What does digital transformation mean to you and your social purpose organisation?

By Frazer Lewis, co-founder, Rephrase

Our take on digital transformation and what it means in a social purpose organisation

Digital Transformation is a popular phrase these days, especially in not for profit (or social purpose) organisations. But what does it actually mean? Almost certainly different things to different people. We have taken a look back at the projects we have delivered over the past few years and drawn our own conclusions which we are sharing in this blog post.

And to set a few parameters, we are looking at digital transformation in terms of organisations who are moving their operations from Excel, Outlook, paper and legacy databases no longer fit for purpose across to a centralised database such as Salesforce.com.

Also, digital transformation projects can be challenging since they leave no stone unturned. It’s rare to achieve the perfect solution and indeed, results are often iterative with progressive improvements being introduced over time. However, I think it’s fair to say that any initiative to “go digital” is a positive step forward and can yield meaningful results in a short space of time.

Here are our observations:

Structured information

Once data lives in a single system that is accessible by all staff members, amazing things begin to happen. Everyone is using the same source of data and adding their own contributions which help to create a common repository of knowledge for the benefit of all. Information becomes available on demand and since everything is inter-connected, it becomes easy to click through from record to record. Try doing that in a proliferation of Excel spreadsheets. The net result is that staff are able to quickly find the answers to questions and take informed decisions.

Streamlined processes

The great thing about a system is the way it can handle large amounts of information in a consistent and pre-defined way. This can be put to great effect where manual repetitive tasks can be automated thus saving enormous amounts of wasted time. Time that can then be put to good use elsewhere.  Taking this one step further, the system can be setup to send notifications or alerts to team members at critical process points which helps to keep data flowing around the organisation.

Scaleable solutions

I’m sure it’s fair to say that social purpose organisations are being asked to deliver more with less resource which puts them under increasing pressure. One of the outcomes from moving systems and processes across to digital is the additional capacity gain. Organisations can handle greater demand without the need to increase their resourcing levels.

Client and stakeholder engagement

We live in a connected society where individuals expect to receive communications which are relevant and tailored to them. Whilst this is not feasible when creating emails or letters one by one, it is easily achievable using a database system. Mass personalisation at the click of a button.

Improved analytics and insights

As organisations grow, so does the amount of data being collected. Spreadsheets or old databases no longer fit for purpose make life hard when it comes to making sense of all this information. A huge benefit of a successful digital transformation is the ability to easily segment data and then take action, obtain answers to specific questions using bang up to date information, generate dashboards that present key metrics graphically and make it easy to spot trends or exceptions. In summary, to equip you with all the information you need to really understand how your organisation is performing and the impact you are creating.

Enhanced team working

A recurring theme that every organisation experiences is data living in silos instead of residing in a central system. This clearly causes difficulties ranging from fragmented reporting to disconnects across teams. Moving data into a central database is no easy task, but once done, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Something as simple as updating basic contact details or logging a key interaction is no longer an isolated activity. Instead, all team members have access to this information. The system becomes a repository of knowledge for everyone to benefit from.

Stronger data governance

With data spread across multiple spreadsheets and other sources, a major challenge is knowing what is up to date, out of date or incomplete. And where multiple versions of data exist, which one is current. And whilst moving data into a single system is a challenge as we said earlier, cleaning it up takes further effort. But once this task is complete and a regular process to maintain data quality is up and running,  your organisation can begin to enjoy the benefits. Data accuracy improves and your team’s trust in this data grows (often from rock bottom levels). You are able to control access to data in ways that were simply never possible before. Changes to records are tracked so it’s clear who has done what. And the system can apply business logic to the entry of data to help keep it in good shape.

Conclusion

“Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today”.

Moving away from paper, email and Excel based processes is often seen as a revolution within organisations. There is often a sense of being liberated from the old ways of doing things which are recognised to be inefficient and frustrating. This is also present challenges of it’s own – change is difficult even if everyone knows it needs to happen. But the rewards are worth the effort since ultimately your organisation will be able to amplify its impact.

Frazer Lewis is a co-founder of Rephrase, a Chesham based consultancy that specialises in creating tailored solutions using the Salesforce.com system.  Frazer is hosting the “Data and how to use it” breakout session at The Digital Journey conference on 5th October 2017.

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