“Digital transformation is a foundational change in how an organization delivers value to its customers.” -CIO
“Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.” -Salesforce
“The essence of digital transformation is to become a data-driven organization, ensuring that key decisions, actions, and processes are strongly influenced by data-driven insights, rather than by human intuition.” -Harvard Business Review.
Digital transformation is clearly a hot topic that is top of mind for many business leaders. But for small-scale SaaS businesses, digital transformation can feel like something foreign that “doesn’t really happen here.” Maybe this is because the topic is often portrayed as being unimaginably massive in its scope and implications (per the above quotes); whereas growth businesses must focus near-term. There’s also a “feast or famine” aspect to this depiction; it implies that digital transformation is best suited to either (1) old-school industries with a pressing need to modernize-or-die (the “famine” camp), or (2) highly capitalized, bleeding-edge tech firms pursuing reality-bending innovations (the “feast” cohort). Neither is typically the case in small-scale SaaS businesses, nor is this positioning particularly helpful. Rather, we observe digital transformation within small software companies as taking place one step at a time; and it helps to avoid overthinking it. In this way, digital transformation looks less like otherworldly “foundational change” and more like workflow automation that is pragmatic, targeted, and high-impact. Below are some simple examples from the real-world of Lock 8’s portfolio companies, followed by a few takeaways from these cases.
Marketing and Sales:
Product and Client Success:
These examples help illustrate a few key takeaways related to digital transformation. First, purists would likely argue that the above are all pedestrian / tactical in nature; and they don’t truly represent digital transformation. Fine — potato // po-tah-to. As long as they contribute to meaningful advances in our ability to execute, we don’t care what they are called. Second, tackling such minor improvements is habit-forming. We’ve found that implementing each of these small improvements tends to reveal other worthwhile processes that can be enhanced with minor automation. Third, every aspect of the business is a candidate for such project-lets. The examples above focus on a few departments, but we’ve seen a focus on Sales and Marketing (for example) very quickly shed light on potential workflow changes in Finance, HR, and other parts of the business. And, finally, we’ve found this works best when everyone is invited to play in this game. There may be one person who is particularly talented in business systems — and that person can lead execution — but process improvement ideas need to come from anywhere and everywhere within the org.
Just as every great journey begins with a single step, the road to digital transformation starts with some simple workflow automation — don’t overthink it.