What is the Difference Between a Technology and a Digital Transformation Project?

What is the Difference Between a Technology and a Digital Transformation Project?

Many small and medium businesses have been implementing Microsoft Teams recently in order to communicate better internally, share files and to work from home effectively. 

Many of these MS Teams Implementations reached the very basic goal: to be able to chat and use video conferencing However, most of the projects missed the opportunity to become transformative and to improve marketing, sales, operations or other business capabilities of the organization. 

The reason is that many of these implementations were not a “digital transformation but a “technology focused project 

As usual the participants evaluated the MS Teams functions with the technology people quickly, ordered the IT provider to deploy the application and the users started to use the tools. This is how “technology” projects work in general. Very quick preparation, technology handoff, and then the users are on their own.  

At the end the technology was provided  but the business outcomes were only fraction of the opportunities. Like cutting the tree with a dull axe. 

On the other hand, if an MS Teams implementation were “digital transformation” project it would have started with various business discussions. Some technology savvy businesspeople would have sat down with executives, managers and users and collected business objectives  needed in order to understand the executive’s business goalsthe manger’s business improvement priorities and the user’s day-to-day challenges.  

Even seemingly a slow start, preparation could have made a difference. Like sharpening the axe before chopping down a tree. 

Let’s go through the seven key business capability areas to demonstrate what would have been the difference if the MS Teams implementation would have been a digital transformation rather than a technology project.   

 

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Technology Project vs Digital Transformation Project 

 Our use case is a 60-person Wholesale Organization located in the US mid-west. They are a local distributor of various household appliances. They needed to shift their priorities during the pandemic to work remotely as well as change their product lines to handle the further growth of the organization.  

After the first wave of the pandemic, they decided to rethink how they  utilize technology so they can gain a competitive advantage. They felt that usually even the promising efforts did not have any positive return on their technology investments. 

For example, they had MS Teams deployed by their Managed Services Provider prior the pandemic but they were not using it outside of the basic functions (i.e chat and meetings). Though they have paid for the deployment and the service fees, the system did not live up to its promises. 

They realized through a Digital Maturity Assessment that the root of the problem was that the utilization of their technologies was disconnected from their business goals. After having set up a couple of discovery workshops to explore the opportunities with the various departmentsit became clear that most of the pressing issues coming from the various people could be resolved with some simple best practices within MS Teams.  

They implemented a couple of quick-win projects focusing on improving seven of their core business capabilities. Let’s go through the differences one business area at a time. 

Business Capability Improvement via Digital Transformation 

Finance: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

Accountants got access and were able to share files in a more convenient way. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The accountant’s main issue was discovered – they perform manual entries throughout the day and spend time trying to find who is responsible for credit card charges. To solve the problem they designed various forms, implemented in an MS Teams Channel so now all employees can fill them out quickly when they do a nonregular purchase so that when the accountants reconcile the bank statements, they have the information. 

 

Operations: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The people in the warehouse got the access and now they can chat with the staff of the account managers. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The warehouse team’s main issue was to prioritize the pickups to prepare the items for shipping, restricted to the limited floorThe account mangers could not walk down to the warehouse as they were working from home but the workers did not check their emails all the time. The account managers created an MS Teams channel for VIP pickups, and had the warehouse staff install the Teams mobile app on their phones.  They would then send the VIP pickups of the key-accounts automatically to that channel with all the details. The guys on the warehouse floor would gepriority notification to pick up those items first and meet the service level agreements. 

 

Marketing: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The marketing team uses chat as an addition to email to distract each other 24/7. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The VP of Marketing ’s main issue was too much noise and too much data involved in the online marketing operation. People lost focus and got distracted a lot. After 2-3 discovery calls, they decided to implement two best practices. First, they added a tab in the Marketing Channel linked to the key marketing metrics, so that they had only the most critical metrics in front of them available anytime. Then they used a Tasks by Planner to jot down everyone’s daily goals with the roadblocks they see. Next, they organized a 15minute daily huddle through video conference. Because they were prepared the meetings became productive, everybody got more focused and the work got more productive.  

 

Sales: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The field sales representatives got access to MS Teams and they wrote their daily reports in Word after they got back from the road. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The major issue for the sales teams was the excessive time they spent administering all the sales meetings and usually the information got to the right place too late. After some discovery and planning they started experimenting with use of their phones to create voice memos after each meeting while commuting to the next. They sent the automatic transcripts of their voice memos to an MS Teams channel. That channel was monitored by account managers so they got the right information at the right time. The sales people could extend their tours as they did not have to schedule 30-40 minutes of admin time every day. 

 

HR: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The HR department could send announcements through MS Teams so they avoid email. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

As the company was still growing and most people worked from home the main challenge for HR was to manage who is working when, handle time off requests and be able to communicate the altered shifts properly. They implemented a simple bot into Teams so people could request time off, got approvals, and then those were automatically distributed across the team in order to get alignment. They recorded videos on how to use the process and added them to the channel. The people adopted the process quickly as they understood the steps and the procedure. 

 

Client Experience: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The customer support team uses teams to be able to have a video conference with the clients to resolve issues. 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The main issue for the customer support team was to be able to answer client requests as soon as possible and to close issues very fast. They connected the website’s chat, the support’s chat and the support email to MS Teams. When clients had questions or any source of support needed more exploration, the support team could reach out to the product specialists or account managers in a unified way. They could answer the questions related to product, billing, purchase or usage very quickly and provide a much better customer experience. 

 

Management: 

MS Teams Before a tech project:  

The executives now can chat with different departments and see who is available 

MS Teams After a Digital Transformation Quick-Win project: 

The main challenge for executives was that the marketing, sales and product teams worked in silos with overlapping functions and misalignment. After the consultations they realized that most of the problem was related to undefined processes. The teams created their own flowcharts of processes and posted to a shared Channel called “Process Improvement”. Any time they had an issue they reviewed the process flowcharts and brainstormed together the potential resolution. This helped all departments to clarify their own processes with the inputs from others to dramatically clear the misalignments and communication breakdowns. 

 

On a bumper sticker 

Even some technology projects that are successful do not provide measurable return on investment. The problem is the disconnect from the business, technology focus and the lack of preparation with the stakeholders. Digital Maturity Assessments and Digital Transformation Discovery Workshops offer the ability for an organization to articulate the real issues to the technology people that can offer the help need. This way technology can provide tremendous return on investments. 

 

Aaron Smith – Certified Digital Advisor in the Sydney area

Aaron Smith – Certified Digital Advisor in Sydney, AustraliaI’m a real people person and an experienced sales and marketing professional, driven by seeing the positive impact our technology solutions have for our customers. As the Sales and Marketing Manager for Correct Solutions, I’m responsible for helping to steer the growth of our company and engage day to day with our clients to help them achieve their business goals. After leaving school, I had stints in Sydney working in recruitment, but the world of recruitment wasn’t the right fit for me. I was lucky enough to have the chance to move to Japan. It was here I experienced the first turning point in my career and my own self-development; I learnt the art of emotional and customer awareness, gaining a deep respect for people and developing a unique understanding of how to read a room.

In 2007, I returned to Sydney in a Business Development Manager role and then eventually Account and Channel Partner Manager. I’ve always been enthralled by the excitement of sales, supporting the growth and development of my customers and building meaningful relationships. It’s something I still get a buzz from today, 11 years later. Today, I help lead the Correct Solutions team. Seeing our staff grow professionally is truly rewarding. We have a loyal and positive culture at Correct Solutions encouraging people to make the right choices to allow them to develop. We’re not afraid to do things differently. We’ll walk the unbeaten path – fail fast and try new things. It is this innovative approach that sets us apart. When I’m not in the office or watching my young family grow, you’ll find me underwater. Being a scuba diver gives me a chance to collect my thoughts, take a step back and enjoy the magic of the ocean below.

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