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Digital transformation: current status and preparation

You are expected to stay up to date on digital transformation. We assess the current status and what you must do to prepare.

While it might be tempting to regard digital transformation—the integration of digital technology into all areas of business—as something that happened yesteryear and finally put topics like “digital maturity” and “omnichannel” behind, the truth is that digital transformation is an ongoing process.

We might not use typewriters, paid physical advertisements, or feature phones as widely as before, but even though automation, smartphones, and IoT have transformed the way we conduct work and business, the digital transformation is still in motion—and will be for the foreseeable future.

To help you orient yourself in this constantly shifting landscape, we survey the current status of digital transformation, before indicating what you can do to get started.

Digital transformation: current status

In order to know where we are headed for the future, we must first know where we are right now. According to Ziggurat, the top business priorities of CEOs today are, in order: simple growth, structural development, IT department and processes, workforce, customer, financial, product improvement, management, sales, cost management, and efficiency and productivity.

The main barriers against digital transformation are: inability to experiment quickly, legacy systems, inability to work across silos, inadequate collaboration between IT and lines of business, risk-averse culture, change management capabilities, lack of digital corporate vision, lack of required skills, insufficient budget, and cyber security.

Imperative to any digital undertaking is the underlying engine:
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The sectors most likely to implement digital transformation are technology, finance, telecoms, and pharma, with the IT department in all as the primary recipient.

Furthermore, Information Age has rounded up the most important digital transformation trends in 2019 and beyond, heavily emphasising artificial intelligence:

  • By 2019, 30% of large enterprises will start generating Data as a Service revenue due to AI
  • By 2019, over 40% of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services
  • By 2021, 75% of commercial enterprise apps will have AI built in, and over 50% of consumers will interact with AI
  • By 2020, personal digital assistants and bots will influence 10% of all sales

More numbers relate to the sub categories of intelligent automation (IA) and machine learning. Due to its expensive and complicated nature, IA used to be delegated to the heavy lifting in back-office processes. Examples include financial processing in banking or service provisioning in telecom networks. With the advent of cloud computing, IA is now cheaper and easier to set up, and can be used more broadly, e.g. in faster customer service or day-to-day operations.

The statistics on IA and machine learning are as follows:

  • 54% of organisations have or plan to deploy machine learning
  • 75% have either deployed or plan to deploy IA in the next year
  • 41% plan to implement IA in 2019

In other words, AI seems to be making up the leeway already and are posed to be the next big thing in digital transformation in the immediate future. Simultaneously, finance, tech, telecoms, and pharma will be the first ones out as digitally mature sectors, while others struggle more with the mentioned barriers.

Preparing for digital transformation

Ashish Deshpande in Forbes believes 2019 will be a turning point when the vast majority of organisations will instigate digital transformation, even traditionally low-tech ones like primary schools. For everyone to prepare for digital transformation, Deshpande stresses that every organisation needs a solid foundation in the form of process automation.

If the core operations of your organisation still rely on manual workarounds, paper, or email, you risk lagging behind due to a waste of time and resources. Automating operational processes may for instance involve using modern, low-code platforms running in the cloud to deploy new services, respond to customer needs, and generally lower the costs. But how do you get started?

First, be sure to involve the leadership in your organisation. While the IT department and the CIO may be ultimately responsible for instigating and carrying through digital transformation, the matter at hand is actually more than just IT. Digital transformation affects every aspect of your organisation—HR, marketing, sales, finance, legal, operations, and business lines. Therefore the CEO should ideally be the main driver behind the transformation efforts, in order to get all of the organisation included.

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Second, identify non-essential activities performed by colleagues in your team, department, and finally your organisation as a whole. Removing or outsourcing these kinds of non-core activities will enable your people, the actual drivers for change and digital transformation, to focus on business crucial activities instead. They can go from spending time on administering documents and folders to focusing on innovation, talent acquisition, or process effectivity.

A best practice in this endeavour is to start small. This way you can get handfast results fast and to demonstrate your business case to the rest of the organisation. Don’t hesitate, start preparing and undergoing digital transformation today. Modern tools are readily available, ranging from high-end, expensive, and complex to the opposite—whatever floats your boat.

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