Digital technologies have invaded societies and people living within it in a big way. According to Statista, global expenditure on technologies and services enabling digital transformation is expected to be USD 2.3 trillion by 2023. As these technologies make life easier in many ways, they have been embraced wholeheartedly. This societal shift has impacted businesses as well because customer behavior patterns, as well as expectations, have changed drastically.
To keep up with the technical advancements that are becoming part of lives faster than ever before, businesses must embrace digital transformation, in whatever way possible and to whatever extent feasible.
Digital Transformation: An Overview
Digital transformation is a change in mindset. It is not any technology, tool, or framework to bring about change with the wave of a magic wand. At best, it is a road map to the path that must be taken to digitally transform an existing business.
There can be no single way of digital transformation. It is unique to each organization, depending upon its unique requirements and challenges. So, it is difficult to provide a definition that applies to all cases of digital transformation.
Transforming the business strategy and core business functions of an organization with the help of the latest technologies and frameworks are called digital transformation.
Why does digital transformation matter?
Digital transformation is usually mandated by customer expectations, shifts in customer behavior, technological disruptions brought about by other businesses, change in societies, changing the economic landscape, etc. Therefore, to stay relevant and grow, businesses need to accept its importance and act accordingly.
1) Digitizing Customer Relationships
Customer relationships form one of the most important parts of any business because sales and profit depend directly on it. Digitizing last mile customer relationships using the latest technologies enable businesses to provide excellent customer experience and support.
Digitizing customer relationship is often one of the first digitizing projects undertaken in any organization because it is crucial as well on the edge. Transforming business edges is always easier than transforming the core.
2) Digitizing Operations and Automating Processes
Besides customer relationships, optimizing operations and automating processes is an important candidate for starting with digital transformation. With methodologies like Agile and DevOps already disrupting the old way of siloed operations, digital transformation can take process integration a step ahead and provide better RoI.
3) Assessing Digital Talent within the Organization
Before any digitization happens, the CIOs and CTOs should take stock of an in-house digital talent pool. After a complete assessment has been done an exhaustive report must be prepared on what exists, what should be upgraded, and what must be contracted. Skill up-gradation or hiring decisions must only be need-based as they require resources.
It must be noted that for any transformation to be successful, it must occur on the basis of what exists. If anyone tries to transform a business, digital or otherwise, in a way that is not aligned with overall business value, it is bound to fail. In any organization, People are the most important asset and they must be the main stakeholder in a transformation for it to be successful.
4) Harnessing Data and Advanced Technology
Digital transformation is a cultural shift. Strategic planning and onboarding all the stakeholders, especially employees whose work would be most impacted by it, must be convinced of the idea before moving forward.
Data and technology can come to the rescue of planning and management team to put forth their case convincingly to others. Harnessing information management technologies can prove to be the key even later when risks need to be mitigated and all peoples (customers, partners, and employees) need to engage.
Moving towards Digital Economy
Since its introduction, computer and associated technologies have impacted businesses and economies. Starting with mainframe computers in the 1950s, technology moved to PCs and laptops, and now mobiles and cloud. IDC, an Internet marketing firm, coined the term third platform to denote interoperability between mobiles and cloud as a computing model. This computing model has four pillars:
- Big data/analytics
The impact of these big four on any organization is usually spread over these five stages:
Stage 1 – This is the phase where the adoption of the four pillars of the third platform by consumers, businesses, and everyone in between occurs. Consumer behavior is no longer what it used to be even at the start of the millennium. As customers become increasingly digitalized, businesses need to rethink their strategy to reach out to the customer.
Stage 2 – Piggybacking on the four pillars of the third platform, many new technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, etc. have invaded the marketplace.
Stage 3 – This is the stage where businesses innovate using new technologies to transform the customer experience, reduce costs, take on the competition, and optimize all possible processes on the edge.
Stage 4 – As stage 3 gains momentum of its own, businesses become mature enough to look at transforming core business processes. This is the most accelerated and widespread phase of digital transformation.
Stage 5 – In this final phase of digital transformation, all innovations will be driven by digital technologies in the economy. Even the non-IT companies will be impacted by technologies like Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT). According to IDC, this is the phase of the digital transformation economy (DX).
Key lessons from practitioners to lead the organization through digital transformation
As discussed, digital transformation for each organization is unique to it, depending upon its requirements and challenges. However, there are some factors that remain common across industries and businesses.
1) Before you invest, figure out your business strategy
Starting a digital transformation of your business without figuring out what is your strategy should be is a sure shot recipe for disaster. You need to understand that digital transformation is not only about adopting the new but also about discard in the world play of the old way of thinking and doing things.
2) Design customer experience
Whatever the transformation you are planning to design an awesome customer experience is essential. Remember that every change in businesses occurs so that current, as well as prospective customers, can be satisfied. The first step of any digital transformation must always be enhancing the experience of both internal and external customers.
3) Recognize employees' fear of being replaced
When digital transformation is proposed, relevant skills become very important. In such a scenario of impending change, employees not possessing the required skills have a real fear of being replaced. As a leader, you must recognize this fear and work towards dissipating it. You must emphasize that skill-savviness may be dispensable, but employees are not. Then, only you will be able to get people to join you on the journey of digital transformation.
Role of digital transformation across various industries
Let us look at the potential of technologies to digitally transform various industries and solve their unique challenges.
For any business, the customer is the most important stakeholder. This is even more so in the healthcare industry because the primary stakeholder, the patients, are already under stress and must be handled carefully. Applying digital transformation practices to patient records maintenance, hospice care facilities, medicine dispensation, caregiver support, and information dissemination can go a long way in building trust for any healthcare service provider.
Healthcare workers are another important stakeholder here. In a bid to move towards the patient-centric model they cannot be ignored because they are an equally important pillar.
Mobility has proved to be a game-changer in the healthcare industry by facilitating immediate access to healthcare facilities, optimizing costs and resources, and managing information efficiently. Riding on the back of the mobile and wireless health market, the global digital health market is expected to reach USD 206 billion by 2020.
Historically, the retail industry has been an early adopter of technologies. It has embraced digital transformation wholeheartedly too because it sees its potential to transform the way the industry works. As consumers get digital, they expect better service at the tip of their fingers. Some ways in which digital transformation can affect the retail industry are:
- Supply chain digitalization
- Data and information optimization
- Awesome customer experience
- Complete product information available to the customer at all times
- Cross-channel product availability
The primary challenge for all manufacturing units is to transform themselves towards industry 4.0. In this endeavor, the manufacturing industry is utilizing digital transformation for:
- Connecting supply chains
- Knowledge of latest micro-economic and geopolitical changes
- Closing skill gap
- Implementing industrial IoT
- Harnessing data-intensive service systems
4) Government/Public Sector
It is not just private-sector industries that are affected by digital technologies. Government agencies and organizations are also being disrupted by them. But this disruption is for the betterment of all parties involved. A study by McKinsey indicates that fully digitizing government activities may free up almost USD 1 trillion globally. Here are some things that can achieve better transparency, efficiency, and outreach to citizens through digital transformation:
- E identity
- Government benefits
As citizens get more digitized, they demand better infrastructure, governance, and information from the government. Almost 130 countries across the world have online services. Digital transformation has enabled governments to cut labor costs while improving their service offerings. Improved efficiency, faster grievance disposal, and decreased paperwork are some outcomes of digital governments.
5) Banking and Insurance
Global consumer survey by Deloitte reveals that consumers expect their banks to behave like top technology brands. Most of the digital engagement is for transactions.
The most important concern in the banking and insurance industry is the safety and security of customer data. Companies are innovating using digital technologies to provide a secure and failproof system for performing financial transactions, be it online or offline.
Digital transformation can pave the way for creating new and innovative business models that make typical transactions like an insurance claim, easy access to funds, transferring money, etc. hassle-free.
6) Supply Chain: Logistics & Transportation
Modern businesses are not confined by boundaries. In this global economy, everyone is trying to outdo the other in terms of expansion and global outreach to customers. Whether it is setting up an office on the other side of the world or delivering a product thousands of miles away, companies are looking at streamlining their supply chain. Digital transformation in logistics and transportation promises to cut costs, optimize resources, and provide better outcomes through the use of the latest technologies.
Education is probably one industry that is thriving under the impact of digital transformation. The major challenge in taking education out of school is making up for the absence of teachers, who are considered a primary source of providing knowledge. Adopting technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality early on, businesses are innovating on the way the students can be made to understand even the most complex of concepts easily. The advantage of using technology is that teaching can be customized according to students’ learning preferences.
With the traditional education system having its own set of problems, digital education is catching up fast. It has reached a stage where many students as well as parents and teachers find it more affordable and within reach.
To get started on the digital transformation you need to ask that 3 essential questions – why we need to transform, what needs to be transformed, and how the transformation must happen.
Like every new thing, digital transformation is also surrounded by lots of hype. As the CTO or CIO of the company, you are responsible for looking beyond this hype into the core of the matter and understand how the proposed digital transformation can impact your organization.
After being convinced that digital transformation must happen in your organization, to take it to the next level you need to onboard other stakeholders and only then start the process of digital transformation.
You must remember that digital transformation is the only way to move forward in this millennium. The economy itself is moving towards digital and customers are already fully digitized in their behavior and expectations. To not adopt digital transformation would be to lose your relevance and slowly fade out of business.