As new technology rapidly develops, companies have access to information that was previously unimaginable.
Business owners can use tools that identify exactly how customers behave and what they want, down to preferences as granular as the colour of a shirt or when a shopper is most likely to purchase.
In today’s omnichannel world, while companies may have gotten by with cheap, temporary fixes to technological limitations, many find themselves at a critical juncture where these fixes are no longer adequate.
Between a rock and a hard place, businesses across all industries much choose: pave the way forward, or stand by idly while the competition gains a competitive advantage by leveraging today’s technology.
The bottom line? Relying on a patchwork of past investments, although the easy choice, is not the right one. If your business is running on legacy platforms, it’s likely less able to compete in today’s market, particularly when it comes to mobile business solutions.
How digital-ready is your business?
The first (very crucial) step in the digital transformation process is determining how ready your business is for digital transformation.
Typically, enterprise technologies fit into three broad categories in terms of web-readiness: pure legacy, web-enabled or digital ready.
This step may sound obvious, but it’s often an afterthought; determine where you currently are, where you need to go, and if your culture and expertise will allow you to get there.
Pure legacy systems weren’t designed to address the needs of today’s users.
Created prior to the dawn of the web, pure legacy systems often have clunky interfaces unfit for use in today’s digital environment.
Web-enabled platforms were created around the late 1990s, which means they have a more user-friendly interface and provide at least some interaction with data.
However, they aren’t ideal for data-intensive digital transformation projects.
>See also: How to move beyond digital transformation
Digital-ready technologies offer agility, quick access to data and simple user interfaces that empower business owners.
The cloud is always the right choice for a company that wants to be digitally ready; it accelerates speed to market, reduces operational costs, and improves general accessibility.
When mobile apps and websites are built in the cloud, businesses can communicate internally with greater efficiency and, ultimately, provide a more seamless user experience across channels and devices.
Simply put, digital transformation requires digitally ready systems.
Existing in the cloud: public, private or hybrid?
One potential downside of cloud computing is that it can mean giving up full control of your data.
Security, governance, and compliance become a shared responsibility between you and your cloud provider.
As such, determining the right type of cloud for an organisation’s specific needs is a crucial first step in your digital transformation strategy.
The public cloud is the most cost-effective and scalable form of cloud computing.
However, because data and network traffic are shared amongst a group of other peer users (whose identities are unknown), businesses lose a measure of control when it comes to dealing with service outages and other potential issues.
Often though, these risks are easily mitigated and not very different from concerns felt by privately owned cloud systems.
Food for thought: who is more of an expert at keeping servers up at all times and managing security… your company, or Amazon?
A private cloud system gives businesses additional security and more control of data, while still offering the convenience of cloud computing.
The challenge is that a private cloud is limited in resources and is typically much more expensive than public computing, since businesses must fund the installation and maintenance of new hardware.
Hybrid cloud options are becoming increasingly popular, as they allow for the most important data to be handled privately, while less critical workloads are run in the public cloud more inexpensively.
Nonetheless, each business has unique needs that should determine what is the best cloud strategy for them. The best cloud option is the one that works best for you.
Within the cloud itself, companies do have a variety of options to choose from.
Common services include infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (Saas).
Each approach comes with its own strengths and weakness, and it’s not always best to narrow in on one service alone.
Many organisations find success using their own combination of cloud computing services that balance functionality with cost effectiveness.
The most important thing is choosing the cloud service that makes your company the most digital-transformation ready.
What comes next: data migration
After determining the best architecture and software systems for your digital transformation, the real challenge begins.
Migration from legacy systems to digital solutions is the most critical step, one that can take up to several years.
Clean Up Unnecessary Data
Legacy systems accumulate years of unnecessary data that can clutter new systems and slow down the migration process.
Use data migration as an opportunity to clean house and eliminate the data your business no longer needs.
Make Necessary Adjustments
Newer systems use simpler, stronger data structures than legacy systems. While this feature is a plus, new models might require adjustments to how data is mapped.
Managing this successfully is worth investing the effort and time, or else you risk facing even bigger issues down the line.
This scenario highlights the value of partnering with a company vested in digital transformations since these professionals have ample experience handling complex migrations.
Rethink Best Practices
With newer, more efficient technology, the practices that have served you well over the years may no longer be quite as effective.
It’s best to start with the tried-and-true business processes provided by your software solution and amend them to your unique business needs as necessary.
This approach is a better long-term solution than shoehorning old processes into a system that has outgrown them.
Plan Ahead to Keep Things Moving
Adapting to a completely new system can’t be achieved overnight, and you need to develop a plan that will keep your business running as massive overhauls take place.
You may need to consider if it’s even worth making drastic changes to legacy systems, which are much less adaptable.
Instead, consider if rollout of new systems might be a quicker, more lightweight option.
Planning ahead also means supporting a culture of digital transformation from the inside out.
Your investments will not pay off without the full backing of your teams, so ensure everyone is prepared for new changes and feels comfortable with the digitally driven future.
Be sure that employees are trained ahead of time to minimise the learning curve once new solutions are introduced.
Investing in completely new infrastructure is not at all easy, which is why many companies have instead relied on modifying older systems rather than spending the time and money revamping technology.
However, a business is only as adaptable as the technology that is its foundation, and technologies like mobile, IoT, and artificial intelligence have amplified this statement.
Thanks to a heightened mobile fluency and popular consumer-facing apps, mobile users have great expectations for their digital user experiences.
Outdated legacy systems struggle to meet these standards, which runs the risk of losing customer loyalty, trust and business over time.
In order to survive, businesses will eventually have to do away with restrictive legacy systems – so why not start now?
Sourced by Aaron Shook, lab technology officer, PointSource