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Why Digital Adoption Deserves Center Stage Finding the right technology is just the first step. For transformation to be a true success, you need to change cultures and mindsets.

By Ralph Tkatchuk Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Due to the economic ripples of the global health crisis, many businesses that were long-term holdouts are finally tackling digital transformation. The situation today is simply too different from what it was a year ago, from consumers relying entirely on digital means for purchasing and communication to offices going remote overnight.

Unsurprisingly, businesses are now reevaluating their tech budgets to accommodate this change. Digital transformation has been cited by 77 percent of CIOs as their top budget priority, putting it ahead of cybersecurity, business intelligence and customer experience.

Many companies are already spending accordingly — 79 percent of enterprise decision-makers have seen their digital transformation budgets increase due to the global crisis, according to a Twilio report.

The challenge at hand, then, is maximizing the value that companies see from digital transformation. Finding the right technology is just the first step. For transformation to be a true success, you need to aim for adoption — changes in cultures and mindsets.

Related: The 7 Best Tools to Digitally Transform Your Business in 2021

The need for people-first training

There are two main essential aspects to training when it comes to digital adoption. One, how to use a new tool, either to streamline an existing process or install a new one. And two, conveying how that change empowers the employee.

The first is obvious and something we all know, even if it can be easily neglected, but a few onboarding sessions or manuals only go so far. Sure, your employees will learn how to use your new systems, but we're worried about adoption here and that isn't enough.

Training needs to be geared toward the roles and needs of your workers. Often, trainers overlook the benefit to the employee, causing friction for meaningful buy-ins. Transformation agents tend to pay too much attention to the what and not enough to the why or how.

Adoption is about how this project management tool will make working with your European counterparts easier. It's about why you will use a tool, for instance, using Slack to improve communication between teams. It's about how this A/B testing will improve conversions.

This distinction calls for investing resources in ensuring that your training effectively frames processes in terms of desired outcomes. Training isn't the be-all and end-all, though. Proper digital adoption is a marathon, not a sprint.

Related: 3 Cybersecurity Measures to Ensure Safety in 2021

Moving from training to adoption

You've taken the first step by making the benefits clear to staff. But the impact here can fade quickly if they come across any problems. Whether it's someone struggling to get their head around a new interface or feeling overwhelmed by lots of sudden change, frustrations can quickly mount.

Ultimately, when it comes to success, the technology itself is not the key — it's about people. Finding a way to connect with your staff at a more human-level will make adoption far easier.

A strong way to achieve this is to appoint application leaders, who will be responsible for the delivery, adoption and improvement of new technology and processes. A big part of this is being the face of digital transformation internally and being a point of contact.

But they also need to use data to understand employee behavior, surfacing the factors that are driving success and those that are causing problems. According to a recent Gartner paper, a pivotal challenge can be found in leaders finding it difficult to "identify metrics in order to measure adoption levels."

Gartner ultimately recommends experimenting with digital adoption solutions, which are essentially software layers that allow transformation managers to inject microlearning lessons, implement road maps and track progress. From here, issues around adoption will be easy to spot, giving you ample time to meet them head-on, before it's too late.

Cybersecurity pitfalls abound

Digital transformation also brings risks around cybersecurity. According to a Ponemon Institute report last June, 82 percent of IT security and C-level leaders surveyed said that transformation had led to at least one data breach at their companies.

With more digital tools and services deployed over more endpoints that have less oversight, attack surfaces and damage potential are expanded. It's a subject that can't be ignored.

Aside from the obvious damage that a data breach can cause, digital adoption can take a big hit too. If people aren't confident that the new technology they're working with is safe, they'll avoid using it, if they can. Plus it will raise concerns around digital transformation in general.

This makes it all the more vital to involve your IT and data security teams at all times, incorporating their input from the start and checking in with them regularly. Communicating this to the wider organization will instill confidence as well.

And finally, be sure that your IT and security teams are getting the investment and support they need. It's all well and good to involve them, but if they haven't got the resources to do their jobs properly, it could all be for naught.

Secure, thorough adoption is worth the resources

All the above takes a lot of work, and so you may balk at the cost and time, wondering if there might be an easier way. You wouldn't be alone. Only 12 percent of CIOs cited training as an important consideration around remote working.

This is worrisome. The only thing more expensive than training is having to do it twice. Meanwhile, ineffective training creates blockers and slows employees down. And failing to spot that problem just exacerbates it.

Get digital adoption right and these issues won't be a concern. On top of that, your digital transformation efforts will be more effective and faster to implement, and therefore offer greater rewards.

Achieving adoption is not easy but it is essential, and there aren't any shortcuts. Your application leaders will be indispensable, so make sure they have the support and resources they need.

Related: 4 Trends Driving Digital Adoption in 2021

Ralph Tkatchuk

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Data Security Consultant

Ralph Tkatchuk is a data security consultant and and an IT guy with 15 years of field experience working with clients of various sizes and verticals. He is all about helping companies and individuals safeguard their data against malicious online abuse and fraud. His current specialty is in ecommerce data protection and prevention.

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