Changing the technology your company uses is called a “digital transformation” for a reason – it’s an ongoing process that happens over time, rather than an instant snap of the fingers.

Many businesses in sectors from health and life sciences to manufacturing are just beginning their digital journeys. In fact, 85% of companies are expected to allocate a quarter of their entire budget in 2018 to digitizing their operations. While this equates to some serious cash, the real secret in digital transformation lies in digging up the hidden considerations that need to be made for your metamorphosis to have long-term success.

Improve Business Processes

Business process and digital process are one in the same. There are countless business processes – customer relationship management, supply chain management, and enterprise resource management, just to name a few – that can be improved by the inclusion of technology.

One of the most common challenges that come with technological change is that companies often see their digital transformation as a single change, rather than a company-wide initiative. Instead of thinking of digital change as the responsibility of a single team, organizations must instead think of digital transformation as something that affects the whole of a company.

Any technological process should be aligned with a business process. If your digital and business processes aren’t aligned, your digital transformation won’t serve your company in the ways you’ve intended. The first step in alignment is to identify your company’s current business processes, whether they already involve technology or not. After you’ve documented these processes, analyze how they could be improved, whether through the elimination of unnecessary steps or by implementing technological automation. Then, recognize how to integrate technology into each of these processes.

Establish a Data Management Plan

A digital transformation will change the way your company collects, stores, and uses data – and that’s why you need a data management plan. A survey conducted on 1,200 IT executives from across North America, Europe, and Asia, found that two-thirds of companies have access to only half of their data or less. How are you supposed to best take advantage of the digital transformation with one arm tied behind your back?

Having data scattered across multiple platforms makes that data more vulnerable to a ransomware attack. Putting your data under one roof – a single technology solution – will not wholly avert the likeliness of an attack, but will make it easier for your company to react. Keep all of these factors in mind when developing your technology plan, and make efforts to collect and clean all of the data you need before you start.

Create a Communications Plan

One of the crucial conversations that must happen (and continue to happen) during a digital transformation is between senior management and the employees directly affected by a technology change. Consistent discussion between these teams will help both stay on the same page and avoid any surprises. Keeping an open line of communication can also help to prevent resentment or frustration associated with the change, helping to ensure your success.

At the same time, updating technology makes it easier than ever for companies to stay transparent and communicate with their customers. Is your business ready for this shift? Whether it’s an app that makes it easy for your team to ping a customer with an update or a tool that lets you send an email campaign with your company’s latest sales information, having a digital communications strategy is essential. It’s also worth reviewing or creating corporate policies around data privacy and management before you dive too deeply into any digital transformation.

Finding the Right Balance

A period of digital transformation serves as a prime opportunity to reconsider all of your business processes and tools. Before you begin your transformation, take a look at your current methods and look for areas where you could improve. Always keep in mind that a true transformation takes many steps and should involve a whole organization – there are no shortcuts!