Guide

A 7-step workplace digitization strategy for your small business

Technology can boost your workplace productivity and Zen. Learn how to create a digitization strategy that delivers.

a series of spreadsheets transforming into a digital device.

Why digitize your workplace

A digital office uses technology to streamline processes, automate mundane tasks, handle data, and improve teamwork. At least, that’s the aim. But when it goes wrong it can lead to confusion, wasted money, and lost productivity.

There’s a big difference between these two outcomes – and that difference mostly comes down to planning. So make sure you have a digital transformation strategy.

A 7-step digital transformation strategy

A workplace digitization strategy helps you choose the right tools, and get everyone onboard and trained so those tools are used well.

The key steps in a digital transformation strategy are to:

1. Set objectives

Identify the inefficiencies that hold your business back, and research the technology that can help. There are digital solutions for everything from estimating and quoting, to project management, cost-tracking, inventory control, taking payments, and much more.

Do your own research to see what kinds of tools will help, or you can speak to other businesses like yours. A tech-savvy accountant or bookkeeper may also have ideas.

But don’t stop there. Once you’ve settled on the solutions, set concrete goals. Here are some examples:

Example 1

Last year, you spent 4 hours paying bills every week and missed 20 deadlines. With an automated accounts-payable process, you want to spend just 1 hour per week – with no mistakes.

Example 2

You estimate that last year, teammates Susan and Jeff spent roughly 100 hours working on the exact same tasks. It was inefficient and caused 15 arguments between them. This year, you’re aiming for no double handling and just three arguments (Susan and Jeff will always find something to disagree about).

2. Budget the changes

Tally the costs of digitizing your workplace, including things like:

  • new software – most is charged as a monthly subscription, so it typically gets treated as a running expense rather than a big upfront investment
  • upgrading hardware and networks – there’s a chance you’ll need extra devices or to upgrade your data plan to use online tools effectively
  • training users – you may need to pay some overtime to get everyone through the training, or outsource jobs while staff get up to speed
  • other costs, such as tech support to help through the transition, and dips in productivity while your people go through training

You may also need to pay to build a website if you’re establishing an online presence for the first time.

Do a cost–benefit analysis

It’ll be fairly straightforward to budget the costs of workplace digitization because there’s a ticket price for most of the things you’ll need. But to do a proper cost–benefit analysis, you’ll also need to estimate the benefits, which can be trickier.

This will tie back to your objectives and what you hope to achieve, so work out how much those objectives will be worth to you. For example, how much money will you save on wasted meetings or materials, unnecessary do-overs, time-intensive manual tasks, and so on?

Not all benefits will be financial, and that’s OK – workplace harmony, more family time or fewer environmental impacts are all worthwhile outcomes. Just make sure you list the benefits against the costs and check that one justifies the other.

Make a financial plan

It may be months before you experience the full benefits of business digitization. You’ll feel the costs, however, far faster. Consider how you’re going to finance the investment in the meantime – if you need to borrow money, an accountant or bookkeeper can help you build a business case.

3. Get buy-in from everyone

It’s important to have everyone on board with your changes – from the business owner (if that’s not you) to the people using the tools. This is a critical step in your transformation strategy because if the tools don’t get used, the benefits won’t flow.

Make sure you communicate the benefits of the new digital business model to everyone, so they know why it’s happening. Be specific about how it will improve their workflows and make things easier, and tell them about any disruptions to their work.

Be prepared for your workers to have varying levels of confidence in using new technology, depending on their skills and backgrounds.

4. Build a roadmap

A workplace digitization roadmap should lay out what you need to do and when, and in an order that makes sense. This sequencing is important – you want the business to be properly equipped to take each step.

Make a schedule that includes time to:

  • get trained on the new tech
  • set roles and responsibilities for the change – for example, by designating ‘champion’ users for each piece of tech, and an internal support team to help others
  • carry out any pilot projects you’re testing the changes on
  • make sure your connections and hardware are up to date, you have a password manager, and (preferably) have moved your documents to cloud servers so they can be easily accessed and shared using online tools
  • communicate what’s happening to customers and relevant external stakeholders
  • switch over to the new systems, with a buffer period for troubleshooting and fixing any issues

5. Train your team before implementation

Explain to your support team that there will be upfront training on the new technology. Set a realistic training schedule so your team has enough time to learn.

Some people prefer to learn by doing, so be patient and allow time for troubleshooting and fixing errors along the way.

Set dates for the first practical use of the tech. Be sure to tell customers if any of the changes will affect them.

6. Take feedback and refine

Workplace digitization is more complicated than simply installation, training, then moving on.

So check in with users – let people air grievances constructively, encourage questions, and be prepared to tweak things.

Where needed, ask your consultants and customer service to help optimize system settings and processes. Like most plans, your digital transformation strategy will need to have some flex in it, so you can make adjustments as you go.

7. Say goodbye to the old ways

Finally, there needs to be an end date for old systems. To complete the transition, set a date to fully switch over to the new tech.

Update any formal documentation for workflows and processes, and remove any mention of old systems. But save the old processes and data, just in case you need it.

Welcome to your digital office

Congratulations – your digital office is live, and your new tech has solved all your workplace frustrations. So everything’s fixed, right?

Well, not quite. Continuous improvement and refinement of your workplace processes are an ongoing thing. While updates to technologies and software are often automatic, they’ll change the visual and functional aspects of your digital tools.

So, make continuous improvement a core part of your business’s mindset by helping your people embrace change and be open to new features.

Disclaimer

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

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