI help us to collect data about our customers, process it and output a meaningful, personalised experience that allows us to better meet their needs,” illustrates Scheffel. The beauty of DX lies in how you can learn more about your customer based on their engagement with your digitalisation, and thus better service them.

How to digitally transform

Now that the value and necessity of DX has been established, you may be wondering just what goes into the process of digitally transforming. Being at the forefront of software development and IT services for 35 years, BBD has first-hand experience in what it takes to digitally transform enterprises. Below are their top tips to get your digital transformation journey under way:

1. Start small

“Your goal should be to change your organisation to adapt quickly and be able to move faster to market, as speed to market is key in a digitally transformed world,” explains Scheffel. While digital transformation is an exciting undertaking that will eventually impact every sphere of your business, actual implementation should be done steadily and incrementally as a full-scale overhaul may hinder rather than help your efforts.

  • Start with identifying one area in your business involving customers that can be transformed.
  • Allocate a smaller, less risky budget that won’t raise the eyebrows of key stakeholders.
  • Recruit a small team, with a clear plan in place, to ensure no decisions or steps in the development process are lost in the often inescapable sea of organisational bureaucracy.

2. Deal with your existing architecture and debt

Truthfully speaking, your existing data architecture systems will impede your digital transformation efforts sooner or later. “Data quality and attention to architecture over the years – or lack thereof – will be highlighted when you transform to digital. If there has been any neglect in this space, the effect will be amplified for your customer,” explains Scheffel. The best strategy here is to industrialise your platform, either by migrating, re-hosting or rearchitecting it using cloud technology. As a Microsoft Azure, AWS and CloudFront partner, BBD’s team of certified cloud professionals know how to find a reliable and secure solution, using the above’s vast offering of services, to provide ultimate business flexibility and adaptability. “Being cloud enabled is an essential pillar to digital transformation and knowing the importance of cloud technology in today’s business landscape cannot be overstated.” Not only is building a platform more efficient, it is often also more cost-effective in the long run.

3. Talk to your customer

No matter where your business finds itself in its transformation journey, it is imperative to constantly talk to your customers, identify their problems and build solutions quickly and efficiently. And when defining these solutions, identifying the first imperative features and establishing the shortest route to achieving them is necessary to ensure you maintain the speed of delivery synonymous with digital transformation, while meeting your customers' expectation for ease of access and personalised experiences. Through a thorough analysis of your technological and business landscape, BBD can optimise your business processes by helping you devise digital strategies that harness the power of emerging and existing technology in a coherent and effective way, ultimately letting you best serve your customer.

4. The importance of agile feature teams

As mentioned, small teams are a necessary starting point when shifting to digital. Having what’s known as a “feature team” (a team that is deployed to work on one specific feature from planning through to development and deployment) that is agile in practice and able to quickly and efficiently make decisions and implement changes is paramount to ensuring your business can deliver optimally. BBD teams ensure quick delivery of quality solutions, often by adopting an agile approach, no matter the client or digital transformation need. Along with establishing the right feature team, it may be wise to start creating, scheduling and implementing release cycles to ensure your transformation plans are plotted on a logical and realistic timeline, and that the entire team has the full project picture in mind.

5. A word on scalability

When adopting technologies to spearhead your digital transformation, whether it be a mobile first, progressive Web app, AI or machine learning approach, remember that showing functionality is initially more important than scalability. Part of starting small is getting a functional prototype into the hands of your customers quickly. Once your product starts growing, you can tackle the issue of scaling your platform to accommodate. This is something BBD does best – their systems and integration experience has led to the creation of numerous project accelerators, which allow for quick and efficient ramping up of service offering solution. These accelerators include a customisable rules engine and automation and orchestration processor.

6. Moving forward

When you find your business thriving from DX, the only way to maintain the momentum of your newfound optimisation is to ensure you implement a culture of agility and adaptability to ensure you remain ahead of the technology curve: “Remember, new tools, new processes and new governance will all affect your operations model – be sure to adapt accordingly by embracing agility,” advises Scheffel.

As for your technological infrastructure, BBD’s maintenance and support services can keep your systems streamlined and stress-free. They do this by employing best practice techniques to maximise your programmes, increase system productivity and reduce downtime. All of these are a desirable must in the digitally transformed market where client service is paramount, adaptability is fundamental and simply going digital is necessary for ultimate survival.

The working world has shifted immensely recently, and businesses must prepare for a more challenging business environment. Customers’ spending capability has been dramatically affected and businesses now need to transform in order to cater for continued social distancing and new ways of living and working. BBD is well-positioned to enable the digital transformation of your business in this new reality, ultimately allowing your customers to adapt to, and embrace, the new normal. Happy transforming!

If you’d like some more insights on the ins and outs of getting DX right, listen to BBD’s recent podcast: https://bit.ly/2ZoyORV

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