If you’re wondering how and where to start your company’s digital transformation efforts, here are five great starting points that you can use to kick off the initiative in 2021.
For supply chain operators, choosing among the many different technology options on the market right now can be completely overwhelming. For companies in the bulk and break bulk sectors, culling through the options, selecting the best tools, and then implementing them in a meaningful, productive way can take time, money, and effort that few organizations can spare right now.
And still, the market toward digitalization must continue. Ignore this fact and your company may get left behind in a business world where getting things done smarter, better, and faster nearly always requires technology. One supply chain leader for a logistics service provider in the chemicals industry says her company has faced steep challenges in developing a technology strategy.
That’s because that strategy not only has to meet the company’s own needs, but it also has to service its customer base well. “We’re loading and switching rail cars, loading trucks, and operating marine docks—plus managing all of the logistics that take place onsite,” she says.
“As a result, we struggle with how to bring technology to the table that helps solve our customer's biggest problems.”
Like any other organization, this one is operating with a limited budget and must be able to balance its own needs with that of its customers. “We have a limited amount of people and time,” she adds, “and we need to figure out the areas to focus on in terms of technology solutions that can help us get the biggest bang for our buck.”
5 Steps to Fast Success
One way to ensure that you get the biggest bang for your technology buck is by taking the time to create a digital transformation roadmap. That way, rather than investing in the “next shiny object” that comes along, you’ll always have a roadmap to refer to when acquiring, implementing, and using technology. This not only helps you avoid costly missteps, but if shared with the entire organization, also ensures good alignment across the enterprise.
Here are five elements to include in your company’s digital transformation roadmap:
- Identify your strategic objectives. What are your strategic priorities? What tools and information can help your team become more insightful, proactive, and responsive? “Clearly defining your strategic objectives and how technology will help you achieve them is a critical step to a successful IT strategy,” Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) advises.
- Think ahead. Tech investments that only address immediate needs result in fewer benefits, duplication of effort, and higher costs. “In developing your roadmap, set your sights on a longer time horizon and consider what you will need to stay competitive over the next three to five years,” BDC states. Flexible, scalable, and expandable technology will not only help accommodate your long-term needs, it adds, but it will also help you get the most out of your investment.
- Define your functional needs and priorities. Do this by reviewing your business processes, highlighting any inefficiencies, identifying technology gaps (or areas where your existing systems fall short), and focusing on functional capabilities that can support or improve your current processes, BDC advises.
- Look for gaps and opportunities. As companies evaluate their application and data infrastructure, they should also identify gaps that might prevent them from achieving their digital vision, as well as potential opportunities, McKinsey & Co., One industrial company that took this step identified significant capability gaps related to A/B testing, campaign management, real-time bidding on search-engine marketing, and customer data platforms. “Its research helped determine where the company should focus its technology-modernization efforts over the next one to two years,” McKinsey says.
- Weave it into your corporate culture. For digital transformation to work, team members must be onboard from day one. “Building a culture of responsibility, where workers take ownership of the program, goes a long way towards driving success,” New Context points out. “Companies should have the ability to trace errors back to their infrastructure and help individuals understand where it went wrong.” Proactive engagement also aligns everyone to the same goal, while good communication helps them understand why the changes are taking place (as well as their role in the initiatives).