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PHOTO: Jacqueline Day

Many companies claim success today as digital companies. They've hired "digital natives" who have spent their lives with phones tethered to their hands. They've convinced veteran staff to put notes in their CRM. And they even provide a plethora of digital options to work with.  

But claiming success and having a solid digital foundation in place are two very different things.

What sets digitally successful companies apart from everyone else is the strategy involved in choosing, implementing and training on the technology they purchase. Great technology stacks are measured in quality over quantity.    

Of course, none of this is new. But turning the desire to be among the digital elite and putting the process in motion are two different things. So while 50 percent of businesses may have a good outlook on technology and 40 percent actually have a digital transformation team in place, for those who don’t, the process is a long and winding road. 

Below is an outline to help you get started.

Related Article: Digital Transformation Success Depends on So Much More Than Technology

The Right Digital Technology

A technology stack is like a snowflake: no two are alike. Companies have different needs and strategies. Consultants will be the first to tell you there are no cookie cutter answers for what is right for your company, you have to determine what is right based on your long-term goals.

Based on your industry, you will likely need certain foundational pieces of technical infrastructure. For example, if you are a retailer who is looking to expand your ecommerce presence, you probably will start with a product information management (PIM) platform and an ecommerce platform. If you are a creative team, then a digital asset management (DAM) platform and a strong editing suite might be where you begin. If you run a vast supply chain, enterprise resource planning might be the right solution to begin with — you get the idea. What’s important is you purchase technology that will grow with your company and isn’t a passing fad.

Your digital procurement strategy should be a multi-year strategy that allows for integrations down the road and additional foundational software. Just because a PIM is more important doesn’t make a DAM irrelevant, after all.

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Sell the Concept

You and I both know that a sound strategy is to procure the right software and even what that software is, but how do you convince the people who control the budget? And how do you enlighten the people who will be using it?

Convince the Board

One reason digital transformation goes so slowly is the right software is often perceived as expensive. The cost of software is only expensive if it isn't utilized properly or you purchase the wrong kind — software should pay for itself in most cases.  

The only way to make the case is to actually present a business case to sell upper-management on the idea. Creating and presenting a business case is for another article, or an MBA class, but know you need to cross your T's and dot your I's and understand the business drivers, costs of the product, implementation, timelines, how it’s relevant to your business, why it’s necessary to own, who will own it, how is it an investment and not just a cost, etc., etc., etc.

Enlighten Your Team   

The best business case in the world is not going to convince the actual end-users of the new software to actually use it. A lot has been written on this subject, and having lived through it myself, I can tell you it is really important to get right.

Once upon a time I worked for a leading press release distributor. One day we decided to move from our time-tested distribution method to a new platform that was developed in-house. As the timeline to go live with the software pushed back year after year, the excitement waned and waned, to the point that no one wanted to use it because it never actually worked in beta. While there’s nothing more fun that explaining to a client why their quarterly earnings release didn’t go out, sometimes that fun is better left for someone else.

Despite the fact that this was unique software developed in-house, the implementation and roll-out was no different than for any PIM, DAM, ERP or any other tool — and it taught me a lot.

First, don’t roll out anything until you know it works. Second, explain the business case to the end-users and why this change needs to happen. Your staff isn’t in the C-suite making the decisions, but they still need to be convinced, using different arguments and for different reasons.

Related Article: How to Future-Proof Your Martech Stack

Implement and Train

Implementation and training are two different things. Training should not begin until you’re sure the software works properly or you’ll create issues similar to the above example. There should be no ambiguity over which software, legacy or new, should be used at a given time. But, as implementation progresses, you will need testers and people you trust to play around with the system and develop processes and standard operating procedures. These software “champions” will be vital to the success of the project because they will eventually lead everyone into the new era, so choose carefully.

Your implementation partner should have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure you stay on schedule, but having a project manager on your team, or someone to keep them in check, will help ensure you are getting what you signed up for. Not that a software company would ever sell something they can’t deliver on, but just to be on the safe side, you know.

Once your software is implemented and training has been provided to the end users, your champions should begin using the software while others join them in the following weeks and months. This will ensure the naysayers, which there inevitably will be, get to hesitate all they want while you’re still moving forward and remaining productive.

Once you have everyone working on the right software and confident they are working on it correctly and cohesively, only then can you feel confident that you have set your company on a path toward becoming digitally elite.

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