As the new mantra goes, every company is a technology company today, whether they know it or not. That’s why most companies are undertaking a digital transformation process to modernize their outdated legacy technologies and achieve their forward-looking business objectives.
Digital transformation means optimizing business outcomes by combining people, processes and technologies to digitize operations and make a business more accessible from anywhere in the world through the internet. Undergoing a digital transformation allows a company to utilize the best available tools to streamline and optimize workflows. In this way, companies are leveraging new technologies to automate many simple, repetitive tasks and thus free up staff time to pursue more complex projects.
When we think about digital transformation, we need to identify the business reasons driving the underlying need for technology to change, not the other way around. A successful transformation can help slash costs and increase sales in new markets. Another benefit is to provide wider access to critical data, which allows machines and IoT devices to respond milliseconds faster to increase manufacturing productivity and accelerate the time to market.
Digital transformation clearly holds limitless possibilities for businesses, but there is no one way to get it right because each company has unique needs. Also, employees are creatures of habit who have been engrained in certain patterns and routines, which makes it hard for the workforce to suddenly embrace whole new ways of working.
For all these reasons, digital transformation initiatives are challenging. Midmarket companies can be especially hard-hit by this shift because they lack the technical sophistication and financial resources of large enterprises. Midsized businesses also do not have the staff time to research and implement new digital solutions. Nor do they have the flexibility to try out different solutions until they can find the best one for their needs.
Prioritizing Business Objectives, Not Shiny New Tech Objects
Traditionally, IT groups were considered cost centers that helped make a business function, but now they are seen as key contributors to bottom-line profitability. As a result, the problems that IT departments now face are much different than in the past.
The focus for midmarket CIOs today should be less about processor speeds and feeds, or other specs for hardware and software solutions. Now their attention should turn to solving critical business problems through technology enablement. Some solutions include deploying a new customer relationship management application to make the sales organization more effective and using analytics to drive a better call center experience, or to increase the ROI of a demand generation campaign. Yet call center managers and sales leaders are not technologists, which means the business side of the house and the technology side will need to work more closely together.
To get there, IT professionals should reorient themselves to examine their company’s top business priorities first, not the top technology problems. In other words, get to the fundamental root of the issue driving the need for a technological shift: What are the business reasons behind the move to the technology, and what are the business priorities?
In a real-world example, one midsized energy company considered installing a software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN. Not only did the new network generate cost savings, but it also made sense to help stabilize network connections across their 150-plus sites, enabling their workforce to become more efficient and reliable. After analyzing their prior network setup versus the SD-WAN deployment, the company found it would save over $1.3 million per year while decreasing overall headcount.
Strengthening Security for a Newly Hybrid Workforce
Midsized businesses have more personnel and customers to manage than small startups, yet they also lack the resources of larger companies that can pursue multiple digital transformation initiatives at once. For this reason, midmarket companies need to be selective in how they roll out their digital transformation efforts.
In the current climate, we are seeing a permanent hybrid workforce emerge due to a shift in worker values under the pandemic. Combined with the solutions adopted for remote work, this change is impacting the way the IT department functions. Now IT needs to support employees who are based at home, at an office, or any other location around the globe. Digital transformation can allow businesses to meet this need for a permanent hybrid workforce, including managing remote meetings and securing data at an increased number of endpoints.
Along those lines, a digital transformation can also help organizations upgrade their overall security posture. With the emergence of a hybrid workforce, IT leaders need to ensure appropriate levels of security to protect their highly distributed business users and assets. Cybercrimes will continue to rise, and with a more distributed attack surface with varying levels of security, organizations will need to ensure the security of their data no matter where it is located.
Overall, midmarket IT leaders need to develop effective strategies for digital transformation that can solve real business problems through technology adoption. A successful strategy includes aligning the right people with the right processes and technologies, and from there, focusing on making continual improvements through ongoing software development and staff training. Remember, there can be no shortcuts because every company today—and every competitor—is now a technology company.