It’s a gradual shift. No business starts out with broken systems. You have your processes and tasks, and things that just get done. But as the team grows, new challenges start to emerge, and technology speeds up, a business can quickly find itself falling behind. The systems that worked yesterday, are not optimised for tomorrow; changes, improvements and implementations need to occur. The Covid-19 crisis is only highlighting the necessity.
When I spoke with FBAA Managing Director, Peter White AM, he reiterated that while the current situation in unprecedented in some regards, it’s not difficult to take the lessons learnt through the recession and other major issues he’s witnessed in his 41 years in the finance and mortgage industry, and predict the new frontier of changes that the industry will need to adopt to meet operational requirements.
“Firstly, every broker must have the technology and knowledge to be able to transition to an online model,” he said. “With Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and numerous other platforms available, this is easy and inexpensive.
“Brokers who are not prepared to go online will be impacted financially, as less consumers will seek face to face meetings in the current environment.”
Tasks that were once simple take a long time to complete. To-do lists keep growing. Confusion, miscommunication, and uncertainty abounds in the office, and everyone’s desk turns into a landscape of sticky notes. If you’re experiencing any of these issues at your business, the solution to many of your problems most likely falls on technology. It’s time for a system upgrade.
Terms like “digital transformation” and “digital disruption” get thrown around a lot. But the process of going digital is about maximizing your company’s potential by leveraging technology to make processes as smooth and efficient as possible.
A modern, digital environment is faster. Training becomes holistic with the digital documentation, and communication flow is improved with collaborative tools.
A digital environment is more informative; greater transparency abounds through tasks, workflows and communication. Data and reporting give you instant access to business and project status.
Make no mistake: Switching from an analog system to a digital one, or simply upgrading to more modern systems, can’t be accomplished in a weekend. It’s a transition your entire company will need to be on board for. Plenty of companies have failed in their attempt. But with a strategic effort, you can prepare your business, and everyone in it, for a digital-first future.
Here are some key considerations.
Start from the top
Change is challenging, even when everyone knows it is necessary.
If you’ve been reliant on the same systems for years now, there’s going to be an adjustment period. Your new systems may be leaner, faster, and more transparent, but they’re still new. People aren’t like machines. You can’t install a new component, flip a switch, and expect them to work at full capacity immediately.
Before you throw serious money into technology, start with a conversation. You need to get buy-in from your leadership team before adopting anything. Build a strategic plan for your digital transformation.
Take it in steps, and ask the important questions:
- What tools will you invest in and why?
- Can they integrate with one another?
- Do you need to keep any of your legacy systems?
- How will all your technology work together to help you achieve your goals?
Once everyone in a leadership position agrees and your new digital initiative, take the message to the rest of the organization.
Of course, if you’re a small company, spending a day in front of a whiteboard may be all you need to reach consensus.
Address the obvious problems first
The best place to start when you are upgrading your systems is to take care of the obvious problems first. These days, most inefficiencies can be solved with the introduction of cloud technology.
Technology for the sake of technology is not going to help you and is only going to frustrate the team. Start by taking a look at where bottlenecks are occurring. Where is there an inefficiency?
For example, problems might occur because each individual on a team has their own project management process without a single source of truth for projects. This causes overlap, communication breakdown and frustration because teammates weren’t understanding each other. If this is a recurring problem, it might make sense to look into a tool like Karbon that provides centralized knowledge for projects, tasks and information.
Get used to web conferencing
According to a report by Yale Insights, 54% of U.S. workers regularly participate in video conferences. Web conferencing is quickly replacing all other forms of communications as the ideal way to collaborate over long distances. If you’re camera shy, now is the time to conquer that phobia.
For distributed workforces in particular, video conferencing is an important lifeline. When explaining how to do a task, sharing your computer screen with someone is much easier than doing it over the phone. If you need to discuss a project with a client who is miles away, you’ll need video to communicate clearly.
Certainly, video conferencing will never replace face-to-face interaction. But trends in telecommuting, remote work, and globalization mean most businesses will need this functionality.
Learn to love data
Businesses can get their hands on more information than at any time in history. But only if they have access to data.
Data tracking technologies can do several things to help you stay informed about your business. You can track activity on your website, collect data from your customers, and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
It will be up to you to decide which technologies are important to your business and why. Just keep in mind that the value of data only exists in how you leverage it.
According to a report from online Software Development Times, only 12% of businesses said they’ve reached a high level of Big Data maturity. Many more businesses have the tools they need to collect data, but not the means to turn that data into action.
Take security seriously
This is one area of digital transformation that may require new skills. In the future, don’t be surprised if data scientists become welcome additions to the accounting, IT, and marketing departments.
You need to take cyber security seriously if you consider yourself a digital-first business. High-profile data breaches have been all over the news, and they’ve led to catastrophic consequences for the companies involved.
Business cyber security goes beyond installing anti-virus software on your computer. You need to take proactive steps to prevent attacks, like the following:
- Train employees to avoid malicious links and phishing scams
- Update software and operating systems regularly
- Adopt next-generation firewall security
- Create a security plan for mobile and off-site devices
- Generate secure backups of essential data
- Control physical access to all business-related devices
- Initiate a password and multi-factor authentication protocol
Now is the time for digital transformation
Transforming into a digital-first business can be an exciting project. But new capabilities often mean taking on new challenges. Before going digital or upgrading your systems, make sure you understand what your process will look like. Get your team on board to make your transition as straightforward as possible.