The world has changed. We’ve seen massive disruption on multiple fronts – business model disruption, cybercrime, new devices, and an app-centric world. Powerful networks are crucial to success in a mobile-first, cloud-first world that’s putting an ever-increasing increasing amount of data at our fingertips. With the Internet of Things (IoT) we can connect instrumented devices worldwide and use new data to transform business models and products.
Disruption comes in many forms. It’s not big or scary, it’s just another way of describing change and evolution. In the ’80s it manifested as call centers. Then, as the digital landscape began to take shape, it was the Internet, cloud computing … now it’s artificial intelligence (AI).
Digital transformation means different things to different companies, but in the end I believe it will be a simple salvation that will carry us forward. If you Bing (note I worked for Microsoft for 15 years before experiencing digital transformation from the lens of the outside world), digital transformation, it says it’s “the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” (I’ll simplify that; keep reading.)
A lot of today’s digital transformation ideas are ripped straight from the scripts of sci-fi entertainment, whether you’re talking about the robotic assistants of 2001: A Space Odyssey or artificial intelligence in the Star Trek series. We’re forecasting our future with our imagination. So, let’s move on to why digital transformation is needed in our current world.
The basic challenges facing businesses today are the same as they’ve always been: engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and reinventing the value offered to customers. However, what has changed is the unique convergence of three things:
- Increasing volumes of data, particularly driven by the digitization of “things” and heightened individual mobility and collaboration
- Advancements in data analytics and intelligence to draw actionable insight from the data
- Ubiquity of cloud computing, which puts this disruptive power in the hands of organizations of all sizes, increasing the pace of innovation and competition
Digital transformation in plain English
Hernan Marino, senior vice president, marketing, & global chief operating officer at SAP, explains digital transformation by giving specific industry examples to make it simpler.
Automobile manufacturing used to be the work of assembly lines, people working side-by-side literally piecing together, painting, and churning out vehicles. It transitioned to automation, reducing costs and marginalizing human error. That was a business transformation. Now, we are seeing companies like Tesla and BMW incorporate technology into their vehicles that essentially make them computers on wheels. Cameras. Sensors. GPS. Self-driving vehicles. Syncing your smartphone with your car.
The point here is that companies need to make the upfront investments in infrastructure to take advantage of digital transformation, and that upfront investment will pay dividends in the long run as technological innovations abound. It is our job to collaboratively work with our customers to understand what infrastructure changes need to be made to achieve and take advantage of digital transformation.
Harman gives electric companies as another example. Remember a few years ago, when you used to go outside your house and see the little power meter spinning as it recorded the kilowatts you use? Every month, the meter reader would show up in your yard, record your usage, and report back to the electric company.
Most electric companies then made a business transformation and installed smart meters – eliminating the cost of the meter reader and integrating most homes into a smart grid that gave customers access to their real-time information. Now, as renewable energy evolves and integrates more fully into our lives, these same electric companies that switched over to smart meters are going to make additional investments to be able to analyze the data and make more informed decisions that will benefit both the company and its customers.
That is digital transformation. Obviously, banks, healthcare, entertainment, trucking, and e-commerce all have different needs than auto manufacturers and electric companies. It is up to us – marketers and account managers promoting digital transformation – to identify those needs and help our clients make the digital transformation as seamlessly as possible.
Digital transformation is more than just a fancy buzzword, it is our present and our future. It is re-envisioning existing business models and embracing a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create more for their customers through systems of intelligence.
Learn more about what it means to be a digital business.