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5 Steps to Start Your Digital Transformation Journey


Digital transformation is defined as utilizing modern digital tools and technologies to transform your business for a better customer experience. It is important to start your digital transformation journey with your purpose and strategy.

Why Digital Transformation?

Businesses choose to embark on a digital transformation journey to advance the customer experience to the modern era. It is like going from using flip phones to smartphones. Look at the possibilities of using a smartphone. One can do almost anything on their smartphones like checking the weather, calling a ride, ordering food, banking, watching entertainment and reading news to almost anything. Almost none of this is possible using a flip phone. Though both are phones, your experience as a consumer is significantly different. The customers have come to expect a similar seamless experience from all the businesses they interact with including recreation, fitness and wellness.

If you have not started or in the early stages of your digital transformation, it is important to embark on this journey as an urgent, mission critical strategy.

In this series on digital transformation, we are going to share strategies, ideas, lessons learned and more to help enable your journey.

Define What Digital Means to Your Business

Digital means different things to different businesses. You have to define what it means to your business. Digital could be giving a mobile experience to your customers. It could also mean moving away from emails and phone calls for customer service to self-service tools and chatbots. Digital could be a touch-less experience.

A business can digitize their business anywhere from modernizing their existing tools to introducing Artificial Intelligence to help the customers. The benefit of many start-ups is they are founded in a digital era with a digital-first approach. The challenge for many experienced businesses is they have to move to the modern digital era, and thus have an urgent need to digitize.

Define Your Digital Transformation Strategy

An important step to start your digital transformation journey starts with putting your customer at the center of it. It is important to have a strategy before you start the initiative. You need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and define the strategy. Conduct a current state assessment and a future state design for your digital strategy.

A digital strategy should have two areas: one is the customer-facing and another would be your employee-facing. It is as important to think through the digital experience of your employees as much as your customers. Your employees are the ones who are going to learn the new tools and help your customer success.

While defining your digital strategy, you have to take into account what the next two to five years is going to mean for your business and customers.

Create a Pragmatic Roadmap to Transformation 

A roadmap helps you identify the key milestones to successfully implement your strategy. A roadmap usually describes your path forward for the next two to five years. You can choose the length of your roadmap. You can create a roadmap with the best information available to you at the time of creation. A roadmap is important as it helps you to identify what has to be done and when. A roadmap also helps you to budget for your digital strategy, create projects and project plans, assign resources, engage the right partners and measure progress.

Get the Stakeholder Buy-In

A stakeholder is defined as anyone who may be responsible to run your business. This would include the CEO, the senior leadership, the board members and, most importantly, your employees. While these strategies usually flow top-down, it is important to socialize the strategy with your employees who will be the enablers in this journey.

Get Your Digital Transformation Journey Started

Progress is better than perfection. A strategy and a roadmap usually span over multiple years. If there is one takeaway for you, it is to simply get started. You can identify smaller milestones to measure, which will help you to get the journey started.

In conclusion, think of digital transformation as a journey and not a project. A project by definition has a beginning and an end with defined scope and deliverables. A digital transformation is a continuum. It is also recommended to have an agile approach to your digital transformation. An agile approach requires you to make modifications as you go along to adjust your approach to meet your goals as well as react to unforeseen obstacles.

Siva Balu

Siva Balu is the vice president and chief information officer at YMCA of the USA. In this role, he is working to rethink the work of Y-USA’s information technology strategy to meet the changing needs of Y-USA and YMCAs throughout the country. Siva is the creator of the new Y Cloud digital platform to deliver digital, virtual and mobile products to members across the nation. Y Cloud is the world's first digital platform built for non-profits by non-profit. Read Siva's full bio.  

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