Digital transformation: how are businesses adapting to an increasingly online world?

Businesswoman working at a futiristic digital interface screen with black background.

The last couple of decades have seen all types of businesses adapting to a new digital landscape. As customers increasingly make use of online services, most companies have had to undergo some form of digital transformation. But what exactly does this entail?

What is the meaning of digital transformation?

There is no specific blueprint to follow for traditional businesses adapting to a digital world. Instead, there are various different angles which need to be considered with a view to facilitating digital ways of working, both within an organisation and in relation to customers and suppliers. Let’s take a look at some of these below.

Going paper light or paperless

One of the most obvious methods of businesses adapting their processes for a digital landscape, is to reduce or eliminate their reliance on paper. This includes getting rid of written documents, filing cabinets and hard copies of reports and textbooks. Instead, documents are electronic, stored on servers or in the cloud. Some companies choose to go completely paperless, but most retain paper to some extent – known as going “paper light”.

In terms of written communication, most businesses already primarily rely on email. However, some still have to deal with postal correspondence, particularly if they are processing official documentation. In this case, they can generally scan any physical letters and use optical character recognition software to convert these to digital format.

Agile working

The move towards agile working has gone hand in hand with the gradual digital transformation of the past couple of decades. This is about allowing office based staff to work flexibly, on any device from any location at any time. It normally involves allowing employees to use their own devices in conjunction with cloud hosted software.

It is necessary for employers to relinquish some element of control in order to fully embrace agile working methods. They will instead have to trust their employees to conduct their work according to a certain set of criteria or to meet specific deadlines, rather than being available and present in a set physical location between 9-5.

Embracing the cloud and innovate software

Most businesses adapting to a digital landscape will need to take advantage of a cloud based IT infrastructure. This means moving existing physical company servers to an online facility. Furthermore, software which is normally installed on individual workstations will generally be abandoned in favour of cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) products.

Aside from embracing the cloud, digital transformation will often also involve experimenting with new software tools in order to streamline existing processes and improve efficiencies. There is a wide array of automation software – including some with artificial intelligence built in – which can help businesses adapt to the brave new digital world.

Cultural change

As well as many of the practical steps which need to be taken by businesses adapting to the online landscape, they often need to also bring about change to their corporate culture in order to achieve successful digital transformation.

Cultural change will often involve moving away from a traditional hierarchical structure, breaking down some of the management silos, and allowing all members of staff to have more say in how the company is run. Some of the most obvious changes to a corporate ethos will revolve around allowing a more flexible way of working.

What are the benefits of businesses adapting to a digital landscape?

Both modern consumers and business clients have come to expect certain online services as standard from the organisations they deal with. At the most basic level, this will involve being able to find relevant information on their website and correspond via email. Many customers also expect to have login access to a personal online account when they do business with a company; this might simply show them what they have purchased, but it can also be far more complex in the case of an ecommerce site. Providing certain online functionality can minimise the need for manual administrative work and also reduces mistakes creeping in, helping to maximise efficiency.

Businesses adapting to digital ways of working can set themselves apart from their competition. Not only does digital transformation help to engender a modern agile working environment for staff, attracting and retaining top talent, but it also promotes a forward thinking culture which is good for business. Both B2C and B2B relationships can be enhanced by the adoption of modern technologies and processes. Furthermore, efficiency gains can be made by going paper light and moving into the cloud, helping to improve profits.

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About the author

Nicholas joined in 2018 to set up the Company Secretarial Department in the group’s company formation divisions. After establishing the department, he was a key stakeholder in the development of Linnear CoSec. Prior to joining the group, Nicholas worked in a variety of client-facing positions at an international provider of corporate services, caring for a diverse portfolio of companies. He is a Chartered Secretary and Governance Professional, and holds a bachelor's degree in Politics as well as a Masters in Corporate Governance.

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