Digital transformation is bringing innovation and automation to the workplace, drastically changing the way businesses operate. The trend represents the adoption of digital processes to replace outdated, manual and legacy methods for performing routine business tasks.
The ongoing global health crisis has only accelerated the pace of digital transformation as more businesses shift to remote work models to enable employees to stay home. A 2018 Tech Pro survey shows that 70 percent of businesses either have a strategy for digital transformation in place or are creating one. IDC found that businesses have spent an estimated $2 trillion-plus on digital transformation so far.
The result is that businesses are adopting a variety of digital tools to handle everything from and collaboration to project management and customer relationship management ().
The number and variety of tools available to help businesses on their journey to digital transformation are staggering. Here are seven main areas that are well-positioned for a digital upgrade, as well as the best tools available for each category of business operations.
The prevalence of remote workers who may be located anywhere in the world renders traditional office phone and e-mail systems obsolete. A unified communications solution that may be used anywhere, from any device, is vital for successful business operations in today's remote work climate.
The RingCentral Office solution provides a variety of communications and collaboration features, and it can accommodate teams of 10 to 10,000 workers. The offering includes integrated phone, video conferencing, instant messaging, file sharing and task management features. All communications are consolidated on a single platform, and teams may also share calendars, files, conversations and tasks.
As a comprehensive cloud private branch exchange (PBX) and business voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution, RingCentral also includes fax capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) integrations and an intuitive user interface. It integrates easily with tools such as Google Drive and Box, and works with network infrastructure in the U.S., Europe and Asia . One of its most popular features is the ability to turn conversations into actionable tasks.
Cons: Its chief drawbacks include an additional cost for hardware such as handsets and video conferencing gear, and workflows that are not as intuitive as they could be. RingCentral's pricing is also a bit steeper than its competitors, although the company continuously adds new features and functionality.
Automating and streamlining project management is an important part of digital transformation. MeisterTask is a task and project management software solution for businesses juggling complex projects.
Designed for teams, the offering enables users to organize and manage tasks in a customizable environment. It includes Kanban-style project boards, facilitating the creation of streamlined and automated project workflows. Features include a timeline for scheduling and visualizing tasks through a color-coded calendar, and Gantt-style charts, as well as the ability to assign roles and permissions for different projects. Users may also track time, create team projects that can be shared with multiple collaborators, add custom fields and generate insights into employee workload and productivity with reports.
Pros: Uncluttered interface, customizable projects and dashboard, multiple checklists, great UI and a private customizable Agenda board that allows users to easily work within multiple projects at the same time.
Cons: The simplicity of the feature set can go too far for project customization requirements, and it's not suitable for users looking to implement a traditional waterfall project management solution.
Apptivo's CRM software offers a host of features and integrations that make it an ideal choice for today's remote and geographically dispersed work environments. Main features include lead capture and conversion capabilities, sales tracking and the ability to customize apps.
Pros: The solution comes with a variety of CRM apps, including contracts, sales planning, territory management, work orders and leads. Apptivo CRM integrates with G Suite, Office 365, Slack and RingCentral, as well as a host of other applications. It offers a broad range of features encompassing all aspects of CRM, as well as affordable pricing, an intuitive interface and a comprehensive mobile app.
Con: One drawback is that it can be a little difficult to set up. On the flip side, the solution's flexibility and easy customization make it an ideal choice for SMBs that want to digitally transform their CRM operations.
Objective and key results management solutions, or for short, refer to a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking business objectives and their outcomes. OKR business tools are designed to set, communicate, track and measure both goals and results throughout a business. Streamlining and automating this process is an important part of the digital transformation journey.
Profit offers OKR software with a hierarchical view of how a team's objectives are aligned with overall business objectives and key results. An alignment score is assigned, providing a clear picture of how well a business is aligned with its OKRs. The solution's methodology enables businesses to create, share and assign objectives for the company, as well as departments, teams and individual workers.
Pros: The solution integrates with Jira, Slack, G Suite, Office 365 and more. Users, tasks and key results may be integrated and shared throughout the apps. It facilitates goal prioritization, helping businesses save time and better engage employees. They offer amazing support (rated 100 percent for customer support by Capterra).
Con: While the tool is pretty intuitive for end users, a reported drawback is that it can be overwhelming to set up due to the large number of options. Profit provides good support to users while getting started, to navigate through these various options.
While many of the tools discussed above facilitate communication and collaboration, a category of solutions is dedicated exclusively to business team collaboration. LiquidPlanner is a dynamic collaboration tool designed for busy, fast-paced teams. In addition to offering collaboration, the solution provides automated scheduling and forecasting about when a project will be complete.
Pros: Highlights of LiquidPlanner include the ability to set project- and task-level priorities, estimating how long a task will take to be completed and automated resource leveling. This enables teams to reallocate tasks and work based on worker availability and skill sets.
Cons: A drawback of LiquidPlanner is the cost — it is a bit more expensive than competitors' offerings. It also has a somewhat steep learning curve for set up and use.
The global health crisis has made e-mail marketing more imperative than ever since in-person interactions are less frequent at best. Streamlining and automating the process is a major step toward digital transformation, and Constant Contact does all the heavy lifting. It handles a number of online tasks, ranging from launching an e-mail marketing campaign to building a website.
Pros: Constant Contact features include the ability to upload products to an online store, boost sales and improve social media presence. It handles the entire process, building lists and incorporating eCommerce and social media marketing and advertising. It also offers a complete set of tracking tools with real-time metrics about which prospects are opening, clicking and sharing e-mails.
Cons: While the offering features an intuitive user interface, the bundled templates do not allow much flexibility. Another drawback is the pricing, as the starter e-mail plan has a cap of 500 contacts. Businesses will need to pay more to add additional contacts. The offering does come with a free 60-day trial, however, making it well worth checking out for its plethora of features.
Idea management is a relatively new phenomenon in business, yet a huge number of tools are available to digitize and automate it. The practice includes generating, capturing, discussing, organizing and evaluating insights and thoughts that would not be explored through routine processes.
The Brightidea Idea Box offers a comprehensive solution out of the gate. The offering acts as an "always on" digital suggestion box for collecting ideas from wherever workers happen to be. It includes an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and a full mobile app to facilitate collaboration.
Pros: Features include the ability to track return on investment (ROI) and business impact through an analytics engine that produces informed insights. The platform is easily scaled to meet changing needs, essentially creating a robust innovation pipeline.
Cons: One drawback of Idea Box is that the large number of features and applications can make it confusing to use, as well as the large number of widgets and options that need to be configured. Some users have also complained about difficulties with customizing the solution.
The tools above are among the best available to help businesses on the journey to digital transformation. By taking a slow and measured approach to adoption, businesses can unlock major value by automating and streamlining a variety of their operational processes.
Related: Why Digital Transformation Is More About People Than Technology