Organizations planning to launch a digital transformation program should be prepared to establish a detailed project plan and, more importantly, a DX roadmap. Migrating to a digital transformation environment often means changes to the company's business model, overall vision, corporate culture, sales and marketing processes, and IT infrastructure and operations. Indeed, the transition to a digital business model is a complex process, requiring organizations to map their digital transformation strategy to existing strategies and implement the enabling DX technologies. This article takes organizations through the process of building a digital transformation roadmap, from determining the need for a DX transformation to the final completion and deployment of a DX program.
What is a digital transformation roadmap?
A DX roadmap indicates the starting point and defines the major activities -- and the many steps within each of those activities -- an organization needs to take to digitally transform itself.
Without a DX roadmap, the process might not go smoothly and even go off into tangents that compromise the success of the program. Think of the roadmap as the precursor to a formal transformation project plan that details activities, resources and time frames.
Why is a digital transformation roadmap important?
The short answer is survival. As businesses of all types and sizes migrate to DX technologies and resources, they have the potential to increase their competitive position, boost their reputation, enhance customer experiences, improve operational efficiency, increase revenues, attract new customers and retain existing ones. Businesses that don't embrace the benefits of a DX program do so at their own risk. With more employees working remotely and fewer customers shopping in person, the way business is performed has changed significantly. This evolution is expected to continue in the coming years, despite continued inflation and the threat of a possible recession.
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Opportunities for success still exist, and the means to achieve digital transformation must be rethought, redesigned and reapplied. For example, the growth and acceptance of AI and machine learning (ML) have been significant in recent years and are expected to rise dramatically. Organizations with a fully digital infrastructure will be well-positioned to leverage AI and ML capabilities.
As more organizations gain experience with and realize the benefits of a DX migration, they'll be prepared to adapt to new market opportunities faster and more successfully than those firms eschewing the new technologies. A firm's leadership team, key stakeholders and employees will all need to adjust to the new business normal. It's also important to demonstrate any successes quickly to reinforce the value of the digital transformation initiative to the organization.
Additional digital transformation resources
As with any major corporate project, especially one that potentially affects the entire organization, plenty of upfront research and analysis are needed.
Once the research has been completed, senior management must be engaged and embrace the program -- not only from a financial perspective, but from cultural and operational views.
The next step is to establish an overall vision and strategy for a DX migration program, along with a detailed project plan that will form the basis of the digital transformation roadmap.
Building a digital transformation roadmap
Successful digital transformation programs effectively capitalize on technology and people to improve the customer experience (CX), resulting in tangible benefits to a company's business performance. But keeping a digital transformation effort on track can be difficult.
This section examines a six-step digital transformation roadmap that will help ensure your DX program is successful. We list recommended activities and relative time frames, major baseline initiatives and key activities to perform within each major milestone. Each step builds on actions completed in the previous step.
1. Perform research and due diligence
Establish a DX project team to gather data to understand how the business operates, including the resources used by the business -- e.g., people, processes, technology and facilities. The team should review existing corporate strategic plans, IT strategic plans, policy and procedure documents, organizational charts and any other documentation that describes how the business operates. Next, the team should interview key personnel who are highly knowledgeable about the business and how it operates, e.g., senior executives, division leaders, department heads and subject matter experts. Data from this step is used to initiate activities in step 2 below.
2. Prepare the DX strategy
A digital transformation strategy and roadmap should describe the endgame and how it will be achieved. This includes the technologies to be employed, how the migration will occur, parallel activities -- e.g., employee training and technology infrastructure modifications -- that are needed and other relevant activities. Information gathered here and other key activities can be used to develop a digital transformation roadmap. Once these have been defined, the next move is to brief senior management and employees on the key attributes of the DX program and how it will be implemented. The strategy, roadmap and support activities can be modified as needed based on input from senior management and staff.
3. Identify technology options
As part of its strategy development, the project team must secure the approval of senior management for the digital transformation project and authorization for funding. In addition to the roadmap, the project team must research and identify the systems and technologies, network resources and migration activities needed for a successful implementation. They must identify all costs associated with the DX migration, including new technologies, upgrades to existing systems, new apps and specialized systems -- e.g., using AI and ML -- internal and external expertise, modifications to physical facilities to accommodate new components, transforming the corporate culture for the new environment and much more. Once this information -- and the DX roadmap -- have been gathered, reviewed and approved by the appropriate managers, the team can present its findings and recommendations to senior management for approval.
4. Approve the project plan and launch the project
In this step, all resources are brought into play, vendors are staged to begin their work, IT teams are ready to commence their activities, and employees are prepared to begin the transition from their current processes to the new ones made possible by the DX program. This is one of the most important steps in the digital transformation roadmap because it gathers all the players together and moves the program forward, guided by the project plan.
5. Execute migration and transition activities
During the course of the DX implementation, multiple activities will take place, including the following:
- Installation and testing of new hardware and software, with adjustments and refinements made based on experience.
- Installation and testing of network resources needed to support the technology.
- Installation and testing of security measures to protect the new operating environment.
- Pilots of the new technology to familiarize employees with the systems and apps and how to use them properly. Piloting will help develop the policies, procedures and performance metrics for using the new technologies. The pilots can also be used to update HR policies as needed.
- Phased deployment of DX systems to ensure employee acceptance.
- Training programs for all personnel on the new systems, especially those employees who will use them.
- Regular reviews of system expenditures versus budgets, with adjustments made as needed.
- Regular senior management briefings on overall program progress.
- Pilot tests of advanced technologies to see how their capabilities can best be used for analyzing data created by the new systems.
- Tests of outputs from the new systems to ensure the results are consistent with company requirements and make any needed adjustments.
- Sessions with frontline employees who will interact with customers to ensure they're comfortable with the new technology and can provide an enhanced CX.
- Measures to protect the new systems and technologies -- e.g., business continuity and technology disaster recovery plans -- that have been documented and tested.
- Documentation of procedures for backing up data and obtaining spare parts for the new systems.
- Programs to ensure employees using the new technology have the proper devices and suitably equipped workspaces, whether they work on site or remotely.
- A plan for going live, including a go-live date with alternate dates, and how to execute the go-live process.
- Alternate processes to execute if a significant disruption occurs or if there's employee resistance, necessitating a project stop to make revisions.
- Marketing, website and other promotional activities to get the word out and encourage existing and prospective customers to use the new system.
6. Commence updated business operations and performance management
Once the new DX-based systems and apps have gone live, program management and maintenance activities begin. Among these are personnel management, performance assessments against the new metrics, management reviews, change management activities, technology reviews and updates, financial reviews, analyses of how the new systems have affected sales and revenues, CX satisfaction, customer retention, and impacts on competitive position and reputation. Regular reporting to senior management is an essential part of this step.
Tips for deploying a DX transformation roadmap
As noted earlier, the roadmap links to the overall DX program strategy, and is the starting point for developing the overall project plan. Once the preliminary activities have been completed and approved, and the program is ready to start, the following tips will help ensure a successful deployment:
- Provide announcements in advance of any infrastructure shutdowns to install and test new systems.
- Ensure employee work isn't hindered during the deployment.
- Communicate regularly with employees during the various DX phases. Set up a conference room or other area as a place where employees can try live devices.
- Establish a process for employees to offer their comments and critiques.
- Brief senior management regularly on progress and delays.
- Communicate completion dates for specific milestone activities to all employees.
- Communicate any delays to all employees.
- Ensure employees using the new system can take refresher training prior to the go-live date, if needed.
- Train employees on the system and have vendor representatives available to address any questions.
The above tips are important as they focus on people -- the ones who will make the DX program a success.
Examples of DX transformation roadmaps
Here are some brief examples of organizations that have completed successful DX initiatives.
Home Depot. The company recognized that a growing number of customers wanted Home Depot to do their projects for them. This meant creating a different kind of user experience, which the company has done through DX initiatives.
Ikea. The global furniture manufacturer used digital systems to enhance the overall customer experience, assist customers with interior design using automated systems and extend its reach into potential markets using a virtual store experience.
Lego. The toy manufacturer has deployed multiple DX initiatives, such as systems that provide insights on supply chains and their effect on manufacturing, a company-wide human resources system and a shop floor management system.
Pfizer. The pharmaceutical manufacturer has been working on a digital transformation program for years and used the technology to establish a way to unify its many manufacturing facilities. Previously, the various sites had incompatible systems and could not share data. An enterprise-level system now links all manufacturing sites, providing data that can be used for many requirements.