Digital Transformation

Want to take your business to the next level by utilizing technology and win in the professional services industry? This digital transformation guide will help get you there.

For many businesses that have been running a tried and tested method of operation, switching it up might be the last thing on their minds. After all, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it right?

You couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the ever-changing world of technology, what is relevant right now could be obsolete by the time you wake up tomorrow.

For this reason you need to keep your business on its toes, and be ready to face and embrace whatever technological changes and challenges come your way.

Now before we jump into specific platforms for digital transformation, and put the proverbial “cart before the horse”, it’s crucial for us to dig deep into digital transformation and how it is impacting your business.


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Chapter 1: What is Digital Transformation and what does it mean for SMEs?

What on earth is “digital transformation” anyway?

It sounds like something only top tech firms indulge in, correct? Not really.

Plenty of small and medium-sized businesses are getting involved in digital transformation to stay ahead of the curve.

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into the various systems and processes that you use to deliver your services to the customer. It’s also a shift in how an organisation does business.

Plenty of your customers live in the digital age and already expect a certain level of service.

Sorry to say but what might have been acceptable last year just won’t make the cut this time around.

You need to meet their expectations and digital transformation is a clear path you need to take to please your customers. You, therefore, need to embrace constant change to serve the constantly changing expectations and standards.


Digital Transformation versus Digital Disruption – what does this mean for you?


Embrace change or change will ruin you.

This sounds pretty ominous. Honestly, it kind of is.

In the business world, two phenomena come to mind – digital transformation and digital disruption.

So what’s the difference?

As Disciplined Disruption Podcast host Michael Alf explains, the difference and relationship between transformation and disruption comes down to whether the change is initiated internally or externally.


Digital Transformation: Changing An Organisation From Within


“Successful digital transformation is primarily determined by the degree to which people are empowered to actively embrace constant change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.”

~ Christoph Zohlen, Managing Partner at Radius1

Digital transformation takes place when an organization rethinks its processes, then transforms the way it conducts business and delivers services to their customer.

In such an instance, the business comes out unscathed and operates smoothly because it initiated the change or was ready for it.

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Digital Disruption: Changing Business From the Outside-in

Digital disruption occurs when various shifts or innovations in technology alter the industry and have an impact on a business.

You are either forced to change your business practices in order to survive or you will wither away.

Take a look at Kodak. The company enjoyed top dog position in the camera industry for the better part of a century.


However, when the industry made the switch from film to digital, the Kodak was too slow to make the shift and that eventually led to bankruptcy.

Here’s a useful infographic showing the 5 stages of disruption:


Deloitte Digital recently released an entertaining 6-minute video “The Stages of Business Disruption,” which tells a story of business and digital transformation. It provides insight as well as a good laugh. Watch it now:


Why Is Digital Transformation Essential For Your SME To Succeed?

Why is digital transformation essential for your SME

Simply put, digital transformation gives your business the ability to expertly surf the wave of change.

There are plenty of benefits to consider:

  • Scale quickly – By including new and more cost-effective technology in your organization, you can scale. This is particularly advantageous for small businesses. Larger businesses are often bogged down by red tape. It is a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right is up to.
  • Open doors – Technology opens up many doors for a small business. You are able to reach out to more people and also find those that are interested in what you have to offer.
  • Get found – Even when you are not actively searching for customers, they are more likely to stumble upon you during their search when you have an online presence.
  • Build credibility and brand loyalty – You can then build an online reputation and rapport with your customers, enabling you to secure their loyalty to your brand.
  • Reduce research and marketing spend – You can also find out more about your customers and the general market at large at a less costly price. With this information, you can craft your marketing strategy with a great degree of confidence.

5 Digital Transformation Trends to Watch Out for

If you look out into the digital sphere, these 5 trends will stare right back at you:

  1.   Internet of Things (IoT)
  2.   Blockchain
  3.   User Experience (UX)
  4.   Security
  5.  Artificial Intelligence


Digital transformation trend #1: Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the collection of connected smart devices, ranging from smartphones to smart cars and appliances in smart houses.

This connectivity is a rich source of data on consumer habits. As a business, this can tell you what your customers require and where they find problems in the consumption of your product.

To utilize the IoT efficiently, your business needs to be able to handle the sheer amount of data from all these interconnected devices.

Instead of pouring funds into in-house IoT platforms, you can source this out to ready-made and customizable platforms that are cheaper and do the work more efficiently.

Digital transformation trend #2: Blockchain

So what is a blockchain and how does it work?

Watch this short video which explains it in plain English (thank goodness!):



Using Blockchain is one way to ensure security of transactions because it allows for transparency between the parties involved.

“Blockchain resolves the problem of a lack of trust between counterparties”

~  David Groombridge, research director at Gartner.

So how does this apply to professional services, you ask?

Well imagine a scenario where buyers of services can save time and money by being able to select suppliers they can trust, based on a secure rating system.

Suppliers too can have the ability to rate their clients, thus enabling other suppliers to quickly vet who they might work with.

All with a secure system that can’t be tampered with.

“Each transaction and interaction (comment, rating, value of the job, time of completion, feedback) is recorded on a blockchain, so it’s tamper-proof.

~ Michal Bacia, Staff Economist at Sweetbridge


Forcing businesses to deliver remarkable service quality and better value for customers is just one possible application of blockchain technology.

Transforming a $500B professional services market is no easy feat, but blockchain technology is primed to do it.


Digital transformation trend #3: User Experience (UX)

With the historic rise of mobile data usage globally – an increase of 50% in just 12 months from Jan 2017 to Jan 2018, being able to provide a great and fast user experience is now more important than ever.


(Image source:

Regardless of whether you’re providing a client experience on mobile or desktop, the fact remains – good UX design means better business.  


“Without a friendly and easy-to-use, yet effective and reliable user interface (UI) providing a pleasant user experience, it will be difficult to get consumers to switch to online commerce and business users to adopt new enterprise applications.”

~ Don Terry


If your users struggle with the user experience of your chosen applications, then user adoption will be poor. Poor user adoption means your company will never realise the business value from investing in enterprise systems.

With well designed and specialised tools now on the market, you are able to provide your users with a greater user experience. So there’s no excuse for your business to not provide a fantastic UX for your staff and customers to engage with.


Do your current technology platforms stack up? Bypass the confusion and let us show you the best tech stack for your services business with our free tech stack guide.


Digital transformation trend #4: Security

“New technologies such as the IoT always come with new security threats and risks. To combat these risks, enterprises are also developing and implementing new ways to improve their security measures.”

~ Don Terry

Whilst new technology provides industry advances and innovation, they also introduce new security threats.

SME’s need to ensure that customer and company data remains secure. So security teams and infrastructure needs to evolve as well.

It’s critical for SME’s to pay attention to advances in new security technologies, and also the challenges that enterprises face with adopting them.

Digital transformation trend #5: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that aims at the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

If you’ve ever browsed Netflix movie suggestions or told Alexa to order a pizza you’re probably interacting with artificial intelligence more than you realise.

For the newly initiated, here’s a short video that explains what artificial intelligence is and how it’s changing our world:



Sure, AI is making a wave inside our homes, but how can we leverage this technology to improve professional services?

We’re glad you asked!

Euan Cameron, AI Leader at PwC, suggests that professional services will see tremendous opportunity thanks to AI:


“Whilst initial applications of AI will focus on processing data, in time it will evolve to address to increasingly complex applications and return insights for business.

In an industry that relies on understanding vast amounts of data every day, AI can also offer significant productivity benefits to professional services firms – displacing repetitive work which can be assigned to AI, and freeing up humans to add value elsewhere instead with their creativity, empathy and emotion – all of which are key to interpretation.

AI also frees up employees’ time to do more valuable and often more interesting tasks, adding more value to clients.”


You can already include Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your analytics tools for faster and more comprehensive analysis of customer behaviour.

The predictive nature of AI also helps you stay ahead of the curve.

Want to learn more? Get a high-level overview of AI, and learn how Machine Learning provides the foundation for AI in EdX’s free “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI)” online course.

Related read: Machines with purpose: From theory to practice report by Deloitte.


What other notable trends are we seeing in the industry?

In their Midyear Global Tech Market Outlook for 2017 to 2018, Forrester foresees a 4 percent increase in spending in the tech sector by businesses in 2018.

Of this, the largest growth will be in software and tech consulting services; a growth of 6 percent in 2018 from 4.3 percent in 2017.

This is a clear indicator that businesses are cutting out in-house production of complex software and turning to best of breed solutions, as well as proven services, to meet their needs.


What effect does all this tech and automation have on the future workforce?

effects of tech on the future workforce

Like you, numerous companies are trying to stay ahead of the competition by using technology and automation to their advantage.

Leave your competition in the dust by bringing technology along for the ride to success in your services business. Click To Tweet


AI and IoT have permeated almost every facet of life, including the job market.

With a view to being more productive, companies are more dependent on tech which seems more efficient and next to infallible.

As this efficiency and infallibility develop further, more people are going to be laid off in favour of the machines.

See for yourself.

Infographic: Autocomplete: Jobs Under Threat From Automation | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The future workforce will, therefore, find it difficult to compete with the precision of machines.

Bear in mind that these machines are capable of working round the clock without breaks.

David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, gives an interesting insight into the labour situation and the value of work today:



Chapter 2: How to be successful in the service level economy

how to be successful in the service level economy

Many clients have ditched having in-house departments. They prefer having their requirements met by people whose sole purpose it is to deliver them.

If you are on the other side of this – providing a service like marketing, IT or management consulting – you are operating in the service level economy.

Mavenlink took a look at the state of the services economy in 2018 and picked out some interesting findings.

The report the firm published showed that it was getting harder to operate in the services sphere. As many as 49 percent of businesses found that the conditions were changing too rapidly for them to keep up.

Add this to the fact that the competition is working overtime to poach new clients and retain their old ones.


Many of these clients are around for a short time, offering only one-time projects. Three-quarters of service providers are working on short-term projects instead of retainer work.

Said clients are also very choosy, requiring service businesses to provide up highly diverse offerings for them to pick from.

Despite the apparent dog-eat-dog world of the services industry, there are players who are doing pretty well for themselves.

How have they managed to collar the runts nipping at their heels?

Mavenlink’s 2018 State of the Services Economy report shows that these successful businesses have deftly adopted technology to make operations easier.

They have also focused on the data they collect, analysing it and making smarter business decisions with the results to keep them ahead of the pack.


Related Post: How Your Service Business Has to Adapt in 2018


Success is also due to the fact that these players utilize outside talent a lot more. This means they do not waste resources on retaining the services of in-house workers who might not have anything to work on in a long while.

The dynamic workforce is easier to manage and proving to be more productive.



Chapter 3: Digital transformation benefits for professional service businesses

digital transformation benefits

As a professional service business, you should embrace digital transformation because of the benefits it brings to your door.

Do not shy away from digital transformation. It is the boost your service business needs to get to the next level. Click To Tweet


The main benefits include:

  • Being able to get in touch with a wider audience more effectively
  • The ability to do more work while expending fewer resources
  • Being able to add value to your product faster than before


With the technology on hand, you are able to build an online presence that is felt by your customers.

They always relish the personal touch involved in talking to the company directly. This goes a long way in drawing more customers to your business.

You are also able to let them know of new offers and deals and they get to know in an instant.

The technology also saves plenty of resources when used effectively. With everyone connected to the global village via the internet, the automated technology allows you to know more about your customers and their preferences.

You can then tailor your product to meet these preferences without wasting time and money on fruitless ventures.


For instance, you might own a company that develops customizable apps in a certain field.

From the message boards and forums on the internet, you find out that the existing apps do not have an intuitive design.

This is mainly because the developers have designed the app from their perspective, adding details that seem cool to them yet leave the user confused.

Using this knowledge, you tell your developers to make a simpler and more intuitive design that the user finds helpful and not one that other coders find cool.

With this kind of connection and understanding between you and your customers, you know which parts of your process need work so that you can deliver a product with value.

Going digital provides you with the right tools to easily add this value to the service you provide.


From these benefits, two major results come to mind:

  1. Your small business can scale very quickly
  2. During this scaling, the business is still very much viable and competitive on a national and international level


If your customers can easily find your online presence and see that your product offers value, you can expand your operations confidently. This is even easier when your technology allows you to use fewer resources but grow more.

Without any hiccups, you can still remain competitive while your rollout to other markets is taking place.


Download our free digital transformation checklist to assess your company’s technological readiness to truly transform into a digital enterprise.


Chapter 4: Digital transformation challenges

digital transformation challenges

Change is inevitable. So are the hurdles you will find on your way to scaling your business.

Common challenges you will face during your digital transformation:

  • In a relatively new field such as digital transformation there is a shortage of quality expertise to carry out the transformation
  • Existing skills in your company might not match what you need
  • Your employees may be averse to the change since their roles might need to shift (and understanding the true nature of their resistance to change can prove challenging)
  • Your budget might not support the amount of work needed


A recent study by Jabil shows the range of problems encountered by businesses in their efforts to go digital:


What are the risks of digital transformation going wrong?

We cannot stress the importance of doing your homework and choosing an experienced and credible digital transformation expert to work with.

The risks of digital transformation done poorly involves getting margin hammered, reputation shattered and worse case a client’s business in ruins.

Having said that, it’s practically impossible to foresee every possible turn of events on any transformational project.

By definition you are doing things that a business has never experienced before.


Advice for selecting the right digital transformation expert

With experience, digital transformation service providers can systemise out many of the risks with a framework.

We believe strongly in ‘just enough’ structure. Enough to give you guidance and direction but not so much that events outside of the system see it crashing down.

A bit like a tree – solid trunk but flexible branches.

Our observation is that many amateur service providers rarely price the risk of failure or even major change into their proposals.

Less experienced service providers try to get the lowest best case scenario in front of them to beat the competition, instead of being awarded on better brand, framework or whatever their unique selling proposition (USP) is.



Chapter 5: Digital transformation strategy

digital transformation strategy

Why strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation

If you decide to bring your business up to speed technologically, you need to have a strategy in place.

Many business owners will get excited by individual pieces of technology and how they will fix singular issues.

According to a study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, this is standing too close to the painting. You need to take a few steps back and look at the whole picture in order to appreciate it.

What you need to drive your business forward is a sound digital strategy that encompasses and transforms the entire business and not just tech to solve isolated issues.

You should, therefore, be ready to give your employees the skills to work in a more technologically advanced environment.

Management itself should be in line with the transformation. Even if they do not know how to work each particular piece of tech, they should be familiar with its effects on the organization.

With a firm strategy in place, it becomes second nature to take risks with the confidence that it will put you ahead of your competition.

So, what exactly does a digital transformation strategy entail? Let’s take a look.


4 Core Elements of Digital Transformation

According to the SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study, digital transformation comprises 4 core elements.

1.      True transformation

This is when you are fully committed to integrating technology into every aspect of your business.

Since technology is vital to developing or maintaining a competitive edge, you need to rethink every element of your business and find ways of making it better by using tech.


2.      Customer emphasis

If a customer has a great experience during their interaction with your business, they are more likely to come back or even recommend you to their peers.

It is no wonder that 92 percent of top business leaders are directing plenty of resources for their digital transformation towards improving the customer experience.

You should, therefore, put in extra effort in utilizing tech to make the customer experience better.


3.      Talent

With the ever-changing world of tech, you should be able to call upon employees who understand the tech and are able to manipulate it to the advantage of the business.


Not only that, the current crop of the employable talent finds it easier to work for a business that uses technology and is open to integrating more of it into their processes.

So with digital transformation, you are able to attract and retain top-notch talent.


4.      Next-gen technology

Your strategy should be one that looks ahead to the future. It is here that next-gen tech comes in.

You should employ a bimodal structure whereby you work on stabilizing your main practices and at the same time developing ways to integrate new tech.

This keeps your business stable but also very agile. It can meet new challenges swiftly when you implement the new tech.

These next-generation technologies include; Big Data and analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things.

We’ve discussed the importance of next-gen technology. Now let’s deep dive into a technology framework we’ve put together to help you scale your business.

Chapter 6: Digital transformation guide to platforms and a technology framework

digital transformation framework

To answer the important question:

What digital platforms do I need to scale my business?

We created our Torchlight framework.

This framework was developed to help services businesses transform into a digital enterprise. Here’s what it looks like:

This technology framework achieves 4 main things:

  1. Systemise your business & implement a technology stack
  2. Create a highly productive team
  3. Deliver a consistent and efficient customer experience
  4. Increases profitability


With data-driven decision-making and awesome, efficient customer experience you get profitable projects (and more of them).

technology framework layers

Our framework is built from 5 key technological ‘stacks’ or layers:

1.      Infrastructure

As a professional service, these are the platforms on which your entire operation stands. In other words, this is the foundation that supports the rest of the structure.

These platforms need to be compatible with and complement the others that are integrated into them. With robust infrastructure, you can build a stable operation.


2.      Customer Relationship Management

Managing your relationship with the customers is key to generating high sales. When they get a great experience, they will come back for more.

Taking customer feedback to heart goes a long way in building lasting relationships with them and helps your business improve.


3.      Service Delivery

Your services delivery stack is the key to delivering a high quality, profitable and scalable customer experience.  The endpoint is a happy customer, your business grows in the right direction, and you profit.


4.      Supporting Services

When building and scaling your business, you are likely to come up against mountains of work in the form of HR, accounting, regulation and legislation.

Support services navigate this mountain for you, leaving you to do the more productive work of running the business.


5.      Business Intelligence

At the top – sheltering everything – is business intelligence.

It draws information from each of the various levels so that you can have a snapshot of where things stand.

With this in hand, you can make informed decisions to take the business forward.

Chapter 7: Technology digital transformation tips from the experts


“The number one reason is that it’s seen as a technical or IT exercise and not driven by the CEO and the board (or the owner and MD for smaller companies). This is a “deadly” mistake.

SME’s need to bring in some skills – even when it’s only on a part-time basis as a mentor and advisor. There is too much change to keep an eye on internally”

Michael Alf, Founder, High Performance in the Digital Age

My tip would be DONT start with the tools. Start with effective patterns of team work and build a plan of how to get those teams to unlearn old habits/rituals and start new evolving habits/rituals.

Once you know what an effective team looks like in your environment (don’t copy Spotify!), then you should select tools which amplify how they spar, communicate, make decisions, track actions and updates, maintain accountability, drive velocity, understand changes and impact, course correct, collaborate, etc.

The right tool will help the team unleash their potential…but only if they are congruent to their patterns of work.

Dominic Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian

“Trust in Transformation is critical for success. Trust in transformation involves 3 Core Ingredients – permission, privacy, and personalisation.

Trust in transformation can only be gained by providing a clear route for the human side of the interaction. This is how you can continue the conversation, beyond just the technological requirements of it.

It has to be safe from a technology perspective, but in order to build trust with the customers “behind” the technology, it must have these three distinct characteristics, otherwise there is in fact no human connection here.

Trust is not an interface. Trust is a human condition. You have the technology, now you have to make it human, again.”

Doyle Buehler, Digital Business Transformation Engineer, and Author of Breakthrough.Digital

“All change is disruptive.

As leaders your role is to prepare your organization for that change and while many see change as exciting, some are risk adverse.

They will always find a reason not to innovative, to hold off transforming today and hope of a better way or a better technology that may come in the future, etc.

However the moment for change is now. It’s not in the next few years.”

Aidan McCarthy

Aidan McCarthy, Head of Digital Transformation at Catholic Education Western Australia


Chapter 8: Digital transformation guide infographic


SME Digital Transformation Infographic


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Where to from here?

To get ahead of your competition, you need to embrace technology.

You need a digital transformation strategy that will overhaul your business practices, set you apart from the competition, and endear you to your customers.

As a small or mid market business, you are well positioned to efficiently take on new ideas and implement them successfully.

With the right strategy, technology, and digital transformation partner – the service economy is your oyster.


Download our free digital transformation checklist to assess your company’s technological readiness to truly transform into a digital enterprise.