4 steps to building your digital transformation strategy

October 6, 2016
Manufacturing Day is coming up Friday, Oct 7, to celebrate modern manufacturing. As part of the tribute, we are focusing this week’s blog posts on the heritage of progress in the manufacturing industry and its future of innovation and transformation. Today, our focus is on the high tech and electronics manufacturing industry.

As a high-tech manufacturer, your digital transformation experience is unique within the manufacturing industry. Not only are your own operations undergoing a digital transformation influenced by the need to get complicated products released through an ever-more-complex supply chain—and quickly—the products you produce also are fueling the digital transformation within other manufacturing operations, including automotive, aerospace, and industrial.

man-industrial-equipment-foreman_istock_gl497x373Building an effective transformation strategy requires structure and an approach that keeps your current systems and processes center as you think through the following four steps—strategize, design, assemble, and run—to develop the foundation for a successful digital transformation.

  1. Strategize

When thinking through your digital transformation strategy, start with your end goal in mind. What do you want to accomplish? What does success look like down the road? Focus on the experience you want to create rather than the software requirements. Think about the key themes of your transformation and the experience you want to deliver.

For example, an electronics components manufacturer may want to build its business and reputation around making the highest-quality components and getting them to its assembly partners faster than anyone else. This manufacturer needs to create an actionable, strategic vision to support its objectives of 1) making the highest-quality components, and 2) delivering them to its assembly partners faster than the competition.

Continuing with this example, one of the first steps the electronics component manufacturer needs to take is to identify gaps in current information technology architecture. Once those gaps are identified, it can create the implementation roadmaps to address those gaps.

Remember that speed is vital. Gone are the days of spending weeks, months, or even years in planning. By the time you’re done, the industry will have passed you by. Companies that are leading on the digital transformation front are acting quickly, completing planning cycles in days.

This doesn’t mean your strategy must be completely built and set in stone in 48 hours. However, quick bursts of planning and continuous evolution will better position you to identify quick wins and take advantage of opportunities you may otherwise miss. Just as the high tech manufacturing industry is committed to speed, so must be your strategy development.

  1. Design

According to a Digital Experience Quality Report, 93% of business leaders believe that their customers’ digital experience is very or extremely important to their organizations’ success, and 88% believe the same thing about their employees’ digital experience.

This is where design-first thinking enters the equation. Design-first thinking means focusing on the experiences you want to create for your end-users—not the requirements of the solution. Think about what value you can provide to your users, both those within your organization and your customers. What can you do with and for your users? Consider, too, how you can change the way employees engage and collaborate and the way customers interact with your organization.

Your goal here should be to build the right experience—one that’s beautiful, intuitive, and allows your users to reach their end goals and work seamlessly in any environment. Design-first thinking means focusing on the experiences you want to create for your end-users.

  1. Assemble

Having a strategy and a design is a great start to your transformation. Now it’s time to start unifying the experience. Consider the electronics component manufacturer who wants to make ordering components from it as fast and easy as getting the latest bestselling novel from Amazon. To get to that level of speed and efficiency, it needs to connect its supply chain, inventory management, production, sales, customer relationship management, and myriad other systems to work together and provide a seamless, consumer-grade user experience for its business partners.

The great news is that companies often have many, or even all, of the underlying technology components necessary to create these experiences. The trick is leveraging all your disparate products, services, and existing technologies to power elements of your digital ecosystem. It will be imperative to do an audit of your current systems, their features, and their ability to interoperate with each other to provide the experience you want. Once that audit is finished, you can again identify the gaps and work to find solutions that will help you fill those and bring your strategic vision to fruition.

  1. Run

The final piece of the digital transformation puzzle is getting—and keeping—everything running smoothly in the cloud or on-premise. The cloud provides a great foundation for continuous innovation; however, that doesn’t mean digital transformation isn’t possible for companies that want or need to remain on-premise.

Regardless of your deployment method, you’ll want to implement a plan for continuous management and support that can help you implement governance and keep your roadmap and architecture up to date at all times. Consider adding a shared support structure, along the lines of a shared services center, with skills across a variety of disciplines, such as change management, process optimization, and agile management, so you can build repeatable processes supported by a dedicated group of experts.

The concept of digital transformation may feel like something that would be nice to think about if you had the time—particularly if you feel like you have more practical issues to deal with, like raw material supply or making shipment schedules. However, if you don't make the time soon to think about how digital transformation concepts can help your business, you may find you won't be needing those materials anymore or have those shipments to send; your business will have gone to your competitors.

Don't wait too long to get your digital transformation strategy in line and begin execution.

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