7 steps for planning and executing a digital transformation

Your decision to implement digital transformation is an exciting venture. But it's not an easy task, and there can be a level of discomfort that comes with stepping into the unknown.

This uncertainty can cause paralysis—where companies don’t make any moves at all—because the process feels too complex. In fact, a survey by Progress, a global leader in application development, revealed:

  • 47% of organizations have not initiated a digital transformation yet

  • 59% expressed concern that it may be too late for them to begin implementing digital transformation measures

Don’t let inaction harm your business. Instead, follow these seven steps to ensure your accounting firm is on the path to a successful digital transformation.

Step 1: Identify your objectives

A digital transformation strategy should provide a clear understanding of what your objectives are, and what steps are required to reach your goals.

Because digital transformation looks different for every organization, it's important to note that each organization's objectives will vary as well. But there are some basic objectives every business should consider:

  • How can you enhance the customer experience?

  • Can you create a more efficient and cost-effective operation with the adoption of new technology and processes?

  • How can you become an accounting firm that can adapt and embraces change?

  • Do you have processes in place to gather insight from analytics to help with rapid movement?

By asking yourself these questions, you can identify areas within your plan that require special attention, or which components of your strategy should be addressed first.  

Step 2: Focus on customer needs

Digital transformation is all about leveraging digital tools in order to increase customer value. So, to have a successful digital transformation, everything you plan for should take customer needs into consideration.

For example, to supply more channels for communication, try combining customer management and communication in one place. Logging every email and detail of previously held conversations will allow you to better manage and cultivate customer relationships.

If your customers want these digital interactions, then you must make the necessary transformations internally. Focus on the processes and technologies that enable digital change.

Step 3: Establish new processes

Your 'business as usual' approach may not coordinate with your digital transformation initiative. As such, creating and adopting new processes can help your organization succeed.

For some firms, digital transformation will require a complete overhaul in processes. To organize this change, it’s critical to rally employees together to ensure everyone understands the updates, who is accountable for what, and what systems are implemented to support the team.  

Step 4: Choose your technology wisely

You don't need every piece of technology in existence to successfully implement digital transformation. Instead, choose technology that will support the processes you're optimizing.

Decide what matters most to your organization, and find technology to meet your needs.

For example, do you want to:

  • Standardize common processes and workflows?

  • Collaborate with clients and bring them into your workflow?

  • Estimate time and budget to help make better-informed decisions?

  • Share client data and trigger workflows?

Ultimately, the technology you select should align with your goals, and help your organization meet its objectives.

Step 5: Restructure to accommodate change

'Restructuring' is a scary word. But it's the only way you can become a 'digitally-fit' organization, according to an issue of Inside magazine.

"Presently, dwindling numbers of organizations operate using highly hierarchical models, in which decisions are taken in a traditional top-down manner," the magazine noted.

Instead, organizations have started adopting 'loose hierarchies,' which means employees are given the opportunity to accomplish objectives without the traditional top-down control.

This type of model is project-oriented and tends to be more agile, allowing employees to work with a great deal of operational autonomy. And, as a result, they become more vested in their organization.

Step 6: Execute your plan

You've done all the prep work and now it's time to put the plan in motion. But chances are your plan comes with many moving parts. Rather than trying to incorporate all of your changes at once, take a step back and work in iterations.

An iterative plan means a flexible plan, and each stage in the journey can vary in time; anywhere from one week to a month. At the beginning of each week, gather your team and break down your plan into tangible asks. Discuss the progress of tasks, ensure you’re working within scope, and assess any issues that have come up that may require adjustments to your plan.

By executing a plan in digestible chunks, you can make continuous and significant improvement on a regular basis without introducing sporadic, overwhelming and disruptive change.

Most importantly, an iterative approach will ensure resources are concentrated in areas where they will be most impactful.

Step 7: Allow space for agility

survey by McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, found that less than 30% of companies are successful in implementing digital transformation. And, only 16% of respondents said their digital transformation plan successfully improved performance and sustained long-term changes.

But don’t let this scare you. Instead, treat this as a reminder about the importance of planning well and being agile.

With proper planning, observation and adaptation post-implementation, long-term sustainability is attainable. As your plan rolls out, track and analyze your team’s performance.

  • Is your team adopting process changes?

  • Are you meeting your goals?

  • Is there space to be more impactful in your change?

As you watch the process unfold, you may identify issues or opportunities to change for greater success. With every adjustment to your plan, take time to reflect on lessons learned so you can come at future adjustments with a deepened knowledge of your new process.

Take your time

Digital transformation is a journey, not a race. In order to stay in the digital game, your organization must be able to easily adapt to change, evolution and progress.