Selling digital transformation to an industry that doesn’t want to change

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COO and CIO at Yooz Inc.leading product innovation roadmaps and strategic partnerships.

When Henry Ford created the Model T, he transformed car production from a slow, expensive process that required highly skilled teams to one in which a non-expert team of people could assemble a car into about 90 minutes

More than a hundred years later, Ford Motor Company is in the midst of another ongoing revolution – one that has only increased the impact on every industry during the pandemic: digital transformation.

Still, not every industry is equally sold on being smarter with technology, even when they urgently need it. Some are happy with proven processes. So, how do you sell change in industries where they don’t necessarily want it?

What does ‘digital transformation’ actually mean?

In general, digital transformation means using technology and data to automate manual tasks. Another essential aspect of digital transformation requires the efficient collection, aggregation and access of data, enabling business stakeholders to make more informed, data-driven decisions.

The pandemic forced many organizations into digital transformation by integrating video calling, video conferencing and remote working options into their day-to-day business practices. Today, companies can take it a step further by asking departments what challenges or inefficiencies they are currently facing. When employees suggest improvements, they can have a positive effect on efficiency, costs and job satisfaction.

Digital transformations don’t have to involve significant change or a complete overhaul of a process to be effective. Firms resistant to change can start small by targeting an area or process that is struggling or has the most potential for high return on investment. The organization needs time to see the benefits of one digitization before moving on to a complete digital transformation. Small steps give time to get buy-in for future phases.

Which industries tend to lag behind in digital transformation?

Digital transformation can influence and influence every part of an organization. Some industries have focused more on one area – often the front office with revenue-generating activities – but may be lagging behind the back office. In my experience, goods-producing industries such as construction or manufacturing are often less likely to change than others.

But you can’t stereotype an entire industry. There will always be trendsetters who want to try new things and push the boundaries of the ‘normal process’. Late adopters are more cautious. They think the risk is too great and stick to the mentality: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Why are some companies reluctant to modernize their systems and processing?

Several factors can explain an unwillingness to embrace digital transformation, such as:

• Lack of awareness about the benefits and ROI of automation or digital transformation;

• Legacy accounting, enterprise resource planning or other systems that stand in the way of modernization;

• Fear of breaking through a “tried” process (however imperfect) that is not “broken”;

• Lack of resources to drive transformation projects;

• Difficulty finding the right tools due to outdated or too complex processes.

My company offers automated purchase-to-pay solutions, and in the accounts payable area, for example, I’ve noted that common reasons organizations delay digital transformation initiatives are often not enough time spent implementing and training everyone on new ones. processes. Another fear is that the change will be too expensive and there are more pressing challenges to tackle first.

Other companies have been industry leaders or local market share leaders for so long that they don’t feel the need to adjust their processes. But with the changing environment that the pandemic has brought to all industries, even those companies have woken up to the need for change and improvement. Perhaps it is due to the new structure of their organization after the pandemic, or it could be because their competitors have taken positive steps to integrate digitization. Either way, the competition is starting to outpace the former leaders, and the laggards are seeing that they have to keep up or lag behind.

How can you sell change in an industry that fears it?

Getting buy-in from all levels ensures a smooth digital transformation implementation process that leads to faster, more efficient user adoption and the best ROI. The primary decision makers and stakeholders depend on your industry, business function and organization. But the support of those who will be using the digital solution regularly is crucial to gain approval from key decision-makers, as they are key influencers in the process.

An initiative to automate accounts payable, for example, requires the full commitment of the CFO. Usually, a designated champion will oversee the entire project, acting as an interface between users and decision-makers.

As a technology provider, you can use events such as industry trade shows and conferences or software to share your ideas and perspectives on digital transformation with an unwilling audience. You can reach (and educate) an even wider range of decision-makers in different sectors using virtual and digital events such as webinars, partnerships or sponsorships with relevant or complementary companies. Even local vectors like chambers of commerce and C-level professional associations can be a great way to educate businesses about the benefits of digital transformation.

Learn first and provide valuable free resources such as white papers, industry reports, and webinars to spark conversations about new technology solutions and how they can benefit an organization.

Finally, when you enter a new industry or niche, cast out a wide network of public and educational approaches using email marketing and paid social media. In addition, at certain points in the marketing process you need a personal touch and individual attention. Success stories that support your value proposition and ROI are essential to building credibility with your audience.

Ford Motor Company doesn’t look like it did in the 1900s – or even the 1990s. Ford’s digital transformation has made the company a leader in automation, the use of software in manufacturing and even robotics† Other industries have no choice but to follow suit to stay competitive.

Change can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to making a technological leap. Some industries are naturally more restrained than others, but even in progressive industries there can be barriers. Does this change the approach to selling change across industries? Not really. Sometimes you need to digitally transform an industry one business at a time.


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