We Have No Other Way than Becoming Digital: 5 Steps to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation

By Max Azarov, CEO & Co-founder of Novakid

In 2020, global spending on digital transformation topped $1.3 trillion. That’s a 10.4 percent year-on-year increase. There’s a clear trend toward companies seeking out ways to digitize and automate their processes, in addition to looking for opportunities to connect employees around the world.

I have been immersed in the digital business realm for my entire working life, and I’ve founded two companies in the digital space. As such, it’s common for friends and peers in non-digital workspaces to ask me for tips and “lifehacks” that can help them streamline the process of digitization. 

Sharing my expertise with colleagues over the years has led me to realize that others in the corporate world could benefit from my lifetime of experience. Today, I will outline the five most valuable steps that I believe any business can take to simplify digital transformation and smooth out internal processes. 

Implementing these strategies can enhance overall market performance, improve employee satisfaction and increase customer loyalty. 

5 Simple Steps to Start Your Brand’s Digital Transformation 

1. Identify processes that inhibit efficient decision-making.

There’s an adage that likens steering a company to steering an enormous boat. The process is often slow and clunky, especially if you are trying to change direction. Making decisions in the corporate world is often one of the slowest and most inefficient processes management faces. 

A few of the challenges include negative employee attitudes, inadequate budgets, lack of managerial support and overall hesitancy to commit. The first step toward enacting a digital transformation is to identify the key obstacles in the way and shine a spotlight on them. 

For example, you can distribute monthly questionnaires to your team to identify challenges they face during the workday. You may also wish to have department feedback sessions to pinpoint where there is a breakdown of efficiency. 

Once you obtain this information, it can be aggregated and analyzed. The trends that emerge will show you the most urgent areas to focus on. For example, you might notice a trend of workers feeling like they’re doing more than their fair share of the workload. This can drag down morale and performance, so you can use this data to find a solution that ensures work is fairly distributed. You may also decide to deploy a digital tool that helps team members see what their performance is like compared to their peers as a means of collective collaboration and motivation. 

2. Conduct a company-wide quality audit to weed out anyone who is not prepared for digitization.

This may sound harsh, but it’s better to prune out those who may stall progress or cause problems in the future while you’re still in the early stages. Performing a complete audit will give you a sense of how digitization will affect their day-to-day responsibilities as well. 

Schedule one-on-one sessions with employees to identify their expectations and determine what motivates them and how they perform. Doing this will separate employees into two camps: those ready for change and in it for the long haul and those who prefer to stay the same and are only collecting a paycheck. 

I’ve mentioned before that it’s helpful to separate your employees into groups of high performers and low performers and then split those groups into people with high and low potential for growth. The same idea applies here. 

You can use this strategy of placing employees into “buckets” for high-and low-quality performance, then further split them into willingness and unwillingness to change with the times. 

3. Develop KPIs specific to individual and team performance with digital tools.

Faster adoption of digital tools happens when you create a system that pushes employees to immerse themselves in these new processes. Helping your team develop new habits around digital processes eases them in the direction you want with minimal stress and effort. 

Show them how digitization benefits their daily work lives. They already know these new tools benefit the company, but they may not understand the personal benefit of learning something new. As an example, a survey by Aruba Networks shows that 70 percent of employees in fully digital workspaces reported a healthy work-life balance, and 74 percent were very satisfied with their jobs. 

You can explain that using collaborative tools like Miro can replace the need for tedious, in-person meetings. Show them how using Trello or Todoist not only helps them stay on task, but it helps them keep up with team projects and hit goals faster. This can directly correlate to whether or not they receive bonuses or work incentives. 

In addition, understanding that these tools are also used to track how well they are meeting their performance goals may provide extra incentive. When they understand that not using certain digital tools may slow down their work processes or prevent collecting data used for performance evaluations, they connect their earning potential to how well they use the tools put in front of them. 

4. Don’t run headlong into rapid changes.

It’s tempting to overhaul all of your processes at once, but the truth is that slow and steady is best. It’s already challenging to enact successful digital transformations, especially in larger companies, and I believe that too much too fast is a death knell for your efforts. Introduce one new digital tool per quarter, and continue to strengthen and support learning processes through each rollout. 

According to an MIT study, digitization happens too slowly in about 63 percent of companies, primarily due to a “lack of urgency” in employee adoption. There will always be those who are not tech-savvy and those who resist change, but it’s a manager’s job to ease everyone into each new process.

During the rollouts, reward top performers in a way that motivates them, even if it’s outside the norm of your company’s traditional incentive structure. Showing your team that they will get perks that matter to them can smooth the transition.

Moving at a slow, steady pace won’t change your company overnight, but it will set you on the path to total digital transformation without scaring or alienating your workforce. By the time you’ve implemented a year’s worth of rollouts, most employees will come to expect these changes and view them as improvements rather than obstacles.

5. Encourage a digital-savvy company culture.

Digitization is an essential part of a successful business strategy, but only seven percent of companies have digital-savvy leadership. This alarming trend needs to change, especially if businesses hope to get employees on board with digital transformation.

An easy way to start this is to implement small tools such as opting in to secure text messaging rather than dealing with a cluttered inbox. Another possibility is to introduce gamification into your training tools. A McKinsey report showed that introducing self-serve tools for employees and offering frequent communication through a mix of conventional and digital means helped foster a more digital-savvy culture. 

McKinsey also notes that giving employees more say in how and where digitization should be adopted helps make the transition more successful because they feel valued and invested in the cause. For example, more than 60 percent of employees use their phones for work, so adding apps that can streamline their responsibilities would be an attractive place to start.

Tying It All Together 

Digital transformation is undoubtedly the future of all successful businesses. A recent review of nearly 2,000 companies found that organizations with tech-savvy leaders outperform their peers by over 48 percent on revenue growth and valuation. To me, this is an obvious indicator of the path all businesses should be taking. 

Depending on the industry and size of the workforce, the path to transformation may be different for each business. However, the steps I’ve outlined here are essential for enacting a successful move into a more digital future. 

About the Author

Max Azarov is the CEO and co-founder of Novakid, an online ESL learning platform. Max has built a successful career in the technology space, working with industry giants such as LG Electronics, Google, Cyber Vision, and Digital 5. In 2013, he launched cloud platform Cloudike, his first startup, and in 2017, he pivoted to Novakid. Max holds an undergraduate degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts. 


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