Grant McWhirter
6 minute read

I recently attended a conference with business leaders from across Australia from all sectors and all shapes and sizes, I found that we were often having the same conversations and thought it would be useful to share a few principles that we try to adopt with clients at Digital First. 

One of the really important things to remember is that you do not need to be a large organisation to start your path to digital transformation. Even the simplest adjustments will provide real benefit to your business and there are now so many options for businesses the most challenging part is knowing where to start.

1. Encourage collaboration

There are a whole host of tools that allow you to collaborate with your team and this covers most business tasks. There are obvious collaborations like project management and file sharing…but…. the list goes on…and on…and on.

By sharing and collaborating online you are able to connect your workforce together no matter where they are in the world you can get work completed faster and ensure that everyone is able to contribute when needed.

File sharing and document management in the cloud

For most people, the first step toward collaboration is file sharing, this was a pretty standard step for any business greater than 1 employee way before the idea of files in "the cloud" was even a concept. However, now that we have some wonderful technology up in the sky, it's worth taking notice of the different functionality available.

As a side note: one of the first things that you should think about is cost benefit of storing documents on somebody else's machine, by migrating to the cloud you gain immediate cost benefit from the reduced requirement of hardware within your organisation.

File sharing has gone a bit crazy, everybody is desperate for you to store you documents in the cloud and collaborate. The most common products are Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive. What we are also seeing is the increased use of integration between platforms, and it's for common for third-part systems to provide access to your shared documents. 

Great, but you already have fileshare... and have done for years... so what?

You might be missing a trick. Have you ever wanted to find all of the documents relating to a customer from a certain year? You probably have to go through five folders to find them, but they are probably in the folder.... probably... but what if you could tag files with labels and meta data that would make it easy to find all sorts of information based on business queries rather than having to click through folders? It's possible, and corporate company's have been doing it for years.

The use of SharePoint to create extended meta data allows companies to tag documents with all sorts of useful data: client, employee, sales rep, financial year, project status, document type - if, for example, you wanted to find all meeting notes for client X for the financial year 2017/18 you can actually find these by filtering or searching within a dashboard without having to trawl through folders. 

I've had a quick search and found two short videos that demonstrates some of the potential for your business.



Team Wiki

A great way to collaborate is to create your own business wiki as a way to document all key business processes and ensure that they are always up to date and easily accessible to your team, it allows your team to add their own content and potentially improve the delivery or your services. Think about how often you access Wikipedia when looking for information, wouldn’t it be great if your team were able to access their own up to date business guide? If you would like to try something like this there are a few popular tools:

  • MediaWiki is an open source tool, meaning that it is free to use, and is the closest you'll get to Wikipedia. It's PHP based, so if you want to run it on your own server then you'll need to make sure you are running PHP and mySQL
  • SharePoint Wiki if you have an Office 365 account or already use SharePoint then you will be able to create an Enterprise Wiki site or add a Wiki App, this has been my favoured approach for a while as you have the power of meta data and SharePoint's advanced search functionality to make it very easy for your team to find and link information
  • Microsoft Teams was originally viewed as the MS competitor for Slack in the chat and communication space, providing a method for teams to collaborate on projects via a central hub, however there have been continuous deployments of features, and amongst other things, a Team Wiki has become part of the standard offering when you create a Microsoft Team. We recently wrote an article outlining a few of the benefits to Teams, needless to say.... group chat and communication is also another great way to encourage collaboration.

For most business tasks there is a digital solution that can be configured to meet the needs of your business and improve the efficiency of your team.

2. Automate and integrate where possible

Nobody likes a repetitive task, especially when you are doing it for the hundredth time, workflow tools are helping to improve the efficiency of businesses on a global scale… just think, if you weren’t filling in that new employee approval form, what could you be doing with you time? Integration is also a fundamental part of automation and it’s now extremely easy for businesses to align all of their enterprise systems. So you can genuinely create massive business benefit by removing repetition and letting your team focus their time on adding more value

There are now a variety of tools that can aid in the rapid deployment of automation and integration tools. 

For Microsoft based organisations working in the cloud there is Microsoft Flow and Azure functions. There are also products from K2, Nintex and many other workflow platforms that can make it easy for you take advantage of automation.

The important part is making sure that you make strategic decisions and carefully design your business processes before you jump in and try to solve large tasks without properly thinking them through.... Nothing wrong with jumping straight in and having a play though as it can often help you rapidly prototype ideas that can then be used as the stimulus for a larger solution.

3. One source of truth for all data

There is nothing worse than opening up a folder (when you finally remember what folder you left the file in), to then see 4 other similar folders… and then when you open that up there are 5 documents all named the same businessplan1, businessplan1_GrantsEdit, businessplan2…. And then… realise the most recent copy was sent to you in a bloody email! There is no excuse for this now, you can share your files and use tools like SharePoint or Dropbox to ensure that you only ever have one document that is version controlled, then everybody can edit the same document in real time or via a check-in / check-out systems

4. Make your data shine

With so many moving parts to your business it can be difficult to keep track of where you are at any given point, there’s no excuse for this now.. almost all of the common services (for example: Xero, MailChimp, Dynamics, SalesForce) have connectors or open API’s that can be plugged into tools like Microsoft PowerBI in order to give you real time dashboards on any aspect of your business.

You can also download Content Packs that have predesigned reports and dashboards for popular platforms:

5. Have a digital-first mindset

“By 2021, one third of CEOs and COOs of Fortune 2000 companies will have spent at least 5 years of their career in a technology leadership role.”

Forbes, 2017

The world has changed, to keep ahead of the times you need to understand the depth of digital and how you can use it to bring and keep your business in it’s prime. Digital has a significant impact and you need to ask yourself:

How can we use engage with my digital customers?

How can we use technology to maximise the productivity and effectiveness of our team?

How can we manage our data in a way that will give us the edge and help our leaders make critical decisions faster?

How can we use technology to evolve our business model and change how we add value to our customers?

If you would like to know more about digital transformation and how you can implement it in your business, please contact us for a free consultation, if you are in Melbourne we'll even buy you a coffee!

Grant McWhirter

Grant McWhirter

Managing Director
Grant is the founder and Principal Consultant at Digital First. Having started his first company at 21 he thrives on the use of digital technology to help improve the way in which business delivery products and services to customers. He takes an entrepreneurial approach to his work and an advocate of new technology. Grant has worked across multiple sectors including government, retail, SMB and corporate organisations and is particularly interesting in high level digital strategy and the transformation of businesses.