An Introduction to Digital Transformations

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No industry or function has been left untouched by the rapid march of technological progress in the 21st century. From machine learning and artificial intelligence, to cloud-based SaaS and IoT-driven analytics, organizations of every shape and size are beset on all sides by technical innovations that are impossible to ignore.

Technology Doesn’t Create Disruptions, People Do

Modern day customers are interacting with businesses through more touch points than ever before. Modern day buyers expect constant connectivity, instant access to information, and purchasing capabilities from any location at any time.

Workforces aren’t far behind. Having seen the impact digital tools can have on their personal lives, employees are questioning why similar initiatives aren’t being employed to optimize processes within their workplaces. Today, remote working, real-time online collaboration, and data based performance management are prerequisites for any organization that wishes to remain competitive.

The Three Stages of Digital Adoption

Digital transformation isn’t about improving existing business processes. It’s about developing a completely new way of working. But creating radical new business models that can adapt to the constantly shifting business landscape requires far more than just technological know-how. Real foresight is needed in leadership positions to identify key initiatives, drive implementations throughout the enterprise, and ensure constant improvement in digital processes.

Without a cohesive, all-encompassing strategy in place, any tentative steps towards innovation is doomed to fall short, and with that failure comes a very credible threat to the business’s long-term survival. Roughly speaking, an organization can track its progress along the path to this sort of holistic reinvention through a three-step model.

Competency

To be digitally competent, an organization needs to have a firm grasp on basic aspects of IT modernization. At this stage a business may be moving its infrastructures from on-premises servers to cloud networks. They may be automating repetitive functions through SaaS applications. In these scenarios data is mostly being used in a control and monitoring capacity, to report on what happened, and why.

Although these improvements do bring marginal cost savings and some added efficiency to organizations, they are largely reactive and retrospective in nature. A business that is satisfied with simple competency will miss out on the wealth of opportunities offered by a true transformation.

Literacy

At this stage an organization feels ready to integrate specific disruptive technologies into its functions. These tools should help to expand the strategic and operational scope of the business, rather than just improve upon its existing processes.

Digitally literate organizations can derive predictive insights from their data to determine what’s likely to happen in the industry and marketplace moving forward. Instead of examining anomalies and errors in hindsight, you should now have the ability to oversee data in real-time. With these new tools at their disposal, employees should become adept at identifying variables and taking proactive measures to create cost savings.

However, innovation at this stage is still largely siloed to key areas of the business. To achieve a true transformation, an organization must broaden its horizons and develop a more holistic approach to digital implementation.

Transformation

An organization in the throes of metamorphosis will have a crystal clear vision of its digital future. A well-versed team of digital experts will be employed to create innovative digital strategies that can be implemented across the enterprise.

As a result of these new strategies, the infrastructure of the organization will be overhauled to accommodate new expertise, roles, workflows and processes. This infrastructure should be able to scale up as the organization grows, constant reviews should also be in-built into the structure of each digital initiative.

At this stage, data will be used to identify and compare new revenue opportunities, whereas real-time analysis will be used to initiate rollouts of new products and services, while making course corrections in reaction to predicted market forces. The technology within the firm should be tailored to service the customer through the integration of customer/partner data. Customers, partners, and even third-party developers should be able to interface with your systems to apply value-added software that can further optimize user experience.

Consider the Following

At the end of 2017, 2/3rds of CEOS at Global 2000 companies had digital transformation at the forefront of their corporate objectives. At the same time 85% of key decision makers in these organizations indicated that they had two years or less to make significant inroads towards digital implementation if they didn’t want to suffer financial and competitive losses.

The trend is clear, even laggards are recognizing that digital transformation isn’t a choice: It’s inevitable! But intention does not equal implementation in the face of resource constraints and organizational resistance, hence, a clearly defined roadmap for progress is direly needed.

Nine Elements of Digital Transformation

Researchers at MIT have identified nine key elements in three distinct areas that are necessary for any complete digital transformation. They are:

  • Transforming Customer Experience Customer Understanding
    • Top-Line Growth
    • Customer Touchpoints
  • Transforming Operational ProcessesProcess Digitization
    • Enabling Workforces
    • Performance Management
  • Transforming Business ModelsDigitally Modified Businesses
    • New Digital Businesses
    • Digital Globalization

In the articles to follow, we will be examining each element in turn, to provide a full view of digital transformation.

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