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Digital Transformation is Dead – Long Live Digital Transformation!

If you’ve been to an event or read any article about finance or P2P recently, you’ll be familiar with digital transformation. In fact, the term is used so often, it's in danger of becoming meaningless. Used as a short hand for “what you’re doing now is probably wrong,” it’s assumed that everyone is on board with what transformation means and how to go about doing it.

Business transformation has been described as trying to dismantle and put together an engine, while making sure that the wheels keep turning. And if you want to transform processes that are manual and disparate into something connected, you need to know where to start. Not only that, but you need to know where your existing processes lead and feed into the business.

Start with Why

So make it meaningful. In other words, start with why. If a team knows why they are doing something and how the changes will affect them and the business, they are much more likely to be on board with it. Over 60% of transformation projects fail because the people involved don’t recognise the value in it enough to change in the way that the business wanted them to.

Collaborate – And Make Sure Relationships are a Win/Win

And it’s best to realise that there are no short cuts. Just because you as the leader of the project want something to work, doesn’t mean others will automatically fall into step. The project leader needs to make sure that everyone understands the needs and aims of everyone else – including your suppliers. So, you need to collaborate. To do that properly you have to realise that whether it’s inter-department, across the business or with external stakeholders, there must be a demonstrable win/win. All parties in the relationship need to see enough value in the partnership to want to maintain it.

It’s all About Your Team

But, to deliver any project, you’ve got to have the right team on board. Think long and hard about the key stakeholders you’ll need and the team you’ll need to deliver it. Often a good place to start is with that one person who seems most against it. If you can change that person’s mind, then you may find that person becomes your best asset in driving the change. But at the same time, if it’s clear that some simply are not the right fit, then you need to act decisively.

Make it Realistic

In the same way that you need to make any change meaningful, you also have to make it realistic. There’s nothing that derails a project faster than setting unachievable goals. And to be resilient in times of crisis, you need to make sure that those goals and your KPIs are directly aligned to the core business. Make sure that once you have identified the outcomes you need, that you don’t get distracted or drift away from your targets.

Spend Money on Growth

In times of crisis it’s tempting to draw in your horns and that where cash is king, to not spend it on something like your processing technology or take up precious time reviewing your processing efficiencies. But as we move through the end of the year and into the next, true insight into your end to end cash cycle across the business is going to be critical to success. Without technology on your side, the right people at its heart and new, tightened processing, that’s going to be impossible to do.  According to Gartner, CFOs who successfully weathered the storms of 2008 were those who protected costs that drove new growth. And any digital transformation project should have growth and innovation at its heart. If your team, preferred solution provider, culture, processes and suppliers are aligned with that and are ambitious in driving it, then although you can’t guarantee success, it’s much more likely.

Horray – You’ve Transformed! Time to Transform Again

And success can be measured in several ways. Although the long term plan needs to stretch into the next two to three years, such a distant view can feel overwhelming. Often it helps to celebrate small incremental wins along the way. But digital transformation is a journey that never ends. Ok, so it's not "dead," but thinking of it as something that has an end point, is. Although when you look back, you’ll see that the company has been transformed from what it was, it’s important to remember that you’ll never come across a stop sign, you’ll just need to pull in at the petrol station from time to time, have a breather and off you go again.

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Avalara helps businesses of all sizes get tax compliance right. In partnership with leading ERP, accounting, eCommerce and other financial management system providers, Avalara delivers cloudbased compliance solutions for various transactional taxes, including sales and use, VAT, GST, excise, communications, lodging, and other indirect tax types. Headquartered in Seattle, Avalara has offices across the U.S. and around the world in Canada, the U.K., Belgium, Brazil, and India.