How do you create a digital transformation roadmap?

CornerRight 11 min

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In response to the rapidly changing economic realities and consumer behaviors, organizations across practically every industry are launching digital transformation initiatives and investing in modern software to support them. 

However, this type of business transformation is more than just implementing one piece of software. Instead, digital transformation needs to become a driver of change throughout the entire company. This requires a lot of cofractionating, especially if we’re talking about large enterprises.  

Digital transformation is like a journey – it requires careful planning and a solid process that ensures that you reach your destination and become the digitally enabled organization you want to be without paying the costs that could have been avoided. To carry out a smooth and efficient digital transformation, you need a special roadmap.

Keep on reading this article to find out how to build a digital transformation roadmap and streamline the process of becoming a digital business capable of meeting consumer demands.

Table of contents:

How do you create a digital transformation roadmap?

What is a digital transformation roadmap?

Why do you need a digital transformation roadmap?

How do you create a digital transformation roadmap? 5 best practices

1. Have a clear picture of your current state

2. Establish your vision and strategy

3. Start with a smaller and rewarding project

4. Deliver products in iterations

5. Find a way for measuring your progress

Wrap up

What is a digital transformation roadmap? 

Since every business is unique, the effort and scope required to drive digital transformation will be different as well. A digital transformation roadmap is a document that helps you plan, coordinate, and drive that change throughout your company. 

Depending on how you manage projects and investment decisions, your roadmap will include different elements. However, every roadmap consists of a few core elements: 

1. The goal behind your digital transformation

What does digitally transforming mean for your entire company? What level of transformation will you consider as good enough? How much digital transformation are you looking to achieve? 

Companies that aim to transform are usually driven by a vision of a target state they want to arrive at. You need to articulate the vision of who you will be, what it will feel like, and why it’s so important to the company. Without this vision, securing buy-in from all the relevant stakeholders will be very challenging. 

A clearly stated vision that resonates with everyone – from employees to customers and partners – will make sure that everyone’s actions are fully aligned and directed towards one goal that you’re trying to achieve with digital transformation. 

2. Your digital transformation strategy

Now that you have a well-defined goal, you also need to tell others how you’re going to get there. 

How much time do you think the transformation will require? Are we talking about months or years? Is it going to be a gradual, iterative process, or will you change everything in a big bang approach? 

You need to understand all the changes that need to occur during their digital transformation before actually launching the project. Include all the detailed plans like developing proof of concepts, prototypes and exploring different opportunities to your strategy document. 

Identify the key areas of focus for the transformation – ones that will prove essential to your overall success. By developing an overall strategy, you will show that you’re serious about the change, and it’s not just a random idea of one of the companies lured by the current industry trends.

3. Key activities during your digital transformation

What are the milestones that you need to achieve to support the transformation? You don’t need to map each and every task in advance, but it’s a good idea to know what critical changes need to happen for you to achieve success. 

The key activities listed here will be different for every company. They can be applying changes to the supplier ecosystem, launching new digital technologies, organizational restructuring, or modifying business processes. Moreover, the roadmap could include high-level costs and benefits to aid decision-making. 

4. Milestones you will encounter on the way

Since the destination of a digital transformation is somewhat vague, you need to know what achievements or events should be happening to know that you’re going in the right way. 

A digital transformation roadmap should include descriptions of intermediate target states that you will be achieving as you progress. Such mileposts offer helpful references that keep your transformation initiative on the right track. 

You also need to find a way to measure your progress and set expectations about when people will start seeing value from the transformation and changes in their work environment. 

Why do you need a digital transformation roadmap? 

Launching a digital transformation project without any plan or process will keep you in the dark about where you are in relation to your goals. You’ll have no idea about where you’re supposed to be at a given point in time. 

As you can imagine, a digital transformation comes with significant risks if you don’t know where you’re going. Without a roadmap, you won’t have a clearly defined vision for your transformation or a reference that will tell you whether you’re moving in the right direction. 

This is especially painful for large-scale transformations. They can be overwhelming, so it pays to separate the project into smaller and more manageable parts. By splitting the work into pieces, you can plan resources more effectively and generate the value that your stakeholders expect sooner. 

And that’s especially true because digital transformation is an incredibly complex project. It often combines technology projects, process adjustments, and organizational changes. They are all interdependent. For example, adjusting staffing levels to benefit from automation technology doesn’t make sense until you actually have that technology and implement it successfully. 

Another benefit of a roadmap is that it helps you to understand the sequence of events during the transformation. That way, you can avoid any confusion and encourage the transition to be smoother. 

A roadmap also enables different teams to work on different parts of your transformation effort at the same time and stay aligned. All the pieces of the puzzle will eventually fit together when you’re done. 

How do you create a digital transformation roadmap? 5 best practices

1. Have a clear picture of your current state

To start thinking about digital transformation, you need to know where your business is right now. By identifying all the internal and external factors, you’ll pinpoint problem areas and take action there. You can use frameworks like SWOT, STEEP, or STEEPLE analysis – they’re helpful for measuring these factors. Let’s take a closer look at them. 

  • SWOT – The SWOT analysis helps evaluate a business, project, or transformation effort based on its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It allows you to learn more about the digital capabilities of your company, analyzing both internal and external factors in your transformation project. It’s especially handy for understanding what’s your current internal capabilities are and what they actually need to be. 
  • STEEP – STEEP analysis measures the political, economic, social, environmental, and technological factors relevant to your transformation project. It goes to step beyond SWOT analysis and offers a deeper understanding of the current state of your digital capabilities. It’s easily one of the best methods for analyzing external factors that could impact your transformation effort. 
  • STEEPLE – STEEPLE works just like STEEP, but it offers something extra. It also considers added legal and ethical factors that help to identify cultural and compliance gaps within your business. Include these factors in your roadmap, and you’ll be sure to improve your organization’s culture together with digital capabilities. And company culture is an essential part of any successful digital transformation. 

2. Establish your vision and strategy

Once you know where your organization’s gaps are and what problems you need to solve, you’re ready to create a strategy that aligns with your business goals. While you’re developing your strategy, consider which of the current digital transformation approaches, technologies, and trends you’re going to use as a base for your future strategy. 

For example, imagine that you’re a retailer that has both offline and online stores. You’re looking to understand your customers better and improve customer experience across all of these platforms. In order to achieve that, you need to boost your online capabilities to learn what customers want whenever they interact with your brand (both offline and online). 

At this point, companies usually invest in tools and resources for mapping the user journeys across all of the platforms and collecting critical data that shows customer preferences and behaviors. But this is just the beginning. The next step is using this data to your advantage and translating it into personalized promotions in both online and offline stores. 

You need to have a strategy to make sure that your digital transformation looks as streamlines as in the example above. And you need to clarify that before starting any transformation projects. 

3. Start with a smaller and rewarding project

Transformation might be a scary prospect to some of your stakeholders, so start with a project that is less complex, easier to deploy, financially viable, and brings visible value soon. 

The idea is to present the return on your investment at the earliest point in time possible. If you end up waiting for the existing projects to be completed and only then getting the final verdict on whether or not your transformation was successful, you won’t have anything to show to your stakeholders.

Projects need to be internally self-sufficient and not dependent on other projects. That way, if you lose control over one initiative, you can always restart it instead of going back throughout your entire digital transformation initiative. 

4. Deliver products in iterations

Since digital transformation is a complicated process, delivering it in one big change package is a bad idea. Instead, execute the transformation efforts in shorter iterations. This also gives you the opportunity to test the project in focus groups before scaling it up to entire departments. 

Make sure that your digital transformation roadmap is divided into measurable tasks to get a more granular look into your initiative. For example, if you’re aiming to provide a better customer experience, you can either execute everything as a whole or segment your initiative into phases ranging from optimization of existing processes to digitization of new processes. 

5. Find a way for measuring your progress

Making changes and making progress aren’t one and the same thing. You might be tempted to count the amount of money invested in supporting initiatives, the number of systems you delivered, or a list of business processes that were changed to measure the success of your transformation. But this approach might lead to underwhelming results, lost time, wasted resources, and – worst of all – change fatigue. 

Just because you’re introducing a large number of changes, it doesn’t mean that you should measure your digital transformation that way. Instead, focus on the impact these changes have on the organization. 

It’s the impact that gives you a good measure of your progress towards digital transformation objectives. Look at the impact of your activities on products, processes, employee productivity, business model and business profitability. When evaluating these metrics, always keep your eyes on the goal in your roadmap. 

Wrap up

We hope that this article helps you understand the value of a digital transformation roadmap for any kind of transformation initiative. Naturally, a great roadmap and outstanding strategy aren’t enough to successfully transform your organization. What you need is expertise in digital technology solutions that address your gaps and issues.

Instead of spending time experimenting on your own and learning by trial and error, hire a team that knows its way around enterprise solutions and has experience in carrying out successful digital transformations. 

Get in touch with us if you’re looking for technology advisory services dedicated to digital transformation projects, we know how to help an organization like yours to leverage digital technologies for a more agile business model.

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