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Digital Transformation 4 minutes

How to go digital when you don’t really want to

RZW pasfoto 2020
Ruben van der Zwan
CEO & Co-Founder
pexels photo 52608 2
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pexels-photo-52608-2.jpegNot everyone is a born risk-taker. We all claim we’re flexible, spontaneous and adventurous, but as soon as we realize how much we have, we get scared. I believe this is why startups are taking over the world. They don’t have much money or people to be concerned about, and have all the time and energy to experiment and launch new and cool services. Big enterprises, on the other hand, have everything to lose and carefully guard their belongings- which is exhausting. And it’s not helping them either. In this blog, I tell you how you can go digital, even if you’re careful by nature and don’t really want to.  

The surest way to success

Going digital sounds fancy, but it’s just a means to an end. Now that customers are in charge, you’re forced to act fast and develop better and more personalized services. There’s no way you’re going to do that with legacy systems that don’t cooperate and don’t give you insights in the way your customers behave. Your current services aren’t going to change the world either, as there’s always a way to work more efficiently and get closer to the ones you sell to. It sounds cold, but as long as you’re not on top of your game, someone else is going to change the rules and take your place. So why not be the gamechanger yourself? You may think that going digital is all about risk-taking and completely changing the way you do business. But if you look closer, you’ll find that digital transformation doesn’t change your company; it only gives it an upgrade.

Change your business model

This upgrade can happen in three different ways that are all equally important. First of all, going digital can help you change your business model. As you know, your business model is the way you make money, and every improvement to this model will help you become more successful. Let’s say you own a lease company, and your core business is leasing cars to people that pay a monthly fee for car usage, maintenance and insurance. Now let’s say you started collecting data on the way your customers behave when they’re behind the steering wheel, and on the way they use your cars (number of rides per week, total number of kilometers, countries visited, and so on). Let’s say you sell this data to third parties like insurers, car garages and car manufacturers, that use this information for their own services. This way, you create extra value without providing additional services. You just take what’s already there and sell it.

Analyze customer behavior

Speaking of taking what’s already there: customer intimacy doesn’t require major changes either. Instead, you should look into the way you communicate with your target group and customer base. You could start with collecting data on their behavior, either through smartphones or sensors that you attach to devices, cars, waiting queues, street lighting and revolving doors. You then gather this information through APIs, and turn it into useful data that can be analyzed and acted upon. (This concept is also known as the Internet of Things, but I didn’t want to mention it in case you hate buzzwords). Let’s say you own a warehouse, and sensors “count” the number of people per department, per hour and per day. With this information, you can predict peak hours and adjust the number of employees accordingly. See where this is going? No new services or products, no major changes: just more insights. 

Improve your business operations

If you don’t want to go digital to change your business model or to better serve your customer, then do it for yourself. Digital transformation can dramatically improve your productivity, for all sorts of reasons. For example, it allows you to centralize data so that authorized employees can access and edit information wherever they are. This makes it easier for them to work from home, a café or any other place in the world that has internet (if you ask me, worldwide internet is only matter of time, but that’s a different story). Second, as your data is centralized, employees only have to enter data once, and share it with co-workers within seconds. Third, developing new applications through microservices allows you to set up tiny architectures everywhere, which makes you faster and more flexible. Fourth, analyses on production processes can help you predict maintenance and defects, so that you’re back on the road faster. Fifth (yes!), analyses on the way your customers use your services can help you serve to order, which reduces the need for stocks, speeds up your delivery services and makes you a better and more trustworthy partner.     

You’re not the only one

I might be out of breath mentioning all the advantages of companies that go digital, but I also see the downsides. Digital transformation sounds complex, because it is, and you’re not the only one that’s hesitant. APIs, Enterprise Integrators, IoT sensors and Big Data analyses don’t come falling from the sky, and they need to be integrated on a future-proof, scalable and secure platform. Business that go digital therefore have to work really hard on a new data architecture to get to an environment in which everything works together. But it’s doable, especially when you take the right people on board. Moreover, going digital is more than safeguarding the future of your company (which must count for something). It’s a start of a new way of doing business, by taking what you do best and make it even better. I see no reason why that’s not worth the try.