10 Digital Transformation Tips for Startups
07/04/2021 |

10 Digital Transformation Tips for Startups

Digital transformation isn’t just a buzzword. It’s an organizational and cultural trend that every business needs to embrace. How do startups incorporate this transformation into their strategy?

people sitting in front of a monitor in a workshop

Digital transformation can be a tricky process, especially for newly established startups. There are dozens of moving pieces to consider, and misplacing any one of them can steer your efforts in the wrong direction.

Ultimately, your goal as an entrepreneur should be to start this process with the end in mind. Digital transformations are all about big picture thinking. Don’t delay crafting your mission statement around your transformation goals. Ensure that you communicate what the end state will look like regularly to your stakeholders.

Here are 10 digital transformation tips to help you and your startup navigate this process.

1. Clearly Communicate Your Plans

Digital transformation needs to take place while you’re operating your business. Your company’s day-to-day processes may already take up most of your schedule, if not all of it. It’s a good idea to assume that you’ll need to clearly and repeatedly communicate your transformation plans to a wide set of constituents, including the staff members, partners, and customers. Everyone needs to be onboard with the change.

Driving your transformation strategy as an IT project with little input from your business will make it challenging to adopt your new goals. It’s recommended that instead, you engage your company with a concise communication strategy that allows you to communicate with your system integrators and technology partners.

Aligning all the parties involved in your company seems like an obvious move. However, a lack of communication is one of the main reasons why projects of this type consistently fail. You can never call your digital transformation process an IT-driven one and expect instant success when it comes to changing your business.

2. Adjust Your Budget Accordingly

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: you may put your project at risk by returning to your investors and requesting additional funding. This damages your credibility, which is why it’s so important to build your digital transformation plans into your startup’s budget.

Financial experts recommend that you ‘hide’ at least 15% of your overall budget for unforeseen expenses. Digital transformation projects are relatively new to many business owners, and there will be tasks and obstacles you won’t have anticipated.

You don’t need to share this with anyone, save for the team supplying your funding. If you don’t use the extra money, they will likely find it impressive that you managed to come through under budget.

Driving your transformation strategy as an IT project with little input from your business will make it challenging to adopt your new goals.

3. Use Your Partnerships

Leverage your partnerships to your advantage! You, your technology partner, and your systems integrator (SI) form a trifecta that needs to be completely engaged to be successful.

Ask these partners how they’re committed to your growth during your sales cycle, and have your tech partner review your selected deployment milestones with your SI. Doing so can result in surprising and constructive inputs that can help shape your project, perhaps even before it takes off.

There are many ways that these partners can support you. They can offer monetary support, free resources, and the expertise of specialists to meet certain crucial requirements. Your partners probably won’t volunteer these services until you ask for them, so ensure you do!

4. Obtain Executive Sponsorship

It’s a good idea to find one or several leaders within your organizational leadership team who will support you, especially when issues arise. Ensure that you brief them comprehensively and often.

The executives that sponsor your project need to know what your transformation efforts entail before they can properly embrace them.

5. Host a Formal Project Kickoff

Hosting a formal kickoff for your transformation project helps to build team bonds and motivate members. It also provides an opportunity to make sure you communicate expectations and goals cohesively.

If you’re facing down a major transformation, get the right executives on board—think CEOs and Heads of Sales—to emphasize its importance.

6. Remember to Milestone

‘Milestoning’ is a concept that refers to finding a regular range of checkpoints to unite all parties involved in a process. Rapid development processes can make it tricky to identify these milestones, but that’s a key part of the challenge.

You should do formal reviews at the following points and others of your choosing:

  • Code validation. Ensure that you budget for a formal review conducted by your technology partner. The code delivered can often contain issues, and you don’t want to discover these bugs after project completion. You can significantly minimize your chances of having to rework code if you validate it with a few sprints before giving it the green light.
  • Architectural review. Speak with your SI and tech partners to assess your current architecture, integration touch points, and external system connections. You may need new desktop computers, servers, software, or other tools to move forward successfully. Don’t assume that your integration areas are covered either, as these often get glossed over.
  • Performance review. Budget for a formal performance check on your project’s technical aspects. This check must include a test on your expected metrics across at least one full cycle.
  • Go-live check. Ask your SI and tech partners to supply you with a list of tasks you need to have completed before you go live. Request this list early on, as you’ll need to add many items that will be driven by the project itself.

7. Host a Go Live Party

Aside from celebrating the culmination of your project, hosting a go-live party notifies your whole company that transformation has taken place.

Throwing a party gives your startup a chance to highlight its accomplishments and boost morale throughout its ranks.

8. Draw Up a Post-Live Punch List

Make sure you add a section to your contract that stipulates the resolution of all high priority issues before you release your SI’s final payments. Secondary issues must also fall below a certain threshold.

You hold the bulk of your power prior to payment, so make sure the project is complete according to your standards before you pay.

Securing support at the start will ensure your transformation process continues smoothly well after the project is complete.

9. Plan Support and Maintenance

It’s helpful to define your maintenance strategies at the start of your project. It’s unlikely your internal team will have the skills necessary to maintain every aspect of your new platform by the time your digital transformation goals are complete.

It’s no use figuring this out at the end. Your SI partner will already be moving on to service new customers.

10. Budget for Support

Approach your SI during the planning phase and budget for at least 6 months’ worth of digital support. Get your team to shadow these efforts so they can learn the ropes too. Some businesses fail to plan for their support needs, which makes the post-live transition a headache for all involved.

Securing support at the start will ensure your transformation process continues smoothly well after the project is complete.

How has your business planned for digital transformation? What tips would you add?

Photos: Austin Distel via Unsplash

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