Defining Digital Transformation — What it Should Mean for Your Organization
Technologies have upended companies of all sizes. Newcomers, if not outright slaying the Goliaths of industries have pushed many to the brink. In fact, according to Credit Suisse, the disruptive force has seen the average age of an S&P 500 company drop to under 20 years — from 60 years in the 1950s. Yet it’s not all bad news. M&A activity is starting to rise as the stalwarts band together to fend off the newcomers.
Surviving means adapting and digitally transforming. The first phase was to take what was analogue and make it digital; the second wave was to create processes to bypass the digital; the third wave is the transformative one.
We asked four leaders well-versed in creating the blueprints of change for companies across all sectors what it takes to get to this transformative stage — and to help us define what digital transformation is not.
Reimagining the Future
Digital transformation requires organizations to reimagine their digital futures.
Businesses must consider the markets, business models, product categories, and services that fully leverage an integrated digital and physical experience. Their transformation to a digital future should consider asset light, subscription-driven business models around products that have amazing user experiences. Digital transformation requires organizations to redefine their culture so that people and teams work smarter and faster and are
- collaborative with agile practices
- more competitive with analytics
- more efficient by leveraging automation, and
- innovative with emerging technologies
To accomplish this, transformation leaders need to think about how to train people on digital practices and tools, hire talent that can drive new capabilities, and develop partnerships with digital ecosystem contributors.
Digital transformation is not just about technology, moving to the cloud, or building mobile tools. These are all enablers, but digital transformation is really about delivering digitally-enabled products to target markets. To succeed, organizations need to change to a “”bottom up””culture where the staff equally contributes ideas, experiments, and pilots that drive strategy and priorities.
Isaac Sacolick is the author of Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, which covers many practices such as agile, devops, and data science that are all critical to successful digital transformation programs. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a long-time blogger at Social, Agile and Transformation and CIO.com, and president of StarCIO.
Digital Transformation Is About More Than Just Technology
Digital transformation is the new buzz word among CXOs.
It is interesting to note how fast the industry latched on to this new concept — which has been positioned as the sole saviour of business growth. Competition has pushed everybody to ride the new wave.
From a philosophical point of view, it appears that Digital Transformation is poised to be yet another step in the direction of Human Transformation. It is what will lead to the futuristic “Dataism” —centric society that Yuval Harari describes in his thought-provoking “Homo Deus” where everybody is connected to everybody and there is a seamless flow of information being leveraged for our survival, business growth, and growing the powers of the Human Race.
Digital Technologies are the disruptive force, driving the transformation of life and thought on a trajectory of unimaginable possibilities.
But many businesses take a myopic view when adopting digital technology. They usually incorporate a new “hot” tech — optimistic that the possibilities it opens will naturally bring (good) results. While this is a risky proposition in absence of a digital mind set, it is not a bad approach to start off, if followed by an alert and reactive strategy and course correction.
So while removing slack from operations, higher productivity and efficiency should be early realizations of switching to digital technologies. But digital technologies bring challenges of their own. The lack of:
- readily available talent with a digital mindset
- inter-disciplinary insights
- understanding of customer mind sets will lead to only short term gains
Digital transformation, then, is not just adopting the digital technologies; it is about defining new business goals and models and then adopting the required digital technologies to meet the goals.
Digital transformation is the journey of reorienting the thought process of business leaders to make them break free from the conventional ways of thinking that businesses are isolated and now connected. Instead, we should take a holistic view of the world and search for immersive ways to experience social interactions, machine-to-machine and machine-to-human interactions, and possibilities of well-being at all levels, including co-existence with the environment.
Ashish Batra, Vice President of NTT DATA at Singapore is passionate about nurturing new competencies and enabling new business possibilities. He leads practices for NTT DATA Singapore with focus on new technologies, accelerated implementations and motivates organizational changes with strong focus on people strengths
More Evolution Than Transformation
For an increasing number or organizations, Digital Transformation is about survival.
Search “Digital Transformation” on Google Trends and you will see that the phrase has really gained traction in the last three years. However, search for an agreed definition and you will struggle. Digital is the ‘perfect storm’ — the combination of smartphones, social media and the cloud. This allows new competitors to enter the market and grow quickly with global reach — raising customers’ expectations, delivering faster, cheaper, whenever and wherever the customer demands.
So digital transformation is about the customer — user centric and understanding through analytics.
One question established companies need to ask themselves is, “If I was creating this company from scratch today, what would it look like?”
The answer is usually, dramatically different.
The word transformation itself means a marked, significant change. As in, “a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. “The reality is that few organizations are in a position to go through such a wholesale reinvention. The digital journey becomes a sequence of incremental steps. Often delivered too slowly. The high street today is evidence of this, with the recent failure of a number of established retailers.
So digital transformation is also about speed and efficiency — agile delivery and intelligent automation. Is one transformation enough? Probably not. Change is constant and companies need to change constantly, to adapt and survive.
So digital transformation is also about flexibility — continuous change, continuous delivery, cloud.
So maybe it is time to drop the phrase digital transformation and embrace digital evolution instead?
Craig Blakeway is the Intelligent Analytics Practice Director for Sopra Steria UK, advising business leaders on Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Analytics-Driven Means Integrating and Managing Third Party Data
With the advent of technology and growing number of statistical techniques emerging in the space of analytics, there is a demand to integrate new market research data into existing data warehouses. For a media and entertainment organization, this would essentially mean title performance, reviews, external sales data, social sentiment, user segmentation, and affinity — just to name a few. Integration of such diverse systems from multiple vendors poses a plethora of challenges both from the data and process perspective.
On the data side, conformance to standard master data of the organization can be a big challenge and is something every data integration engineer must worry about. Some of the techniques employed range from conformance to an external title identifier to pattern matching tools.
Data quality is a key challenge while integrating new sources. Identifying patterns of inconsistencies on latency, accuracy, uniqueness, consistency and sufficiency is key to determine suitability of reporting. Initial data profiling does uncover a lot of these; however, there is a necessity to have a framework that monitors this on an ongoing basis and has means to help rectify issues.
On the process side, data loading and management is a key aspect. Format mayhem (legacy files to JSON/schema-less documents) and multiple delivery mechanisms (legacy mechanisms to new age cloud based storages) requires multiple strategies on the integration side. It is important for data engineers to come up with the most efficient data loading pattern.
Data suppliers are also free to choose technology at their end and, with time, continue to create new mechanisms of delivery. This requires data engineers in an organization to adapt continually to loading patterns while ensuring that existing systems based on legacy formats are also working.
An effective management of data processing, data quality and integration is key for the analytics-driven enterprise.
Chandan Sahai is a Solution Architect with TCS, focusing on architecting & delivering data warehouse and analytics solutions across multiple industry verticals. His current technology focus includes traditional data warehouse & analytics, cloud-based analytics, and Big Data/NoSQL-based solutions.