Carrying out an inventory
First things first: Analog processes can always be digitized. However, it is a very individual question to what extent and at which points this makes sense. First, the ACTUAL state must be recorded: What is happening in the company in real terms? This also includes recording external dependencies and obligations. The goal of this initial inventory is to get a clear view of how the company is positioned regarding digitization. Is it in the very early trial phase? Or have the first processes already been successfully digitized and only a few adjustments need to be made?
Is this the company's first digitization project? What about the IT infrastructure - what does it include? What is the quality of your technical infrastructure? Can this continue to be used, if necessary, or is it no longer suitable for this purpose? What about the monitoring, maintenance and optimization of the technical systems?
During the digitization process and the entire project, many changes will come your way. Therefore, focus on the essentials: What products or services are characteristic of your own company? What is indispensable, what is perhaps not quite so important?
The technical know-how for digitization projects, especially when various interfaces have to be linked, is rarely available within the company itself. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to get a partner on your side. Digitization consultancies bring technical know-how and SaaS experience to the table. The team of experts reduces complexities and can advise on what ideal processes might look like in the end. Before this collaboration can start, however, you need to consider how and when employees should be involved. In addition, what digital skills are already available, and where might there be a need for training?
Limiting the need for action
After taking stock, it becomes clear on what basis the next steps can be taken. The second step is primarily about transferring the requirements of the digital transformation to concrete internal company processes. This begins with an analysis of which value chains are most important and where digitization can be decisive for the economic result and operational control. Also, at this stage, check again whether all the necessary information is available. Caution: This may also involve issues relating to the preparation time and the period of the actual changeover.
There can be many reasons for developing a digitization strategy, such as technical developments in sales, marketing, service or production, or new technical requirements from customers and/or partners. At the beginning of the process, it is therefore essential to define objectives and set priorities.
Planning and traceability are essential for process digitization: Make sure you know which processes need to be digitized and show this to everyone involved. Work with diagrams to identify possible improvements (keyword "reduce complexity"). Examples could be purchasing or sales or accounting. But which processes are ultimately digitized naturally depends on the individual company. However, it often makes sense to automate recurring or constantly constant, especially manual, activities.
To answer open questions, you need to provide different contact persons. These are both internal and external to the company. The team of your digitization partner is mainly responsible for technical and organizational issues. You will also receive additional support from Salesforce itself, if required. The team of experts will also help you train an in-house administrator. This digitization representative can be contacted by employees with questions after the project has been completed.
Technical & personnel requirements
Investments must be well considered in every respect. However, digitization is an investment with many unknowns. Involving employees is therefore a crucial success factor. The handling of the newly generated data is also of particular relevance - after all, a huge amount of data is created during the digitization of a company. How can it be processed? As a managing director, am I obligated to instruct my employees on how to comply with the Federal Data Protection Act? As you can see, a secure and future-oriented data handling strategy is required.
If you want to build or expand an IT infrastructure, you inevitably have to ask yourself the question: Which IT components are actually needed, and how can they be integrated into the existing infrastructure? Only rarely it is necessary to replace entire IT structures as a first step. Companies also often rely on a combination of different systems. The digitization partner can therefore link your existing systems with Salesforce using system integrators and interface development. However, it is important to clearly outline what needs to be done technically and what, if anything, can be upgraded after a successful trial phase.
Data protection vs. data security: There is a lot to consider here. The higher the level of digitization, the more important the data security measures. What do you do in the event of an IT system failure? How do you protect your company against data loss? Which people can access which data? Often the human component is the trigger for technical problems, rarely the technology itself. Therefore, firstly, make it clear which data is particularly in need of protection and is sensitive. Once you have identified these, the next step is to work out your backup solutions as a company.
As already mentioned, it is essential to get a partner on your side who is as expert in his field as you are in yours. The competence for the realization is only in the rarest cases available in the own company. An IT service company solves this problem. But what does an IT service provider actually do? How can you measure its seriousness? In the run-up, it must be outlined as clearly as possible what questions are to be addressed to them and what expectations exist.
How can you tap into the knowledge of your employees and make it available to others? What gaps need to be closed through IT training, continuing education, etc. - possibly also through new hires? How can existing knowledge be systematically shared among employees? These questions should also be clarified openly and honestly in advance.
How you put together your project team is, of course, up to you. As a rule, however, it consists of the following participants: a steering committee, a product owner and one key user from each of the departments involved. The members of the steering committee make strategic decisions and are usually not part of the operational project process. The product owner, on the other hand, is: His/her most important task is to represent the interests of the customer as best as possible, to be in regular contact with all parties involved, and to ensure that all requirements are included. The representatives of the departments, such as Sales, usually define their requirements for a CRM system by formulating user stories with the help of the digitization partner. It is also this partner who tests the implementation, discusses optimizations and passes on his knowledge to the users in the form of training.
What is to be achieved? This stage of preparation places particular emphasis on involving the parties involved in the digitization process: change management is the keyword. The prelude to this often takes the form of company meetings or workshops. One result of this planning step can also be a rough concept for implementation planning, which, in addition to describing fields of action, also contains a time schedule. Such a matrix is particularly important if lead times or vacation planning have to be taken into account.
Not only employees are affected by the changeover process. Customers, suppliers and other parties must also be taken into account. Informing them in advance will benefit you later. In this way, their requirements can be included in your own planning and an understanding of the changes in the changeover process and the various change management phases can be created.
The change processes will trigger both fears and expectations among your employees. However, with appropriate expectation management, you can avoid frustration at an early stage. To distribute the workload associated with digitization across many shoulders, you can delegate certain tasks to employees and assign fixed responsibilities. This creates a shared responsibility for shaping change processes.
For you as a manager, it is important to consider where in the company the competencies of digitization should be located before the project begins. These may be a "matter for the boss," but they can also be assigned to others!
Depending on the implementation scope, the project contribution of your team members will vary. Based on empirical values, your digitization partner will be able to determine together with you at the beginning of the project what percentage of the respective weekly working time should be reserved for the joint project and for the relevant stakeholders to stay on schedule and on quality track. For agile project management, it is also useful to distinguish between regular meetings that can be scheduled and short-term coordination meetings as needed. Well-organized project management and a meeting structure set up right at the beginning make a significant contribution to the success of digitization projects and ensure the framework within which analysis, design and implementation take place.
Based on your previous pilot project and its contents, it makes sense to develop a corresponding rollout template as a kind of "blueprint" that serves as a template for rolling out your Salesforce CRM system to another business unit or another country/region, for example. As part of the IT rollout, such a template usually contains all the information relating to the recommended organization, a realistic time and project plan, technical requirements, and even legal requirements. Not only a well-organized rollout management, but also a sensible change and communication management is recommended in order to inspire future users, to increase user acceptance and to bring the rollout to a successful conclusion.
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