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As a technology enthusiast I’m guilty of having a love affair with everything digital. It can order food at a restaurant, book a doctor’s appointment, scale up the security of my home with smart locks, hiring a tradie to fix my leaking tap or planning my next trip to my son in Switzerland.
Digital transformation is happening right here, right now, everywhere and in everything. It has simply become the new way of living.
For businesses however, things are not as simple as it seems to the end-users consuming these tech-driven advancements.
As a digital transformation thought leader, having disrupted the field service management sector in Australia, let me give you my two cents on how it works and the transformation it is bringing in our everyday lives.
What is Digital Transformation?
Let’s begin with the basics. Digital transformation is the use of modern digital technologies to create new or improve existing business processes, culture or customer experiences to meet the changing consumer demands and market needs.
Why is Digital Transformation so important?
This is the era of on-demand service. Be it your workforce or your customers, everyone wants everything “right now”. Whether its information, experience or a tangible product, everything must be accessible anytime, anywhere.
However, that’s just one reason why businesses need to adapt.
Digital technologies have been entering workplaces and consumer’s lives for over a decade now.
I began to notice this change even before that. My first light-bulb moment happened when I saw my teenage kids at the turn of the century ask what’s for dinner through SMS while they were sitting just across the hall.
Technology has been disrupting our lives in how we share information, how we consume products and services and how we make our lifestyle choices.
The 2020 pandemic only fast-tracked this disruption as more and more businesses realised the need to be agile and adopt technology to meet the changing consumer needs.
It is clear that digital transformation is no longer a choice. It has to become a fundamental part of business strategy and integrated into every aspect of business processes, culture, operations and customer experience if one is to survive.
Who are the beneficiaries of digital transformation?
The beneficiaries of digital transformation can be seen in terms of businesses, workforce, and economy as a whole.
Business as a beneficiary of digital transformation:
While digital transformation means different things for different businesses, integrating connected technologies into everyday business operations and processes can have several positive impacts.
- Enhanced data collection and analysis
- Simpler resource and asset management
- Intelligent customer insights
- Better customer experience
- Upskilling teams for digital culture
- Improved productivity and service delivery
- More profitability
- Future readiness for market changes
Workforce as a beneficiary of digital transformation:
As COVID hit, we saw a sharp increase in employees working from home. This led organisations to implement processes and technologies to help their remote workforce collaborate better irrespective of their locations.
This resulted in many benefits including:
- Seamless collaboration
- Increased productivity
- Better data insights
- Flexibility and agility
- Improved customer service
- Higher profitability
- Enhanced accuracy
- Increased employee engagement
Economy as a beneficiary of digital transformation:
The benefits of digital transformation are not restricted to high-tech start-ups. Digital transformation has been helping a number of industries in ways that were not possible before. These include:
- Emergency Services
- Everyday Services
Digital Transformation Stakeholders and the framework
As we built i4Tradies we realised that identifying key stakeholders in your digital transformation journey is absolutely vital for it to be a success. You need a buy in from all the departments to implement digital transformation as per the plan and get the ROI you are after.
- Senior management: It’s extremely important that the leaders articulate organisational benefits in terms that are easy to understand by those implementing digital transformation.
- IT department: To minimise system roadblocks for a smooth transition.
- Finance department: To secure the necessary budget and identify efficiency gains for bottom line.
- Procurement: To keep costs down
- Human Resources: To help get the team on board with new digital first culture
- Investors: These are external stakeholders and without their buy-in getting the right amount of funds at the right time is not possible.
Digital transformation framework
Digital transformation framework is the roadmap of the journey a business takes as it moves through a period of significant change.
Digital transformation frameworks vary from business to business based upon its needs and objectives but generally it comprises of the following steps:
- Identifying digital transformation objectives
- Formulating a digital transformation strategy
- Selecting the necessary technologies to bring about that change
- Establishing competent technology leadership
- Train the staff and integrate a digital culture across the organisation
Overall the path taken by an organisation moves from digitising consumer experience, digitising products and services, digitising operations and finally digitising the organisation.
How to achieve digital transformation the right way
Digital transformation is not about technology. It’s about the end goal you are trying to achieve for one or more of your stakeholders. It’s about identifying the bottlenecks your business is facing and deciding how technology can solve these.
It could improve business processes for the overall organisation. It could also be more efficient for your staff. Last but not the least, it could be the enhanced customer experience you want to deliver to end users of your product or service.
Hence digital transformation begins with a vision and then follows a journey of formulating a strategy, adopting technology, getting a buy-in from all stakeholders and finally training the staff to implement a digital first culture.
We began i4Tradies with one goal in mind: To help tradies get their lives back. We designed a solution that would let Field Service Suppliers manage their business more efficiently and profitably, from anywhere. The result was enhanced customer experience, streamlined operations, reduced paperwork, efficient staff and more time on hand for the business owner.
Resources to gather to transform digitally
When deciding to go digital, it will come as no surprise if you find that not all capabilities you need for your digital transformation initiative can be found in-house.
The talent and tools you need to transform digitally might need to be acquired to create a sustainable strategy and deliver the results you are after.
Some of the resources you would need to gather include:
Tools that help businesses collect information, collaborate within and across teams, build new infrastructures and platforms are all vital resources to facilitate the change that’s about to happen.
Having the right technological talent means more value addition to the company. While hiring the top might mean more costs initially, they can be critical in the successful deployment of your million-dollar digital transformation plan and will surely turn out to be a great asset to the company.
Outsources to suppliers:
As already mentioned, acquiring each and every talent and tools might not always be the most feasible option. In such a scenario, it’s best to outsource to technology suppliers part of the initiative since they are the experts in the field. This helps your internal teams can focus on the deployment itself rather than the development.
Best digital transformation examples
We can find some great digital transformation examples in our everyday lives. Not surprisingly, many of such innovations came from outside the industry. More specifically from customers who wanted to address the pains they had been going through in terms of one or more services.
Nike presents one of the best examples of embracing digital transformation and end-to-end consumer experience. From what once used to be a sport apparel brand Nike has come a long way in terms of digital be it as their Nike app, Nike Fit bands, social media fitness challenges, livestream workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The online property sharing website did not transform its business but disrupted the entire hospitality industry with its one big digital idea. The ability to create virtual trust between renters and homeowners made AirBnB a household app across the globe.
Today, AirBnb has been inspiring hotels to achieve their own digital transformation goals from investing in apps, to upgrading room tech, improving rewards programs, focusing on online promotions and providing a direct line of communication with hotel managers.
Yet another example of having a customer-first mindset is that of Uber, a car rental app. Eliminating the issue of time, location or background checks for drivers as well as travellers, Uber’s digital mindset is all about innovation. This can be seen in their security buttons to driver ratings, clear and better equipped rides, shared rides Uber Eats and Uber Pet.
Digital Transformation trends in 2021 and beyond
In Australia alone, we have seen the rise of numerous digitally transformative trends that emerged as a new idea a decade back but have now become more commonplace.
Digitally enhanced workers
The COVID era has already shown us what is possible in terms of remote jobs and work-from-home jobs. However, the future of work practices does not stop just there. Employers are empowering their ‘hybrid by design’ workforce with even better and enhanced collaboration and productivity tools, connecting teams no matter where they are.
Digitised Property maintenance
This is one area that i4Tradies Field Service Maintenance software targets. Digital innovation in property maintenance has enabled Field Service suppliers, Field Service Agents and Tenants connect the dots and get jobs done more seamlessly with communication and data driven insights. This is made possible with a shift to Cloud Centric IT.
Automated Service Delivery
From scheduling appointments with clients, to receiving payment reminders from vendors, it’s time to get ready for fully automated real-time services with minimum human intervention.
AI driven decision making
Embedding intelligence in products and services is going to be the future. From data collection to analysis, forecasting trends and anticipating emerging needs, AI will provide every insight to assist decision making for businesses.
New strides in data security
With everything accessible anytime, anywhere, data security and consumer privacy will matter even more giving rise to confidential computing.
Making your own digital transformation blueprint
Your digital transformation blueprint is the roadmap you need to follow to achieve the objectives you have in mind as you make your business future ready.
As you create your own digital transformation blueprint you need to make sure it has the following 4 elements for it to be a success.
1. It must provide a unified digital experience
As you are looking for a solution provider to meet your business transformation goals, look for 3 main mobile capabilities to achieve a unified digital experience.
- All rounded mobility: For i4Tradies we ensured that the application was not tied to a single device, but lets users avail the full benefit of digitisation through any device of their choice.
- A common point of access: Partnering with Google cloud meant that all information is in one place to be accessed anytime, anywhere.
- 360-degree view of interactions: The dashboard view provides an ‘at-a-glance’ view across all on-going tasks.
2. It must connect the digital supply chain
Connecting the application between people, systems and devices optimises the digital experience way more effectively and brings about the desired process change.
- Extending to digital: Having integrated with a number of complementary solutions such as Xero and stripe lets i4Tradies users easily and securely migrate data between apps offering a connected digital process.
- Harnessing digital: By providing an end-to-end digital solution, i4Tradies connects the dots between all stakeholders through a technology infrastructure that facilitates on-demand access to resources to manage every single business process.
- Empowering ecosystems: To compete with emerging technologies, we have partnered with industry associations and market leaders to unleash the full power of our system and deliver a holistic experience.
3. Deliver at a speed and scale that the market demands
Digital transformation is for the brave and the quick. The future belongs to the early adopters if they want to have a competitive edge. Hence, innovation lies at the core of every digital transformation effort. This is only possible if businesses who aim to achieve digital transformation use platforms that support such innovation that allows them to be nimble and market ready.
To quickly deploy digital transformation hence requires the following capabilities:
- Swift outcomes: By using cloud technology, like the one we used for i4Tradies, businesses adopting our platform are able to test new processes as soon as they are being rolled out.
- Handling operations at varying speeds: Not all processes need instant deployment, hence the chosen platform must be able to quickly deliver the new digital process while still maintaining the back-end functionality until it is replaced with an equivalent one.
- Instant scalability: No matter the size of the business, i4Tradies is fully scalable to fit any size as new users join, change roles or leave the organisation.
4. Empowering organisation to develop a digital mindset
Not having a buy-in from the workforce can cause a major bottleneck in the implementation of your digital transformation framework. Hence it is important to empower the entire organisation from top to bottom, to adopt digital effectively and address any hiccups as soon as they arise.
(a) Upskilling Teams
Providing the basic tools and skills to the teams that are needed to get started can accelerate digital transformation to a great extent. With i4Tradies we have a separate department focused on hand-holding new adopters and training them to use the software. We also made sure that Field Service Suppliers adopting our platform had all team members on board as we conducted detailed training sessions with them.
(b) Facilitating cross functional collaboration
I4Tradies is not just for Field Service Suppliers (trades business owners). It works equally well for Field Service Agents (property managers) as well as property occupants (landlords or tenants). This enables each party to use the platform to their advantage and collaborate with each other where needed to gel together the entire experience in the most effective way.
(c) Instilling a digital-first mindset
Digital transformation is not a one-time thing. It is a mindset; an approach towards viewing every new opportunity that arises for your business.
Hence it’s important to work towards a cultural shift from old ways of thinking to digital thinking in order to drive a customer-centric digital change.
As an extension to i4Tradies Field Service Management, we therefore encouraged our field service suppliers to get on-board with i4Tradies Consumer App too. This helped them understand their customer’s digital journey and fully benefit from digitising the entire experience from start to finish.
Measuring the impact (ROI) of digital transformation
If there is one thing we can all agree on is that COVID-19 has only fast-tracked the digital initiatives businesses are taking to make ends meet and keep ahead of competition.
While the benefits digital transformation can have for a business are widely understood, when it comes to measuring the impact of the digital initiatives, there is a clear gap that needs to be filled.
In order to measure the return of digital investment, businesses need to monitor these markers of progress:
Percentage of adoption:
Digital adoption refers to the number of employees who are actually making use of a given platform that you have invested on. If this percentage is low, while you have paid for a company wide adoption, it means there are obvious barriers that your workforce is facing which need to be addressed before you begin to take full advantage of the platform.
Analyse user journey
The percentage of adoption should bring you to the next question of what’s stopping your employees from using the app. Measuring how your digital tools are being used will help you analyse the bottlenecks and frictions and how to improve usability.
Count the number of processes being performed using the software
The more features are being used the more value the investment in digital transformation is adding to your business. If many features are being neglected, it may indicate that the platform is not as relevant to your business as you first thought.
Measure productivity gains
Productivity can be measured in terms of the output received compared to the time and resources invested.
For example, with i4Tradies we generally measure the number of jobs requested that came through to the number of jobs completed using the platform.
Measure revenue gains
Last but not the least, and probably one of the most important aspects contributing to business growth is the question of revenue.
Measuring the amount of revenue gained after digitising a certain process can tell so much about the overall success of your digital transformation initiative. For example, with i4Tradies Field Service Suppliers can measure the number of customers placing a service request automating the customer journey and how many of those requests turned into actual completed jobs.
Digital transformation is here to stay. It is not a question of if, rather when will your business adopt it and start benefiting. The sooner the better, as your competitors might already be on-track towards their own digital transformation journeys.
If you don’t adapt to this change, your business will struggle to survive.
It doesn’t matter how much you plan. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Unless you implement digital transformation across the company, you won’t know what works and what doesn’t.
Often it takes more than two to three attempts to get the best platform working for your business.
Remember, this is a continuous and never ending journey towards improving your business processes and end user experience.