Digitalization, a multi-steps process

For successful digitalization, a company must take a series of steps ranging from the assessment of maturity to the launch of the business model.

An SME wishing to make a digital shift must make changes to its customer relations, the use of data or to the automation of processes and products. It initiates this digitalization using available resources. Before any change or purchase of new tools, experts will therefore propose an assessment of digital maturity.

Self-assessment of the degree of digitalization

The digital progress of a company is measured by considering its technological knowledge combined with its motivation to improve and apply its know-how. Digital maturity questionnaires offered online or by expert consultants generally focus on the following aspects:

  • Customer experience: The company has put in place a mechanism to interact with the customer in such a manner as to collect useful data for marketing and communication adjustments.
  • Product innovation: The company has adapted its products and services to digital innovations.
  • Strategy: The company prioritizes the development of digital projects and can clearly identify the skills it needs to ensure the success of the company.
  • Organization: Resources available are sufficient and the company is flexible enough to react quickly to technological developments.
  • Digitalization of processes: The company has integrated digital channels for communication, processes and services. 
  • Collective work: Collaboration among employees takes place through digital platforms and in-house experts are responsible for managing digital issues.
  • Information technology: The in-house IT department can quickly integrate new products and services.
  • Culture and expertise: digital expertise occupies a central place in the development of the company and employees understand digital products.
  • Transformation management: Digital transformation follows a clearly defined strategic plan and clear objectives.

The 7 steps of digitalization

  1. The company has taken the first step to digitalization: the assessment of its level of maturity is completed.
  2. The company then identifies possible markets, technologies needed for its digital transformation, target customers and their demands.
  3. Thirdly, the company performs an internal assessment of its processes, data and performance related to its operations.
  4. Once these elements are collected, the company can define a digital strategy and the objectives of its digital transition.
  5. Objectives serve, in a fifth step, to create a general roadmap in parallel to the implementation of changes to begin the digital transition.
  6. After that, the company must focus on how these changes will be managed within the team of collaborators (employees).
  7. The last step is the launch of the new business model on the market and marketing adjustment in order to optimize digital tools integrated into the SME.

Sources: Digital Maturity & Transformation Report of the University of Saint-Gall and Crosswalk (2017); Interview "We have identified seven steps for the digital transformation of SMEs" of Marc K. Peter of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW (March 2018).


Last modification 18.01.2022

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