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How do you know when you’re ready for a digital transformation?

Digital transformation is all the rage as I covered in our first post in this series, but knowing how, where or when to start is still somewhat mystifying. The truth is, it’s different for every organization. But there are some universal questions you can ask to help you determine whether a digital transformation should be in your future.

What new trends are you seeing in your corporate data? Your view of your data should be more than just transactional. Properly mining your data with analytics can point you in the right direction for digital transformation opportunities. Through existing and new data, you should be able to see trends like customer behavior (improve service), employee behavior (efficiency), and opportunities to enhance or differentiate your existing products (customer expansion).

Are your competitors using existing or new technology to disrupt and expand the market? Has a competitor suddenly started taking customer orders in a whole new way? Have they integrated their online accounts, providing new insights and making it easier to purchase your goods or services?

Are there start-ups at the periphery or outside of your industry doing new things in new ways? Are they taking advantage of technology to be more efficient and providing better service to the customer? What can you learn from them?

Are you ready to put technology at the heart of your organization? According to Fortune Knowledge Group, “digital transformation should involve a substantial commitment to placing digital at the core of the enterprise,” along with a commitment to reevaluate what they are doing “in perpetuity.”

Do you have buy-in from key stakeholders? Many plans fail because they were improperly communicated to leadership from the start. All stakeholders and departments in an enterprise need to be crystal clear on what the plan is, including what the risks are and what challenges might occur during the transition.

Do you have the right team? Both business and technology teams need to have the maturity to execute the plan. The teams need to have a “fail fast” mentality, with the agility to pivot when failures occur. Short feedback loops should be the expectation during a transformation, and the team should be steadfast in its commitment to seeing the solution through to the end. It may be wise to work with digital transformation consultants who have “been there, done that” and can help your team get up and running faster.

Do you have a clear vision of where you want to be? Before deploying a project, leadership needs to carefully consider if the technology or process they are about to implement is the right one. This means investing in R&D up front and making sure a solution is truly a fit for a business. However, companies that really get it right see a reward on par with some of the storied tech giants of recent years—being able not to just gain market share within their industry, but to also actually create new market share and defend against outside disruption.

Considering these questions carefully will show you where you are on the digital transformation curve.

It might not be prudent for all organizations to innovate at the pace of technology innovation, but at the same time, it is good to implement processes and solutions that evolve using new digital capabilities. Every new adoption of technology or process comes with its unique set of challenges, but ultimately, the real threat to a business is never taking a risk in the first place.

In our final post in this series, I'll explain how and why you should find the right pace for your digital transformation journey.