Our era is digital. We learn, work, buy & socialize digitally. None of the B2B and B2C companies can avoid digitalization. This is a real challenge for many traditional companies. But - it is manageable. Above all, higher management pressure can quickly become an incentive when you realize how many new opportunities bring to your business with digitization. It is important that you approach this process of transformation in a structured, open, and understandable manner for your entire team. You can find out how this works in this blog article.
Digitization – what is that actually?
When talking about digitization, two things are important:
- converting analog products/data to digital - for example, scanning a photo or document and storing it on a computer.
- the transformation of social structures that affect all areas of our everyday life, from digital to analog: work, social affairs, shopping, etc.
Digitization – A Definition
Digital transformation is all about using technology to solve traditional problems.
Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change business processes and projects—such as skilling employees to use new software platforms designed to help launch products faster. While digital transformation might include digitalization efforts, it goes beyond the project level and affects the entire organization.
For most companies, digital transformation requires a shift away from traditional thinking and toward a more collaborative, experimental approach. These new ways of approaching work reveal new solutions which, in turn, can improve customer experience, drive employee innovation and spur company growth at the fundamental level.
Nowadays, when we talk about digitization, we usually mean the second definition - the all-encompassing digital change that has found its way into our lives from school to everyday life to work. This goes far beyond purely technical digitization and deals with essential questions: How does digitization affect our society? What can it improve in our work and communication processes? How do I implement it in a way that benefits everyone? This second definition and its questions are explained in this article.
The biggest problems of companies with digitization
Especially companies that are active in classic analog industries are sometimes overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks associated with digitization. The most common difficulties:
- Where to start
A project as large as the digitization of a company requires perspective and overview. Especially at the beginning of this process, many understandably find it difficult and get into a kind of rigid action instead of getting started constructively and systematically.
- Lack of know-how
Many companies would like to play in the front row when it comes to digitizing a market. However, many lack the know-how about what needs to be done and how this is to be implemented.
digitization is terribly expensive! A lot of people think so, but it's not true. Especially not with regard to what you get in return for your investment in restructuring: lasting stability for your company, even in rapidly changing markets.
- No approval from employees
Some employers also fear that digitization will meet with resistance from the employees in their team. After all, everyone is used to the old structures and knows their way around. What if the entire company changes? Employees could lose motivation if they have to learn too many new things. Some even fear for their jobs if they only hear the word "digitization". You should take these uncertainties seriously if you want to successfully introduce digitized processes in your company.
How to Turn a Regular Factory into a Smart Factory | Joachim Hensch | TEDxDEU
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed digital transformation?
"We've seen the COVID crisis rapidly re-shape both the "what" and the "how" of companies' digital transformation agendas.
"Today, with a vast portion of the workforce now remote, employee experience of digital technology has gone from "nice to have" to "the only way work gets done. Consequently, it's getting the problem-solving focus it likely long deserved."
Some other areas of digital transformation efforts that COVID-19 pushed higher on CIO agendas:
- Furthering the reach of customer support via tools including chatbots
- Automation tools for resilience reasons
- Radical housecleaning of redundant or conflicting systems
Twenty-one keys to success
Out of 83 practices that were tested in the survey, the following are those that best explain the success of an organization’s digital transformation:
- Implement digital tools to make information more accessible across the organization.
- Engage initiative leaders (leaders of either digital or non-digital initiatives that are part of the transformation) to support the transformation.
- Modify standard operating procedures to include new digital technologies.
- Establish a clear change story (description of and case for the changes being made) for the digital transformation.
- Add one or more people who are familiar or very familiar with digital technologies to the top team.
- Leaders engaged in transformation-specific roles encourage employees to challenge old ways of working (processes and procedures).
- Senior managers encourage employees to challenge old ways of working (processes and procedures).
- Redefine individuals’ roles and responsibilities so they align with the transformation’s goals.
- Provide employees with opportunities to generate ideas of where digitization might support the business.
- Establish one or more practices related to new ways of working (such as continuous learning, open physical and virtual work environments, and role mobility).
- Engage employees in integrator roles (employees who translate and integrate new digital methods and processes into existing ways of working to help connect traditional and digital parts of the business) to support the transformation.
- Implement digital self-serve technology for employees’ and business partners’ use.
- Engage the leader of a program-management office or transformation office (full-time leader of the team or office dedicated to transformation-related activities) to support the transformation.
- Leaders in transformation-specific roles get more involved in developing digital transformation initiatives than they were in past change efforts.
- Leaders in transformation-specific roles encourage their employees to experiment with new ideas (such as rapid prototyping and allowing employees to learn from their failures).
- Senior managers get more involved in digital initiatives than they were in past change efforts.
- Leaders in transformation-specific roles ensure collaboration between their units and others across the organization when employees are working on transformation initiatives.
- Senior managers ensure collaboration between their units and others across the organization.
- Engage technology-innovation managers (managers with specialized technical skills who lead work on digital innovations, such as the development of new digital products or services) to support the transformation.
- Senior managers encourage their employees to experiment with new ideas.
- Senior managers foster a sense of urgency within their units for making the transformation changes.
With these 12 steps digitization succeeds company-wide
You should meet the above challenges with a structured plan. We have already worked with numerous companies of all sizes and successfully helped them with the digitization process. We have identified 12 steps with which digitization works regardless of the industry and size.
- Analyze your reasons and goals
Is Digitization a must for every business? Yes. But that alone is not enough as motivation if you want to change your entire company from analog to digital. Before you become active, you should first ask yourself why you think digitization is necessary at all and what you want to achieve with it. If your business were still working well in purely analog form, there would be no reason for you to change anything. Unless you do it for the future, which is strongly advised. Many companies are already noticing that certain mechanisms that worked well in an analog world are no longer effective today. These include, for example, advertising measures, internal documentation, and the acquisition of new customers. All of this works digitally very differently from analog.
You still don't notice any difficulties in your business that have to do with the digitization of the world? Very good! Then it is still high time to make your company digital. Because digitization is unstoppable and if you want to remain competitive in the future, your company must also follow suit. So figure out exactly what isn't working now and what is still working but is likely to cause problems in the future. This is where you have to start to define the goals that you want to achieve with digitization. Your next steps also depend on them.
Do you want to optimize your internal processes and improve the workflow? / Do you want to work on your visibility and also win many customers online? / Do you want to simplify sales and act almost exclusively online in B2B?
If you have answered these questions for yourself, you are already a huge step further in the process of digitizing your company.
- Prioritize your goals
Digitization is not done overnight. As the world changes, so do the demands on modern companies. It is therefore extremely important that you prioritize in advance what is most important for the progress of your company at the moment. It's best to start small. The things that are easiest to implement can give you good starting motivation for the larger projects.
- Determine how much digitization your company already has
Digitization is not a hat that is put on a company, but a transformation happens from within. The good thing is that a lot is certainly already there. An inventory of the processes that are already successfully running digitally in your company can help you to reduce a large number of tasks. You may then notice that you actually already have the feature XY and just have to integrate it well into the other existing structures in the company. Such an overview also shows how far you have come in your digitization process and helps you to estimate the effort for the following steps more realistically.
About it When corporate structures change, the most important thing is transparent and early communication throughout the team. After all, you want your employees to be just as convinced of the digitization of your company as you are. Then you should involve your workforce as early as possible, inform them, and disclose the reasons for the change process. If everyone understands why you now want to change something and what this can do for your company and thus also for the employees, they can also actively and motivated contribute to the success. And you urgently need this cohesion in order to develop your company from analog to digital.
- Establish standards for digital solutions
Many companies that are just starting out with digital solutions make a big mistake: they develop (or let develop) without considering the overall context. This is how e.g. B. Individual software products that work well for one purpose, but can hardly be used at other interfaces in the company. From the start, make sure that your digital projects work as a whole. You can define your own standards for this, which determine which requirements all your digitization needs must meet. This is how you ensure that you build your digitization sustainably instead of patching up something in places that can't last. This not only saves you a ton of work and hassle but also a lot of money in the long run.
- Get help
Digitization is a community project that is basically never finished. That's why it's so important to get outside support. Of course, this applies above all if your company was previously purely analog. But even companies that have been online for a long time often get the opinions of external experts. Because with comprehensive restructuring processes such as digitization, you should not only rely on your own team. Even the fittest workforce eventually loses an objective view of internal things. Therefore, you should always consult experts, e.g. a competent digital agency, for important questions and problems in the implementation. They can not only support you with purely technical questions but also help you to understand individual steps in the overall context. This is one of the most important prerequisites for a functioning digitization strategy.
- Make a precise plan - and don't always stick to it...
In any case, you need a good plan for the digitization of your company that you can "work through" step by step. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting tangled up in the hodgepodge of new information and tasks. The big but is this: don't stick too tightly to your plan. Digitization is a perfect example of agile processes. You won't get very far with such a comprehensive restructuring with classic project management methods that firmly cling to what has been defined. The reason: Things in the digital sphere are changing constantly and rapidly. If you really want to keep up here, you have to remain flexible and keep redefining which task is to be implemented in a sensible manner and when. In Scrum, these processes run iteratively. This means that after each project phase you decide anew which things went well, which need to be improved and which may have gained or decreased in priority. This has a great advantage in that your planning remains up-to-date and you don't "digitize around" at a point that is not relevant at the moment while you neglect the really important one. Anyone who has never had anything to do with agile project management should definitely rely on the expertise of a Scrum Master.
- Work modularly on your digitization
It's good if you always have an eye on the overall solution for your digitization projects. It's less good if you're working on a giant block all at once. This not only leads to overwhelm but also to the fact that the entire solution becomes unusable if only something small changes. Better to work modularly, ie develop individual, recyclable and interchangeable components. With software solutions, this approach is the basis for the best possible functionality – not only now, but also in the future.
- Stay curious
We can't say it often enough: Digitization is a never-ending learning process. You should therefore always remain open to new ideas and also enable your employees to regularly take part in further training courses on the subject of digitization. In this way, you strengthen the motivation in your team and ensure that heads stay fresh and ideas flow better - this is exactly what you need for the successful digitization of your company.
- Network yourself digitally
You probably already have many valuable business contacts and know how important they are for the success of a company. Be sure to use the potential of the digital world to network even further. Maybe even create your own platform to communicate with your customers and/or find partners for your business. One of the greatest achievements of digitization is the location-independent exchange with others. This is also an immensely important point in the business world. Visit (also digital) events, exchange ideas with others about their digitization projects, and show that you too are involved in the digital playing field.
- Appoint digital representatives
Put employees from as many areas and hierarchies as possible on a digital team. Make sure that there are no "digital natives" in the company, i.e., young employees who have grown up with digital technologies, and incorporate their knowledge. If necessary, they can act as "digital buddies" by assigning one digital native to each employee who does not yet have the necessary knowledge. This ensures internal training opportunities and also a good team structure. Incorporate groups, these digital officers are referred to as Chief Digital Officers (CDOs).
- Have a business website
You should show the online presence of your business and you can do it by having a business website. This website can offer your services and products online by using the internet. You can interact with your clients by using business emails and other channels.
Which is much more important in the digitization of companies than individual steps
Hopefully, with this 12-step plan, you already have a better overview of what really matters when it comes to digitization. However, the right mindset is much more important than all the individual steps.
Even if you find it difficult: Try not to see digitization as an annoying additional task that has to be managed somehow. Do you see digitization more as a new standard that needs to be achieved and constantly further developed? And above all: Consider the digitization of your company as an opportunity. If you successfully implement this process, you not only secure the future of your company in an increasingly digitized market. You suddenly open up completely new areas for all business areas.
After all, digitization brings a lot of advantages when it comes to advertising, product management, and automated processes in everyday work go. If you put your focus exactly on this, you will successfully advance the digitization of your company without major disappointments.
Contact Think 360 For Digitization
Need help with this? Do you have questions about the technical implementation of digital products? Or would you simply like free basic advice on how and where you can best start your digitization? Then take advantage of our offer and let's talk - free of charge, professionally, and without obligation.
10 examples of digitization
Where exactly do we encounter digitization? For example these things:
What used to be handwritten and communicated by long post by letter is now typed in and sent in no time at all by electronic mail, i.e. e-mail.
Shopping can be done online these days, easily and conveniently from home. loading to? It doesn't matter, just order quickly from the e-commerce giant and the desired product will be there in the morning.
3. Video Conferencing
The customer is based in Denmark, and the service provider is in Korea - in the past, this was a guarantee for expensive telephone bills and/or travel. Today every meeting can take place virtually, no matter where the participants are located.
4. Online Research
What used to have to be researched on-site or in libraries is now usually very easy to find out via Google and Co. Digitization has therefore brought enormous time savings in the procurement of information.
5. Entertainment Downloads
It doesn't matter whether it's a book, CD, or DVD - the content of all these media is now also available digitally and can always be called up on the Internet.
6. Smart TVs
Linear television has long been marginalized by online offerings. Smart TVs form a further level of digitized television. And they are just one example of all the smart things that surround us in many homes these days - from the talking box to smart refrigerators to smart robot vacuum cleaners.
7. Online Bookings
“Online” has prevailed, especially in the area of mobility and travel. Very few people buy train tickets at the counter these days. They book online or via the app and show their ticket on their mobile device instead of in printed form.
8. GPS Apps
Few people use cumbersome maps today when planning a route. Apps and GPS systems are the handy, digital version.
9. Social Media
Of course, we still go to bars to interact socially. And of course, there are also specialist conferences where colleagues from the same industry meet to exchange ideas. But a lot of this is happening today, regardless of location, via social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
10. Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, and Co.
Only a few people use SMS today. What's the point when there are apps that make it much easier to communicate via cell phone with group chats, image attachments, and other functions?
The list of everyday examples could be continued endlessly. Above all, it shows that digitization is always there and is a never-ending process.
Internet of Things – everything only electronic?
Digitization is therefore everywhere and brings with it numerous simplifications for our everyday lives.
Nevertheless, many people have a sinking feeling when it comes to digital change: will humans soon be replaced by robots? Will all manual/social work be done by machines at some point? And will everything then only be available electronically?
These fears are quite understandable because digitization is a huge process that really affects everyone in all areas - and that can be intimidating. Nevertheless, if we take a closer look, we see that there are many more opportunities than disadvantages in digital transformation - provided we use it correctly and well.
The examples above show very clearly: In most cases, digitization does not displace analog products/services/offers but expands them.
We still write letters, we still read "real" books and we still meet real. Why? Quite simply: because digitized offerings in these areas certainly have advantages over analog ones, they cannot completely replace them. Rather, there is a shift in values. A handwritten letter has a whole different meaning now that we could theoretically send email as well. While e-books have captured a sizeable chunk of the market, printed books you can touch, flip through, and sniff through are still around. And when we get to know someone through a social network, we usually want to meet "outside". In other words, digital is good, but not everything.
Digitized working world – enrichment or threat?
Digitization usually works as an enrichment of analog offers. These will only be replaced if they become superfluous due to digitization. This never affects social, artistic, or cultural areas, but mostly administrative or mechanical ones.
And there, too, the aim is not to replace people with robots or apps but to relieve them. Yes, some job profiles have and will change as a result of digitization. But that doesn't have to be to the detriment of those who practice these professions. After all, digitization also opens up completely new lines of business and enables companies that have otherwise only worked locally and analogously to expand their offerings regionally and online. This in turn creates jobs and, on top of that, unprecedented job profiles.
And for those companies that are already online anyway, new digital products offer ever better opportunities to save time and material as well as limitless networking with potential customers or business partners.
Even in times of crisis such as pandemics, digitization enables many things that would otherwise standstill - from virtual meetings to online theater to everyday school life. Of course, all of this can be done much better than before. Therefore, we should see digitization as an ongoing process that not only changes our offer, but also our society and us as individuals. Digitization is always a sharing culture and can connect people in an unprecedented way. This is one of the greatest potentials of this development. The greatest challenge is probably that we have to learn to use this potential in the best possible way for everyone and to develop it further in this direction.
What digital transformation does NOT mean
The two definitions of digitization mentioned above are often used synonymously: on the one hand the digitization of media, on the other hand, the digital transformation of society. This is confusing – and also not effective. Because if we equate the pure act of technical digitization with a socio-political process, we run the risk of making digitization the meaningless implementation of technologies. Then it's no wonder that many people rebel against the fact that their professions are changing, that CDs are suddenly no longer available, or that an update for an app is required again.
Only if we understand digitization as a meaningful and profitable improvement of our society can it exploit its full potential. In this sense, the concept of digital transformation came into being. This implies what the digitization of the way we live and work is really about: change and growth for everyone.
Digitization as a motor in the business context
This understanding of constant change must also be established in the business context when it comes to digitization. Digitization itself initially only describes that an analog company becomes digital. Digital transformation, on the other hand, also includes the use and further development of digital technologies for the benefit of effectiveness, productivity, and collaboration within the company. The big difference lies in the meaningfulness.
Above all, companies that are just switching from analog to digital should definitely have internalized this and communicated it. This is the only way you can make it clear to your employees what opportunities the new process offers and what advantages it offers for each individual.
But even if your company has long been online, a return to the actual meaning of digital transformation helps enormously to focus your business mindset on good work. Good, in the sense of competitive, innovative and successful, as well as in the sense of cooperative, appreciative, and motivating cooperation.
Also, you should never consider digitization to be complete. There is always something to improve and we can always learn something. Digitization should therefore not only be part of the day-to-day business but should also flow into your strategic business plans. Lean thinking and constant learning are therefore just as much a part of a real digital transformation process as new technologies, digitized media, virtual networking, and automated work steps.
Your next step towards digitization
The road to true digital transformation can be long and bumpy. Many questions, uncertainties, and challenges arise that require innovative and individual solutions. We support companies in integrating digitization into their everyday lives individually and with great success. Because not everything that is digital is needed everywhere. And vice versa, some processes that have long been used analogously are ripe for digital optimization.
We would be happy to advise you on the subject of new technologies and innovative digital solutions. Arrange a non-binding and free consultation appointment with us now. We're looking forward to it.