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Businesses need to keep a lot of moving parts in motion but that shouldn't prevent them from planning for the future PHOTO: Federico Bottos

We live in a digital age where the rate of change is almost incalcuable. Whatever tools or technologies your business relies on today could be obsolete by tomorrow.

Companies have no time to rest and take a breather. Keeping up to date requires businesses to monitor emerging technology and make the right call as to when it’s time to bring new technology onboard.

So how do you do that, given the staggering number of vendors and solutions out there? By doing your homework, asking lots of questions, and making informed decisions with your eyes wide open.

It Comes Down to Solving Business Problems

We spoke with a few practitioners to hear what tips they would share to stay ahead of the curve.

Jeff Mihalich, director of sales and marketing at Brecksville, Ohio-based Codesummit  recommended shaking off the technology-specific focus. As Mihalich said, “You don’t need a particular technology. You need to solve a business problem. If the technology helps, that’s a reason to buy it. If it’s something you just feel you need to bring in because everybody else is using it, then there’s probably not a good business case for it.”

However, if it is the right technology for your business, continued Mihalich, “See if you can bite it off in small chunks. Don’t try to throw all these cutting-edge technologies into one basket, because you’ll probably end up failing and not doing what you need to do, which is sell your products and services.”

Digital Transformation Doesn’t Come Easy

Digital transformation encompasses numerous business considerations, including cost, learning curve, migration strategy and a host of technical concerns.

And while it brings with it the possibility of an incredibly positive change for the business, there’s the human element to consider as well. The reality is that people don’t like change. They have a comfort zone, and being forced to leave that zone can lead to a great deal of resistance.

Having senior management stand firmly behind the introduction of new systems and new technologies from the outset can go a long way towards alleviating those fears. Buy-in from the senior team sends a message that the new technology is a strategic move wanted by and desired by the business.

It also helps to have management articulate the many advantages of embracing new technology … rather than facing the risk of the business being overtaken by competitors.

Not Just About Technology

That being said, it’s important to realize digital transformation isn’t just about technology. It’s about changing the way that businesses work.

“It’s about what kind of results you can achieve for the business,” said Vince Mayfield, CEO at Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based Bit-Wizards. He added, “It used to be in marketing that you threw some stuff up on the wall and hopefully you had good data behind it. But now, we’ve got some awesome data systems interpreting and analyzing that data.”

A Long-Term Initiative Rather Than a Short-Term Fix

Finally, businesses must recognize that digital transformation is not a one-time, short-term fix. Rather, it’s an ongoing series of initiatives designed to improve agility and push businesses closer to their customers than ever before.

It’s more akin to a watershed moment that fundamentally changes the business — for the better.

Brian McKeiver, solution architect at Allendale, Mich.-based BizStream anticipates a bright future, where a company’s digital marketing solution receives customer information from multiple real-time feeds so the content truly matches what the customer is looking for. 

“The amount of new technology is going to be incredible,” said McKeiver. “A lot of it will be API-first … leveraging new techniques and different channels. Maybe you need to make a native mobile app, a smart watch app, as well as a website that's responsive on a mobile phone. Having data that's structured and available to you, to be able to build on whatever platform, whatever front end technology — that's where the future is going to be.”

The Moral of the Story

The moral of the story is to be vigilant. 

Regardless of how smoothly your digital systems are operating today, keep your eye on the horizon. Stay informed. Chat regularly with your customers and vendors. Read what both analysts and editors have to say. Have a discussion with a solution partner that’s closer to the technology than you are. 

Yes, it’s a fast moving digital marketplace out there. But if you keep your eyes wide open and make the right moves, success is there for the taking.