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Digital Transformation 101: How to digitally transform your business

Rosanna Campbell 18 min read
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Digital transformation is becoming increasingly unavoidable — and by 2024, it’s expected to reach a market valuation of $2.51 trillion.

Yet for all that money spent, McKinsey research shows the average company only makes a third of its expected revenue benefits from digitalization. Without a solid strategy and the right technology, digital transformation can be a great way to spend a lot of money fast — and have very little to show for it.

In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know to successfully implement digital transformation in 2024. We’ll break down the basics of what digital transformation really is (when you get away from the hype). And we’ll walk you through a simple four-step process for transforming your business with digital tools.

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What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to improve your business — whether by improving your customer or employee experience, making your operations more efficient, or offering new digital products and services.

Digital transformation has changed a bit over recent years. It was previously a term to describe a pretty comprehensive business change — going from paper-based to online banking, for instance.

But these days, the majority of respondents in a survey by Baker McKenzie said that “digital transformation is a tool for improving process efficiency rather than fundamental business change.”

In other words, it’s about using digital tools to make your business better in small, incremental stages — and unlike other types of business transformation which have a beginning and an end, digital transformation is an ongoing, long-term process of using innovation to give you a competitive edge.

Researchers at MIT also found that digital transformation has a new focus in 2023: employee experience. Today’s digitalization projects prioritize how easy it is for employees to use technology to get their work done — often by offering platforms that can handle multiple aspects of their workflow in the same place, or by choosing tools that integrate well with each other.

Examples of digital transformation

Digital transformation can sound like the kind of project only undertaken by massive global enterprises — with a team of consultants, an army of IT pros, and a vast tech budget.

But actually, transforming your company with digital tools can be simple:

  • Switching from each employee managing their tasks individually, to using a shared digital project management tool so you can collaborate on projects more easily
  • Using an online meeting app that creates AI-generated summaries and next actions after every team meeting, so you never forget a task
  • Managing your customer communications with a centralized sales and marketing platform, so you can keep track of your customer relationships and collaborate with your teammates to close more deals
Digital transformation for your customer relationships with monday.com

Of course, if you’re curious about more comprehensive digitalization projects, many major brands have undertaken massive transformations in the past few years, taking advantage of new technology:

1. Disney overhauled the customer experience at its parks and resorts with its MagicBand wearable digital wristbands, that let guests open their hotel rooms, pay for meals, and reserve tickets.

2. Domino’s Pizza has become the “poster child for digital transformation”, with digital ordering via mobile app, voice-activated ordering, and a pizza tracker.

3. CVS Health has shifted from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy chain to a digital healthcare company, with telehealth services, mobile prescriptions, and a paid digital wellness subscription model.

While not every business needs to invest in IoT wearable technology or even a mobile app, these three transformations share commonalities that every business can learn from. In particular, Disney, Domino’s, and CVS all focused on using technology to create a better customer experience and secure a competitive advantage.

The four types of digital transformation

There are four different ways that you can transform your business with digital technology:

1. Process transformation

In this method of transformation, you’ll be using tech to improve your processes and make your business more efficient or cost-effective. This might look like:

  • Automating a workflow that you do every day
  • Reducing the number of steps that it takes to complete a specific task
  • Cutting down on the amount of manual data entry that you have to do
example of digital transformation using monday.com to automate workflows

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2. Business model transformation

This is a more dramatic overhaul of your business, where you use technology to completely redesign a product or service. For example:

  • A clothes store creating an online e-commerce store
  • A restaurant building a mobile app so people can order food from their phone
  • A gym could offer a digital platform where people can stream workouts from their homes

3. Domain transformation

A domain transformation in this context means that you’re digitalizing to take on a new market or industry. For example, a local specialist bookstore could open up an online digital community to connect with prospective customers in other geographies.

4. Cultural or organizational transformation

In terms of digitalization, a cultural transformation is likely to mean using digital tools to improve elements of how you work together. For instance, shifting from an in-person office to remote working is a major cultural transformation, and will require you to implement new digital tools and ways of working.

Why is digital transformation important?

If you hope to stay competitive and relevant in an increasingly digital and interconnected world, you’ll need to embrace the mentality of ongoing digital transformation. Digital technologies can help your company streamline your operations, offer a better experience to your customers, and adapt to changing market conditions.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of digital transformation:

More profits

The most important driver for digital transformation — it can help you make more money. For instance, a 2022 study by McKinsey found that banks that embraced digital technology dramatically outperformed their competitors across several key financial metrics.

Better customer experience

Software can make it easier to delight your customers. In the same McKinsey banking study, the difference in profitability came down to more contented customers. The banks used personalization to convert more leads. They then kept their new customers happy with faster service by using automations and giving them self-service tools to save them from needing to go into the branch in person.

Improved efficiency and productivity

Using digital tools can make your company run more efficiently. An example: a Deloitte study of call centers found that digital leaders were able to decrease their staffing by 11%, while digital laggards had to increase their staff by 20%.

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What is a digital transformation strategy?

A digital transformation strategy is a plan that outlines how your company is going to use digital technology to level up your operations, processes, or customer relationships.

A well-designed digital transformation strategy should include:

  • SMART goals for your transformation project
  • Key milestones and deliverables
  • Resource allocation
  • A project roadmap
  • A project team with defined roles and responsibilities

Popular digital transformation frameworks

There are many approaches to digital transformation. Here are three of the most popular options:

  • McKinsey’s 7S Framework — Developed by management consulting firm McKinsey, this approach to digital transformation breaks down the process into seven key elements: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, skills, style, and staff.
  • Four Pillars of Digital Transformation — Developed by professors at leading business school INSEAD, the four pillars framework proposes that digital transformation can address IT uplift, digitizing operations, digital marketing, and new ventures. Where you start will depend on how digitally mature your organization is and what resources you have available.
  • The 5 Stages of Digital Transformation —  This model was developed by digital futurist Brian Solis. It breaks down the digital transformation process into five stages, from adopting a customer-unified mindset to embracing an employee-centered workplace.

The six key elements of a successful digital transformation

Six areas of your business need to be taken into consideration for any digital transformation — whether you’re planning a major, sweeping restructure or a more incremental process overhaul. They are:

1. Choosing the right digital technologies

Finding the right tools for your organization is key to a successful digitalization project. Look for tools that work with how you’re already working, rather than those that mean that you’ll need to start from scratch.

If you’re a small business, you may not need all the bells and whistles of the latest data analytics platform or fancy new AI tool but do prioritize modern software that takes advantage of evolutions in technology, like machine learning and automation, to make your lives easier.

Most importantly, any new digital technology should be easy to use, quick to learn, and easy to integrate with other tools you’re already using.

2. Overhauling your operations

When you’re undergoing any kind of digitalization initiative, consider how you can use technology to make your day-to-day work more productive.

For instance, if you switch to monday work management, it’s much easier to spot bottlenecks, reduce the number of steps it takes to complete tasks, and track your progress on projects at a single glance.

3. Consolidating your data

Your technology can only take you so far if your data is all over the place. When you’re undergoing digital transformation, take the time to make sure that your data is stored centrally and securely, and is easily accessible.

For instance, if your sales reps are all working from their own spreadsheets, now’s the time to unify them in a shared platform so you can get the whole picture of what’s going on with your leads and opportunities.

4. Improving the customer experience

Digital transformations can make your customer experience far better — or far worse! When you’re considering adding a new tool, first start by analyzing what impact it will have on your customers. Will it make it easier for them to interact with your team, or to purchase your products? Or will it add additional complexity to the customer journey?

5. Managing cultural change

No digital transformation initiative will succeed without leadership buy-in and cultural change. When you’re designing your digital transformation strategy, you’ll need to build in time for change management — regular and ongoing communication with stakeholders, opportunities for employee feedback, and staff training in new tools and processes.

6. Developing a business roadmap

Of course, no digitalization project will be successful without a solid project plan. We’ve got a deep-dive guide on project planning for you here, but in summary, you’ll need to kick off your digital transformation project with a budget, a schedule, a task breakdown, an overview of available people and other resources, and a list of milestones and deliverables.

4 steps to build and implement a digital transformation strategy

So, we’ve covered what digital transformation is, the different types of frameworks you can use, and all the elements that go into digitalization projects.

It’s time to bring it all together in a step-by-step guide to designing and implementing a successful digital transformation strategy.

Step 1: Analyze your current reality

Start by breaking down why you’re considering digital transformation. What are your company’s current pain points and weaknesses? What’s stressing out your employees or stopping your leads from buying from you?

Next, evaluate your existing technology. What have you got in place? Where are the gaps? Where could digital tools make the biggest difference?

Finally, look at your operations. Where are you slow or disorganized? Where is your team spending most of their time? Which areas still create a ton of tedious admin and manual data entry?

This audit process should help you figure out your top priorities and potential gains for your digital transformation initiative — and help you “sell” the process internally.

Step 2: Make a plan

Now you know where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there. At this point, you’ll need to get specific about your budget, time, and resources, and what specific results you want to create. A few tips for developing an effective strategy:

  • Involve your stakeholders (including executives, department heads, IT team, and end users) in the planning process. This will keep your strategy more in line with organizational priorities, customer requirements, and end-user needs, and make it more likely to succeed.

 

  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can keep track of your progress and show the return on your investments in new technologies.

 

  • Appoint a dedicated digital transformation project team, so you know who is responsible for which part of the project and make it easier to make decisions.

 

  • Identify potential bottlenecks and risks, and come up with a plan to mitigate them so your project doesn’t get derailed.

 

  • Create a project roadmap that outlines the specific projects, initiatives, and milestones needed to achieve your digital transformation goals. Prioritize these initiatives based on their importance and potential impact on your business.

Step 3: Implementation

Now it’s time to purchase your technology, and then begin the process of introducing it into your business. Here are a few tips for successful implementation:

  • Stay safe. When choosing your vendors, look for solutions that prioritize cybersecurity and compliance, so you know that your company’s data will stay safe.
  • Consider integration and scaling. Choose digital solutions that work well with any tools you’re already using, and that are easy to scale as your business grows.
  • Start slow. Once you’ve picked out your digital technology, it’s generally recommended that you start with a pilot project. Pick a single team, or even a single process, to get started with your new platform. That way, you can check that your assumptions are correct and that this is the right approach for your business before you go all-in.
  • Support your employees. Remember to implement a change management plan to help employees adapt to the new processes and technologies. Set up training, offer support, and keep communication ongoing to ease the transition.

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Step 4: Optimization

Digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done thing — it’s an ongoing, iterative process. That means you’ll need to continuously monitor your progress, and measure your results against your established KPIs.

It also means that you need to encourage feedback from the team. What’s working for them? Where are they still struggling? What opportunities do they see to make better use of the new technology?

How monday work management can support digital transformation

If you’re ready to take that digital leap forward, monday work management can help. Our intuitive work management software is a one-stop shop for digitizing all your business operations — from managing resources to planning projects, and from collaborating with colleagues to approving vacations online.

Whether you want to improve a few processes or level up your entire organization, monday.com’s building blocks can be assembled into solutions that manage any kind of work.

Our Work OS collects information from external tools, helps teams communicate about items within the context of the work happening, and places all your workflows in one easy-to-use platform.

Here are a few ways that monday work management can help your company’s digital transformation journey:

  • Our project management software helps centralize team tasks into a single, visual dashboard, so you can see exactly how your projects are going and what everyone’s working on
digitalize your projects with monday work management
  • Our collaboration features make it easier to work together on projects, automatically share updates, store necessary project documentation, and flag up delays
collaborate digitally with monday work management
  • Our no-code automations eliminate the need for repetitive recurring tasks, so your team can get more done in less time
simplify your workflows with monday's no-code automations

So, if you’re thinking about taking your company to the next level with digital tools, we might be a great fit for you.  Get started today, and you’ll see how easy life can be for your business when you’ve got the right digital solution in place.

FAQs

When people talk about the 4Ps of digital transformation, they're usually referring to digital marketing. The 4Ps in this context are:
Process - The digital processes you'll use to market your products or services
People - The people involved in the digital marketing process
Platforms - The digital technology you use to implement your marketing strategy
Performance - How you'll measure the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts

However, there are a few different versions of the 4Ps of digital transformation that are doing the rounds online. The original 4Ps are the 4Ps of marketing - product, price, place and promotion - and these can also be adapted as a framework for thinking about digital transformation.

For instance, you can start by considering the impact of new technologies on how you develop and position your product.

You could consider your pricing strategy in a digital context - for instance, by shifting from one-off purchases to a digital subscription model.

In a digital context, the place might be an online store instead of brick-and-mortar locations. And the promotion you do could now be digital marketing campaigns, instead of printing flyers or attending events.

The four types of digital transformation are:

1. Process transformation - using digital technology to improve your business operations
2. Business model transformation - overhauling your product strategy to take advantage of digital tools
3. Domain transformation - using digital technology to enter new markets
4. Cultural transformation - changing the way that you work with digitalization

The key components of a successful digital transformation are:

1. Well-defined strategy: Define a clear and compelling digital strategy aligned with business goals.
2. Leadership support: Obtain strong support and commitment from senior
3. The right technology: Invest in modern, integrated technologies that enable efficiency.
4. Customer focus: Prioritize customer experience in digital initiatives
5. Cybersecurity: Implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect digital assets.
6. Change management: Manage the impact on employees with a comprehensive change management plan.

Rosanna is a freelance content writer who writes non-boring content for B2B SaaS clients like ThoughtSpot, Lattice and monday.com. She lives in Spain with her husband, her son, and a beagle puppy who eats her furniture. Learn more about her here: rosannacampbell.com
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