So what does digital transformation ACTUALLY mean to your average business?
The terms 'digital transformation' and 'going digital' have been doing the rounds for several years now, particularly in larger organisations.
However, for many smaller business, these terms have very little relevance. Furthermore, if you got 100 business owners together, I am pretty sure they would all have differing views on what 'digital' actually means.
Unsurprisingly IT will always feature high on the list, as will 'social media marketing' and communications. But beyond this, an understanding of digital processes gets pretty hazy.
So, I thought I would look in detail at the 20 - yes 20! - different ways that digital can impact upon a business.
Let's kick off with Finance. Many start-ups or businesses needing capital investment to grow are looking to crowdfunding instead of banks. This requires a investor engagement strategy which will call upon digital skills.
Payment systems are up next. Even some churches now use mobile contactless card readers while they are becoming commonplace across the high street, market stalls and major events. People have been talking about a cashless society for some time now and it's become more of a reality.
The days of talking to someone in a call centre or, dare I say it, writing to a customer services department are numbered. Customer service now involves engaging on social media, via a web chat facility or increasingly with a chatbot.
Generating leads used to be about face-to-face networking and using lists from databases. Whilst the former is still critical, with the advent of GDPR the latter may become obsolete. Instead it's about using sites like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to build intelligent lists of prospects.
It'll come as little surprise to learn that marketing and advertising has been massively impacted by digital. From mobile websites to Facebook Pages and from programmatic advertising to Instagram Stories, the way we communicate with our customers has totally been transformed.
Equally, IT has gone from being about computers to telephones to being about connecting teams of people within organisations in the quickest, cheapest, most efficient and flexible manner. Smartphones, app-based intranets, cloud platforms and collaborative programmes are the new norm.
While many people will still complain about being dragged around the office or country for often pointless meetings, the fact is that millions of employees will now be using the likes of video conferencing, Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts to meet virtually - thus saving money and time.
Making Tax Digital is going to come in sooner rather than later. This will force many smaller businesses to look again at how they run their accounting and invoicing systems. Ultimately though we will end up having joined-up systems between accounts, clients, HMRC and our banks.
The rise in e-commerce sales on website, mobile and inside apps has started to take a massive toll on our high streets and traditional retailers. With 17% of sales now online, it is critical that smaller companies learn how to use the online and digital channels to reach their customers.
Years ago I ran a training course for a multinational company in Switzerland. They had just introduced an intranet but no one was using it as there was no engagement strategy. Internal communications is now as critical as external and is almost wholly driven by digital technology.
Finding the next 'big thing' can just as easily be done by analysing hashtags, using social analytical technology or engaging with influencers such as YouTubers or Instagrammers. So developing products in the digital age still involves ingenuity but also the ability to monitor and analyse online.
For larger organisations, facilities management can be a major cost but with the advent of flexible working, smart buildings, monitoring technology and better data, this can be effectively managed and minimised. (More here)
Most people under 35 prefer to be engaged with on social media and social messaging. This means that old fashioned customer engagement has had to be rebooted for the 21st Century. Better engagement online can lead to greater trust, credibility and ultimately sales.
One sector which has changed dramatically thanks to digital is recruitment. From job boards to LinkedIn Life pages and from Glassdoor to ads on Instagram, how new staff are brought into a business is more about brand placement and marketing than old fashioned job ads.
Online banking is now the norm. Business owners and finance directors can transact and monitor from a phone. And with the likes of apps like Concur and Easyas123 even receipts and bookkeeping can be done at the touch of a button.
Last year, Tesla launched their new driverless trucks in the United States. Electric motors and Artificial Intelligence (AI) means that there will be a potential revolution in logistics. Amazon is also another trailblazer in this field with automated warehouses and the use of drones in delivery systems.
Anyone attending a major event will have noticed the social walls inside the venue, the hashtag in use online and perhaps the live streamed events taking place. Quite simply there are offline events, online events and a mixture of the two, all supported by digital technology.
Staff training can be another huge cost for organisations. Travel, logistics and time out of the office make it a potential opportunity cost. However with e-learning programmes, flexible working and BYOD (bring your own device), training can be done at home or at the workstation.
Machine learning and AI is starting to make considerable inroads into accountancy. There also so many software packages which can integrate with a company's financial systems enabling monitoring, planning and cost analysis.
Finally, it has always been critical to monitor both your direct and indirect competitors. Now that can be done simply using Twitter private lists or, at the other end of the scale, by using sophisticated monitoring software which can track a vast amount of companies, brands and products.
Clearly then, few organisations will be able to steer clear totally of digital processes. The trick is to have a proper digital business plan and that's where DNAsix® comes in. Using this digital system, it makes planning for a digital future less problematic and more profitable.