“Digital transformation” could be in the running for buzzword of the year, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, digital solutions should be a top priority with a renewed focus on worker, vendor and customer safety. Despite the enthusiasm and high hopes surrounding digital transformation, many people may not know exactly what it means and how to implement it. As digital technologies dramatically reshape industries of all kinds, many companies are pursuing large-scale change efforts to capture the benefits of these trends. In a new McKinsey Global Survey on digital transformation, eight in 10 respondents say their organizations started to implement digital transformation in the past five years

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is using digital technologies to remake a process to become more efficient or effective. The idea is to use technology to transform that service into something significantly better. In order to make employees more efficient, productive and safe, prioritizing digital transformation is crucial when it pertains to industries like construction and manufacturing, who are already late to the game when it comes to switching to digital processes. Because of this, companies are losing up to $550 billion a year on disengaged workers. Traditionally, company safety programs are paper-based and more reactive —that is, actions are taken only after a worker is injured. These types of programs do not enable safety managers to improve safety on-site because the data they need is trapped on paper and in file cabinets. 

How to implement digital transformation 

The path towards digital transformation isn’t meant to be rushed or fast-paced. A successful transformation requires patience, adaptability, and drive for change. By breaking down digital transformation one step at a time, a foundation will form where companies can rapidly develop and scale their digital offerings. These three simple steps should be the blueprint for digital transformation that can be repeated and scaled to incorporate the entire company:

  1. Leverage What the Company Has. It’s important to take digital transformation one step at a time. Planning only for the best scenarios in one sitting is a waste of time and resources and won’t stop inconveniences from happening. The process of digital transformation should start by taking a closer look at the company’s entire technology ecosystem. See if all the software is being utilized and build on the information or processes the company already has. If not, consider that the company might not be using the capabilities or workforce safety solutions that are available. Tools such as mobile apps and safety management programs have already entered the market, which removes the paper and enables workers to quickly and easily report basic incident information from the field. The majority of workers are already comfortable using their smartphones and tablets in their daily lives, therefore they are accustomed to using these new processes and applying them to their workflow. 
  2. Measure Results. In order for the digital transformation journey to be effective, set up some key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics will demonstrate success and will also guide future decision making. Set realistic goals that have a clear, achievable figure along with a timeline. These goals will guide and optimize the entire execution of digital transformation. Analytics, KPIs and statistics are seen as some of the best tools to use when measuring changes and progress with digital transformation. Although when operations are a mix of digital and non-digital experiences, it becomes difficult to measure effectiveness and efficiency due to the diversity of operations. Quantify goals and plans for improvement. Keep an open and inquisitive mind about data and plans. Test all assumptions to see data in context and whether the company’s digital health is producing the overall expected results for employees and company. 
  3. Learn and Adjust. In order for the company to be successful, its culture needs to embrace learning and improvement. This means putting ideas on digital transformation to the test. Don’t hesitate to try something new, review the outcome and apply the knowledge learned moving forward. For example, experimenting with safety software on a smaller team rather than implementing it to the entire company first can help test worker engagement and resolve kinks before overspending. This allows adjustments to be made on a smaller scale and keep frustration low and efficiency high. 

When it comes to maximizing the impact of the digital transformation process, following these steps will help achieve success. This includes taking into account what is really working, what needs to be replaced and making smaller improvements to measure, learn and adjust. The digital transformation process starts with a realistic understanding of where the company is and where it needs to go, improving both the productivity and safety of employees down the road. It’s a journey without a destination and will only continue to get stronger along the way.