Don’t Overthink Digital Transformation

January 18, 2022
19 Minutes
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In SaaS businesses, operating results
are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.


“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:

  • Site Visitor Alerts: When a prospect visits the website’s pricing page more than two times, reps who have been assigned those contacts receive Hubspot alerts. Similar alerts get triggered when prospects download assets from the website or submit inquiries. These allow for contextual and timely outreach by reps that optimizes engagement of that prospect. Klayvio offers a similar email management solution.
  • Opportunity Management: A renewal Opportunity is automatically created within Salesforce as soon as an initial sale is made. This also kicks-off assigned Tasks for various team members beginning 120 days prior to the renewal date. Tools such as Affinity can support managing relationships through this process.
  • Qualification-to-Demo: A new coverage model helps address high “no-show” rates among qualified prospects on scheduled demos. Specifically, work-flows and hot-transfer capabilities allow Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to connect prospects with designated Account Execs (AE’s) in order to enable an initial demo to take place immediately upon qualification.
  • Pipeline Updates: Alerts go out to people across a range of functions when an Opportunity is created / converted from Lead, and as that Opportunity progresses through material stages of the sales cycle (and also sends high-fives when deals are won). Importantly, this allows all parts of the business to know what’s in the pipe and what may soon influence their own workload.
  • Sales Conversion: Traditional sales training can be difficult to track Digital tools such a Jiminny can help sales teams improve their pitches and get the yes.

Product and Client Success:

  • Go-Live Notifications: Clear, consistent automated communications around client implementations are an easy and impactful way to ensure different departments are on-point for clients with no lag…and also to celebrate go-lives.
  • New User Training: When a new user logs into the platform for the first time, it automatically initiates a brief orientation and initial “get-started” user-tutorial. Users can access this self-serve training again at any time without having to speak to anyone.
  • Usage-Based Nudges: Automated Task creation occurs based on client / user behavior. For example, a Task prompts account managers to reach out to customers who have not logged into the platform in the last X days.
  • Contextual Help: In product chat / chatbot offers support (through services like Intercom) when a customer has difficulty using a specific feature or workflow. This has the dual benefit of improving the client experience real-time, while also identifying areas for product / UX improvement.
  • Revenue operations: Billing and invoicing can be an incredibly manual task, even with tools like QuickBooks to help. By leveraging CPQ tools to automate billing and SaaS metrics reporting tools (like Ordway) to automate reporting, revenue operations can be moved from time consuming to seamless.

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.

Are we speaking the same language? Let’s talk.

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