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Digitalisation & tech

How To Get Started On Your Digitalisation Journey

By June 2022October 31st, 2022No Comments
How To Get Started On Your Digitalisation Journey - Beyond Accounting Dublin

I wrote recently about digitalisation and the grants that are available to help businesses make better use of online tools and business data. We’ve been involved in a number of digitalisation projects recently, which has given us the opportunity to really dig into the digital tools that companies have – taking a look at what works/doesn’t work, how tools get used, and how they connect with each other.

When it comes to digital tools, one huge thing stands out for me: we have far too much and use far too little. In this blog, I want to consider a few (relatively) easy ways to get more from digitalisation.

Think, plan, and choose your digital tools

It may seem like a good idea to let different teams in the company choose what tools they want to use. If they get to use what they want, your adoption rates will be high, right? Wrong! I always advise that companies choose the digital tools they need and then implement them across the business. In an example I came across recently, the business development team had a CRM and a project management tool and in another part of the business the tech team had a ticketing solution and a Kanban (project management) tool.

This was so inefficient and led to multiple duplications. Client details were being entered into four different tools in these two parts of the company alone (I’m not even including other areas like accounting). The tech team didn’t know what kind of package the clients were on because this information was in the CRM. They both used project management software, just not the same one, so no one had visibility over other activity that affected their work. In addition, because each tool was siloed in a single department, senior management had no centralised intelligence about individual clients.

You can see how messy it can get. Instead, the company should map out needs ACROSS the business and then choose which tools should be used and how. This should be well communicated to all employees, and someone should be tasked with policing this and following up with employees who don’t comply.

A benefit of this approach is that you will definitely save money. When everyone picks their own tools, you can end up with a lot of overlapping functionality that you are paying for. People will tend to pick a solution in the moment to meet their most pressing need, instead of taking a step back to see if something else could fulfil multiple needs at the same time. People can also sign up for several options to try out and then forget to cancel the ones they don’t need, so you can have subscriptions you’re not even using.

Use the digital tools you already have

When I say you should choose your digital tools, I’m not saying you have to choose something new. It’s possible, likely even, that many of the tools you already have are perfect for the job. Maybe you can consolidate these by removing some of the standalone tools we all seem to acquire over time – I go into this in my recent blog on productivity suites. Rationalise tool use by removing old users or moving licenses over to employees who need them.

Once you have a clear idea of what the needs in the business are, you can look at using what you have better. Based on my discussions with clients, they are possibly using 50% of the capabilities of their software or tools. Think about that. They are essentially wasting half of their investment. All that untapped potential which is the other 50% of the capabilities is within your grasp, so rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater you can put your energy into maximising the benefit you get from what you already have.

Don’t double-down on a bad product or a bad product fit, however. If the product isn’t right for the next three to five years, then this could be the moment to see what else is in the market and make a switch.

Get top to bottom buy-in for digital

This point also links back to ‘use what you have’, because it’s a lot easier to get buy-in if you’re talking about something people are already familiar with rather than some brand-new unknown. As I already said, the company should choose the tools; this means senior leadership need to take ownership of a digitalisation project if it’s to be successful. Having made the choice, even if the choice is to stick to what’s already in use, the company’s leaders should be clear that they expect everyone to use the tools and then do so themselves! Adoption starts at the top.

Communicate clearly about the benefits of the solutions – benefits to the company but also to people individually. For example, if using the tool in the way you want is more efficient, you can demonstrate to employees that they will save time by doing things like that, which will mean they get their work done quicker and can go home on time. Or, if it will improve customer satisfaction, you can demonstrate that this will impact customer feedback which is considered when calculating staff bonuses.

For each mission-critical tool your business uses, find a product expert who can deliver bespoke, on-demand, ongoing upskilling […] a consultant who specialises in your tool and will give your teams contextualised, hands-on upskilling.

There are lots of ways to boost adoption, but the most valuable is to lead by example. You can have the world’s best adoption strategy, but if everyone knows that the CEO barely opens his laptop and can’t even put an appointment in a calendar, it’s going to be an uphill battle to make it stick.

Never stop learning

I’ve already discussed upskilling and training in my recent blog, Why Upskilling & Knowledge Transfer Should Be A Business Priority. When it comes to digital tools, training is everything. Why do you think companies are only using 50% of a tool’s capabilities? It’s almost certainly down to (a lack of) product knowledge. They may know a tool can do something, but not how it’s done. So, they instead let it go undone.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that an average employee has only surface knowledge of many of the tools they use. If that’s the case, there is no way the company is getting the level of productivity and collaboration that they should from the tools. As well as paying for something to be underused, it’s much harder to get good adoption rates if people don’t know how to use something.

Invest in your training. For each mission-critical tool your business uses, find a product expert who can deliver bespoke, on-demand, ongoing upskilling. I’m not talking about generic ‘support’ like you might get from a managed services company; find a consultant who specialises in your tool and will give your teams contextualised, hands-on upskilling. Once initial training with a tool is done, make sure employees can access the expert when they need in order to keep learning. As they grow in their job, their needs will evolve and so should their training.

Have regular check-ins with your chosen expert to review company workflows (they may spot inefficiencies in how things are set up or integrated) and show you new features or integrations or add-ons. Technology is constantly evolving, so you can’t just ‘set it and forget it’ anymore. Your needs as a business change, technology changes. If you’re not careful, the gap between what you need and what you’re getting can become a chasm.

Incremental changes become digital transformation

Pretty much every day I’ll think to myself, “I wonder how you..?” Maybe it’s how I can scroll quicker past the 50 folders I don’t need to find the one I do. Maybe it’s how I can create a Zoom invitation automatically when someone puts a date in my diary. At the time, they are small needs and barely an inconvenience. You wonder if there’s a better way, then you move on with your day and forget about it. Until the next time.

But if you’ve followed my advice above and have regular check-ins with product experts, these questions can finally be answered. Your consultant will tell you immediately the best way to automate that Zoom invite or jump straight to the right folder (I’m taking it as a given at this point that they have made sure everything is properly set up and that your data can move correctly between systems). It’s at this level that digitalisation can dramatically deliver on productivity.

The little things that happen all the time, the minutes lost that you don’t even think about… fix those and the accumulative effect on digitalisation can be significant. You could potentially be talking about efficiency amounting to two or three hours a week. Imagine what you could achieve if everyone in the business had an additional two or three hours every week! That’s in addition to all the benefits of smoother workflows and improved business intelligence your gained because you are now using the right tools and using them better.

Get support to start your digital transformation

I hope I’ve inspired you to think about your company’s digitalisation path and what transformations you can achieve in your internal processes. The Enterprise Ireland Digitalisation Voucher is winding down, but there is a new Digital Start grant from the Local Enterprise Office that you may be eligible for. Even if no grant is available to you, I do recommend that you invest in expert support as the value that digitalisation brings can be significant.

If you’ve been struggling with issues like profitability and productivity, it might be time to work with a proactive accountant who will support you with practical, actionable advice. Talk to us about switching to Beyond.
Rory