Tips to sidestep digital transformation perils

by Angus Jones

There’s no denying that ‘digital transformation’ has become somewhat of a buzzword over recent years, with COVID-19 accelerating the digitisation of business processes across the world to enable remote operations.

As we settle into the ‘new normal’, SMEs aren’t simply picking up the pieces and going back to “business as usual” – they’re going back to a different workplace.

However, many organisations are finding that the quick-fix digital transformation approach taken by some in recent years has left them with processes and systems that are not efficient and effective enough to deliver results in the long term.

Now is the time for SME leaders to consider how new technology solutions can be better integrated across their business and take proactive steps to get digitisation right.

Curse of the quick fix

In recent years SMEs needed to make rapid-fire decisions to keep their businesses afloat. Almost overnight, remote operations became critical to business survival, with new digital solutions rolled out in timescales previously thought impossible.

Although these technologies have undoubtedly delivered a range of business benefits, many SMEs opted for ‘off-the-shelf, quick-fix’ solutions that lack longevity and integration with the fundamental needs of individual businesses.

In fact, Iron Mountain research found that 57% of IT professionals believe their businesses will revert back to less-efficient, analogue means of accessing data post-pandemic.

In order to fast-track more-efficient best-practice digital workplace transformation, leaders must recognise that reverting to outdated methodologies, systems and processes is not an option. Instead, technology should be leveraged to remove roadblocks. By assessing what worked well and creating space for new processes, organisations will be better able to adapt, modernise, build resilience and thrive.

Doesn’t mean digitalise everything

With 73% of employees expecting some form of flexibility in the future of work, it’s neither desirable nor practical to consider a return to paper-based files, analogue processes and physical data access.

Ensuring data accessibility is a key component of digitisation efforts, helping to create ease for people working from home and streamline business processes.

Not only do paper documents in filing cabinets take up valuable space, but they are also difficult to share with team members working remotely. Often little is understood about the information stored and finding out can be both time-consuming and expensive.

However, adopting a ‘digitise everything’ paperless strategy is not always the right approach. Many business-critical documents still arrive in paper form that requires physical signatures, particularly for highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance or legal. Beyond that, it can often be the case that employees prefer to work with hard-copy documents that are more effective for group presentations, notetaking and overall readability.

SMEs must lead with a tailored approach that best suits their business needs – the question is, where to start?

Getting transformation on track

Digitisation can be complex, and every organisation will have a different transformation journey. As SMEs look from response to long-term resilience recovery, six key steps can be taken into consideration to get digitisation right:

  1. Set goals – Identify the reasoning behind why you want to digitise, and get all relevant stakeholders, partners and vendors on board before proceeding.
  2. Don’t save everything – Conduct an in-depth audit to understand what data your organisation has on hand, and decide what needs saving and what doesn’t. There’s no use in wasting time and money digitising documents you’ll never need again.
  3. Outline procedures – Clearly set out digitisation processes from the onset. For example, what happens to paperwork after it is digitised? How long can items be stored digitally? What is a safe process for disposing of physical and digital assets?
  4. Plan for security needs – A cybersecurity blueprint must be developed concurrently with your business’s digital plan, to protect online data from hackers. For safeguarding extremely sensitive physical data, an off-site storage option can be valuable in ensuring an air gap security measure.
  5. Know the law – With increasing regulation being introduced to protect consumer privacy, the days of being lax with data are over. Keeping information unsecured isn’t just a poor security choice, you’re also exposing your business to hefty penalties.
  6. Implement training – Ensure employees are trained, tasks are delegated, and allow time for staff to get comfortable with new systems. This includes promoting an understanding of how digital solutions can help them do their jobs, not hinder them.

Although digitisation may have accelerated due to an unprecedented global event, it has forced us all to see the digital workplace in a new light, providing a roadmap for data to travel. As barriers to transformation come down, it is vital that SMEs lock in a robust digitisation plan that safeguards long-term recovery. With the right approach to the digitisation journey, leaders will find a post-COVID world that isn’t just normal, but better.

by Garry Valenzisi, Vice President and General Manager ANZ at Iron Mountain

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