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Build a Digital Enablement Strategy in 5 Steps

Ronan McQuillan
14 min read · May 12, 2023

Digital enablement has been a bit of a buzzphrase for quite a while now. The only trouble is that it can be a bit of a challenge to understand what anyone actually means by this. See, there’s a lot of chatter out there but a lot of it is fairly nebulous.

As in, there’s a lot of fluff and not a lot of substance.

This is a shame because digital enablement remains one of the most underlooked aspects of modern ops management.

Today, we’re cutting through the noise to bring you an actionable guide that actually offers real-world applications.

Specifically, we’re going to look at the concrete benefits of digital enablement and the repeatable strategies you can use to achieve these.

Along the way, we’ll see how Budibase empowers businesses to turn data into action.

But first, we need to wrap our heads around the basics.

What is digital enablement?

Digital enablement is the sum of all of your efforts to support your team to adopt digital technology as part of their daily workflows.

This includes a whole spectrum of interrelated issues, across IT, operations, infrastructure, security, change management, and internal culture.

Additionally, we can think about digital enablement at several different levels of granularity - whether this is organization-wide, within individual teams, or even focused on specific employees.

In any case, the core principle behind digital enablement is to create the right environment and conditions for successful digitalization.

This leads us to a common but no less important question.

Digital enablement vs digital transformation: what’s the difference?

Although there’s a huge degree of overlap here, we need to distinguish between digital enablement and digital transformation. No doubt, you’re already highly familiar with this latter term.

The distinction here is actually pretty simple.

Digital transformation is all about using technology to improve the way you carry out certain business functions. Digital enablement takes a step back by seeking to create an environment where transformation will be successful.

To understand the relationship better, we can think about an example. Say you wanted to transform your internal processes for managing client finances.

The success of this is going to depend on a whole bunch of factors besides the actual solutions you put in place. This could be anything, like your internal data visibility, your training resources, your company culture, or simply how amenable your team is to change.

Digital Enablement

(BoardView )

The point of digital enablement is to remove transformation blockers and put in place measures to ensure the smooth implementation of new technologies.

What does digital enablement achieve?

Let’s take a step back from thinking about digital enablement in the context of individual transformation efforts and instead think more broadly about the business benefits we can achieve.

Naturally enough, we can point to all of the core goals of digitalization, including enhanced productivity, efficiency, security, consistency, accuracy, and repeatability within processes.

However, we can also think about some of the unique benefits that digital enablement brings to the table. Chief among these is a marked reduction in the cost of transformation.

This can actually play out in a couple of distinct ways.

On the one hand, there’s the fact that effective enablement reduces the scope for project delays or roadblocks - as well as abandonment and the associated sunk costs.

Besides this, enablement efforts can help to foster innovation within your organization. For instance, by helping to secure buy-in for digitalization, as well as improving internal access to the necessary skills, tools, and other resources.

On top of all of this, digital enablement is an important aspect of your business’s readiness to tackle new challenges. By instilling agility and innovation in our day-to-day operations, we greatly improve our organization’s ability to remain competitive.

Digital Enablement

(Gartner )

5 core aspects of digital enablement

So what does all of this look like in practice?

In truth, digital enablement isn’t just one unitary activity. Rather, there are almost innumerable different strategies we could employ to better facilitate digital adoption. We could never outline every single one.

Instead, the important thing is to cover the different categories that we can place these within.

With that in mind, here are the most common types of digital enablement that we can leverage.

1. Training

First of all, there’s training. The importance of this can’t be understated for facilitating successful digital transformation - at all steps of the process.

However, we can actually separate this into a couple of different categories of training exercises. First, there’s end-user training for particular transformation solutions. That is - you create something new and you need to teach users how it works.

This largely influences the adoption of tools once they’re already in situ - as well as helping us to recoup as much of the cost of transformation as we can. We’ll also derive greater value with higher utilization rates.

This isn’t the only kind of training we can turn to though.

Rather, we can also take a wider view.

That is, providing training around key digital skills, rather than on a wholly platform-specific basis. For example, upskilling colleagues in key technical competencies, like basic SQL or JavaScript.

2. Access to information

Another key pillar of digital enablement is data. See, it’s hard to disentangle digital transformation and data - whether this is the actual data assets we use in solutions or the insights that determine what we create in the first place.

In both cases, the role of digital enablement is to ensure that teams have access to the data they need for successful transformation.

This requires us to draw on a series of interrelated strategies - including data warehousing, data lakes, pipelines, automations, centralization, or any other techniques that empower our team to take action with our internal data assets.

However, this can be particularly challenging since we want to improve access to information without undermining our data’s integrity, security, or other key metrics.

For example, we can’t just open up access to all of our data assets across the organization. Rather, we need an appropriate system for managing this based on specific colleagues’ needs within processes.

We’ll see how Budibase handles role-based access control a little bit later.

3. Technical enablement

Of course, another key element of digital enablement is providing your team with the tools and technology they need to successfully transform processes.

We can actually apply this thinking at a couple of different levels within your organization. The first and most obvious is within your IT or ops teams. Here, the key thing is furnishing colleagues with platforms that allow them to ship solutions quickly and easily.

The main challenge for these teams is the sheer demand for transformation solutions. Most businesses simply can’t hire enough development talent to meet this internal demand. Nowadays, low-code development is one of the most popular routes to overcoming this.

We can also consider technical enablement outside of our IT and operations departments.

That is, empowering our colleagues in non-technical roles to create digital transformation solutions for themselves.

This provides two clear value streams:

  1. We can achieve simple transformation goals more cost-effectively - as we don’t need to engage our developers.
  2. Fostering a culture of innovation and digitalization by democratizing the ability to create solutions.

Again, low-code development plays a huge role here. So do automation tools within existing SaaS platforms and other workflow management solutions.

In-House Talent

(McKinsey )

However, in this case, we’ll also need to consider governance issues - particularly around how we review and approve transformation solutions.

You might also like our guide to how to implement Agile in operations .

4. Infrastructure

Next, we need to ensure that we have the infrastructure in place for increased digitalization. That is, transformation can put a strain on our network infrastructure by increasing the burden placed on services.

Therefore, as part of digital enablement, we must ensure that we are able to meet this demand.

But of course, this must be balanced with the fact that we don’t want to overspend on networking either. Therefore, what we need are solutions that can scale as our requirements grow and change.

In most cases, cloud-based solutions are the clear winner here.

Cloud infrastructure offers us a massive amount of flexibility - since we can simply add or remove capacity as part of our subscription costs, rather than needing to invest in our own physical infrastructure.

However, in other cases, it might be more cost-effective to own our own hardware - especially in the context of larger organizations.

We’ll also need effective workflows around how we manage our infrastructure.

This includes monitoring, threat detection, patch management, maintenance, and any other related processes that we need to enact in order to maximize uptime, reliability, and performance.

5. Company culture and strategic alignment

Finally, we have the cultural side of digital enablement. This is probably the area that’s overlooked the most often - but do so at your own risk.

See, for digital transformation to succeed, we need internal consensus around its value and importance. Otherwise, there’s an outsized chance that we’ll encounter internal blockers or a lack of buy-in from stakeholders.

So how do we go about building a digitally enabled company culture?

For a start, it’s important to take colleagues’ concerns around digitalization seriously - even if these are misplaced. That is, with transformation we want to bring skeptics with us, rather than simply overruling them.

Therefore, digital enablement must involve clear communications around the goals of your transformation projects - with a particular focus on how this will impact on individual stakeholders’ real-world concerns.

Digital enablement also means aligning IT with your wider strategic goals.

This is critical for the success of any transformation project - both in the sense that we are able to dedicate resources to the most productive avenues and we can maximize buy-in from top-level decision-makers.

Join 100,000 teams building workflow apps with Budibase

Create a digital enablement strategy in 5 steps

Now that we know what digital enablement means in practice, it’s time to think about how we can tie all of this together in a strategy that meets your unique organizational needs.

Here’s how you can develop a digital enablement strategy in five steps.

1. Assess your readiness for digitalization

First of all, we need to get a grasp of where things stand at the present moment. In other words, we need to assess how amenable to digital transformation our organization is currently - in terms of culture, technology, and any other relevant factors.

The goal here is to figure out where we’re facilitating transformation and where we could be creating blockages.

It’s worth thinking through each of the five kinds of digital enablement that we saw earlier and assessing our current situation against each.

For example, considering:

  • If our training provision is fit for purpose.
  • How data is shared and accessed throughout our organization.
  • Do we provide colleagues with appropriate digitalization tools?
  • Is our current infrastructure ready to grow with our needs?
  • How well aligned is our IT with our strategic goals?

It’s important to compartmentalize like this. Even if you’re doing everything right in one vertical, you might still have issues to overcome in other areas.

By the end of this stage, you should have a thorough, detailed understanding of what areas you need to improve within your digital enablement strategy.

2. Set goals

At this stage, we can begin to set goals and objectives for our strategy. We can do this within any combination of the areas we just assessed our performance against.

The most important thing, however, is to create objective, measurable goals, and communicate the rationale behind these to all stakeholders.

For example, it’s not enough to say that we want to improve our internal data-sharing efforts. Rather, we must figure out both how we’re going to operationalize this and what our target will be - either in percentage or raw terms.

This could be something like cutting the amount of time spent seeking out particular internal data assets by a given percentage - say, 50%.

We can repeat this process for each of the areas of digital enablement that we’ve identified as needing our attention.

It’s also worth noting at this point that we almost always have the option of tying our goals back to money - whether this means boosting revenues or cutting costs.

Recognizing this is an important step towards setting value-adding goals within our strategy.

3. Organizational and procedural change

Next, we can begin to figure out the actual steps we’ll take to meet our goals. However, it’s important to go about this in the right order.

We want to focus on organizational, procedural, and policy-level changes before we start making specific technical interventions.

This includes anything related to improving buy-in for transformation, as well as any governance, compliance, training, and cultural initiatives we’re going to undertake.

It’s especially at this point to remain focused on our overarching goals - in order to avoid getting bogged down in endless information sessions, communications, and town halls. Instead, we want to take as target an approach as possible.

However, it’s also important to be conscious of why these kinds of digital enablement approaches must come first.

This is because they have an outsized impact on the effectiveness of any technical changes we’ll perform next. For example, we need high-level buy-in before we can secure investment for new tools and infrastructure investment.

Take a look at our guide to API integration .

4. Technical interventions

Next, we can start making any required technical changes. We’ll typically want to start with any infrastructure changes that we need to make first before we think about implementing any new development tools.

Obviously, we need to know that we have sufficient network resources and capacity to handle any new tools that we’ll be shipping as part of our digital transformation efforts.

It’s tricky to generalize here since there will typically be a number of valid options for achieving whatever goal you have in mind. What’s important is to figure out what’s going to be the most cost-effective way to achieve whatever hosting requirements we have.

Check out our ultimate guide to integration in digital transformation .

Then, we can start thinking about any new development or transformation tools we want to leverage across our organization - along with any training requirements that will come along with these and any other issues we’ll need to address to get them working in the field.

For example, if we’re running a low-code platform, we’ll want to ensure that we have appropriate data management and application hosting solutions in place to use them to their full potential.

Automation Stats

(McKinsey )

5. Monitoring and continuous improvement

Finally, it’s time to measure our success. This is where we’ll return to the goals we set earlier and assess our progress - with a view to figuring out what’s working and what we can improve.

Indeed, whether or not we’re meeting our goals, we should be seeking out opportunities for continuous improvement and optimization.

This might mean dedicating more time and resources to something that’s proven to be effective - or taking a completely new approach when something hasn’t panned out the way we expected.

Similarly, we can take a more inductive approach to identify improvement opportunities as time goes by and we implement more and more digital transformation projects.

The reality is that our requirements are unlikely to remain static over the longer term. Instead, we’ll need to constantly reassess and shift our focus when it comes to digital enablement - with a particular emphasis on how we can retain agility in our internal ops.

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