Digital transformation is a hot topic these days. Since March 2020, businesses have had to move even more into the digital space. In previous decades, “digital transformation” meant converting documents and processes into an electronic form. Eventually people stopped printing and started using files instead.
So a digital transformation has already happened. Why are we - again and still - talking about it?
I like to call this phenomenon “another wave” of digital transformation, and I believe that it will appear again and again, from time to time. The last time around it was about moving documents and processes onto a computer. Now it’s more about communication and how people bond and exchange information.
COVID has forced companies to run their operations remotely. There were many existing tools to support them through the change, as a number of people and businesses were already operating online. We have these digital organisations to thank for the fact that everyone else was able to (rather) smoothly switch to remote working. Most challenges were already resolved by those pioneering companies that had been working online for years.
Managers are aware that communication is a key factor to run operations flawlessly. The challenge is to not only find and adjust to the right platform (whether it’s Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet, to name a few), but to make it work with the culture of the company. A conversation is just the start - there are then follow-ups, notes, materials being shared, and many other elements that create the digital tool ecosystem.
In addition to communication, there is one more aspect to making documents digital. It’s no longer just about moving the documents onto a computer - now it’s about moving away from Word documents, spreadsheets and PDFs and into more sophisticated and advanced systems.
The information inside files is not easily exchangeable - there is a need to put them into systems so that data can be extracted and processed. We live in a world with thousands of great tools that can aid a business’s operations; the challenge is to feed these tools with the right data. To solve this problem, these digital tools offer Application Programming Interfaces (API) which allow other systems to exchange data.
Ongoing digital transformation is and will continue to be an integral part of running any business. There will always be a better tool, a simpler solution to the challenges of everyday operations. Businesses must realize that investing in digital tools can help them thrive. As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”