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Digital transformation: How to build a workplace that will support your future

While many businesses claim to be well on the way to digital transformation, a recent study reveals they may be missing some big opportunities. 

A look at how Health Metrics transformed its business through document management technology.

For many businesses, especially SMEs, building digital infrastructure to encourage transformation isn’t just difficult – it comes at a huge cost.

That cost may be monetary, but it also may be measured in lost efficiency and productivity as staff come to terms with the new tools and processes available to them.

This may be why so many businesses have yet to start on that journey. While majority of businesses say they have started their digital transformation, the IDC/Canon Transformation Study 2016 reveals 55 per cent say they only have low to moderate digital transformations-in-document environments – which is one of the first areas where digital change should have some impact.

Businesses need an example of how they can go about introducing transformative technologies in the right way.

Health Metrics is such a business. Run by Steven Strange and based in Victoria, the company creates software designed for the health industry so that care workers can get a much more accurate and up-to-date view of their patients’ critical data.

For Strange, digital transformation isn’t just an added bonus, it’s a critical part of doing business.

“There is nothing in my business that isn’t accessible,” says Strange. “It’s in Dropbox, or Google Drive, we use Smartsheets and other types of tools.

“We’re able to collaborate with people who don’t have a license for those tools. We use Office 365, and we used cloud-based load balancing.”

These tools are low cost and simple enough to use, but many businesses overlook them as part of a digital transformation, assuming them to be too simple or rudimentary. But as Strange explains, they are the bedrock of how his team does business.

“There’s nothing we can’t do in this area, and it’s a big paradigm shift from even 10 years ago,” he says.

“We’re becoming global on the smell of an oily rag, and all this technology is an enabler of that strategy.”

Document management is a huge part of Health Metrics’ transformation, says Strange, with the company spending much of its time on products such as Wizard Charts or Aha, enabling constant communication and collaboration.

“There used to be massive costs associated with this technology, you’d need heaps of growth capital. This technology is an enabler.”

Strange makes a key point – this technology was baked into the business from the beginning.

“That was eight years ago, and it was in my business plan that we would make a cloud commitment. It was just part of our DNA.”

While such a plan may be difficult for existing businesses, the principle remains the same: cloud tech and other forms of technology need to be baked into the model, not shoe-horned in.

That also means managing risk.

As Strange explains, relying on cloud services and other forms of flexible tech means having the same risk management and governance as you would if that system was a $10,000 IT stack and custom server in your own premises.

“Responsibilities like keeping goals and structures, systems and processes, and so on – they need to be done nevertheless,” he says. “But there isn’t anything in our business that can’t be found.”

“But that doesn’t negate your responsibility to have legitimate folder structures that are reflective of the business – and it won’t help if no one can find anything.”

Strange’s point is clear – businesses are only as good as their processes, even when the technology is cheap and outsourced. Any business looking to transform their digital footprint needs to keep this in mind.

Strange also suggests businesses adopting these techniques take effort and double-down on their agility. After all, once IT is sourced outside the business, all manners of risk are now introduced.

“I have exit strategies about my tech, because I know that if Dropbox didn’t exist tomorrow, I need to have an exit plan.

“What if legislative frameworks changed, and you couldn’t use your systems? You need a strategy around that.”

While that may be unlikely, considering risk strategies is simply good business. With Strange saying he’s able to run much of his business from a low-cost smartphone, having redundancies in plan is only smart.

So how can other small businesses follow his example?

Businesses should beware of IT departments that are attempting to hold on to legacy systems.

“You might see IT advisers saying to executives that data isn’t safe, and the cloud isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and they need to retain the status quo. But it’s just an old-school way of thinking,” he says.

Finally, he says, businesses need to plug into this tech if for no other reason than to make fast decisions. Those businesses that are set up to succeed will be able to make decisions more quickly than their competition.

“The decision making in our business is lightning quick, and in no small way attributable to what we’re doing with technology,” he says.

Find out more about how digital transformation is changing the way SMEs work.

This article was originally published on Smart Company, and has been republished with permission.

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