Executives support digital transformation. Chief information officers are spending 18 percent of their budgets to boost digital initiatives, and that’s expected to rise another 10 percent by 2018. It’s one thing to budget for digital transformation, however, and another to implement digital services. How do you deal with cultural shifts, manage security issues, and ensure employees have access to the tools and services they need? Here’s a look at how to meet the digital challenge head-on.

The Truth About Transformation

Before you can design and implement a digital transformation strategy, you must know exactly what the term means to your company. Put simply, the shift to digital describes any move away from a “traditional” process to one enabled by technology. Data entry is a good example: Tools are now available that reduce or remove the need for employees to enter customer data or review data sets for errors, since the process is handled automatically. This both increases the amount of time staff can work on other projects and often reduces total costs.

There’s another side to the story, though: Digital transformations are inextricably tied to business transformations that can disrupt existing processes and require adjustment from both frontline staff and C-suite members. Realizing value requires companies to manage both the expectation and execution of digital adoption.

Critical Connections

So what does the ideal business landscape look like after a digital shift? Agility, connectivity and flexibility are some of the top benefits of a well-managed transition. For example, a retailer can adopt digital services by launching a mobile app that includes not only personalized coupons and offers, but also in-store navigation and automatic reordering tools. Or consider the evolution of a large telecom company from physical network provider to digital service partner. In many cases, the end game of digital transformation includes both access to new market segments and better management of current customer needs.

Common Concerns

What prevents companies from fully embracing a digital future? Security is one stumbling block, since IT management must expand to include information, technology and solution governance. Cultural concerns are also relevant. If employees aren’t convinced that new digital processes will simplify existing task lists or improve their efficacy, they may avoid new solutions in favor of tried-and-true methods. Companies also must consider the best route for their digital transformation: Rather than trying to do everything at once, it’s often worth identifying needs in a few key areas, rolling out specific solutions, and then measuring results.

Boosting the Bottom Line

When it comes to maximizing the positive impact of your digital transition, following best practices is your best bet. This includes adopting a rigorous "test and learn" strategy that gives teams the freedom to deploy new digital initiatives as long as they’re coupled with continuous testing and learning strategies to improve performance. It’s also worth considering the role of IT services in your transition — rather than developing new procedures and digital tools in-house, many companies are choosing managed services partnerships that provide access to cutting-edge tools, software and support.

Digital transformation is now a requirement for many companies to succeed in a technology-dependent world. Make the most of your move by understanding the shift, recognizing the challenges, and designing strategies to overcome them.