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Digital leap

by Thomas Erl
Indian Management February 2022

Digital transformation provides enormous potential for organisations grow their businesses, albeit, they understand and plans for the prerequisites of the transformation. A key critical success factor of any digital transformation initiative is obtaining an understanding of and planning for all required forms of transformation.

A digital transformation initiative is a genuine attempt to change, upgrade, and extend an organisation’s business models and technologies so as to enable the organisation to:

  • Gain value by significantly improving what it has been doing
  • Gain value by introducing new things it can do (and to ensure it can do those new things really well)

A digital transformation can introduce:

  • A new mindset
  • A new culture
  • A new organisational structure
  • New priorities
  • New technologies
  • New risks and challenges

A digital transformation will impact an organisation’s:

  • Business models and processes
  • Automation and data science technologies
  • Human workers and culture

Specifically, the mainstream availability of a specific set of technology innovations and practices has enabled organisations to transform their businesses through enhanced automation and data intelligence to achieve greater business value and growth. This transformation results in changes to organisational culture and the positioning and allocation of human workers.

Business, technology, data and people
Although technology innovations are responsible for enabling digital transformation, the motivations, impacts, and influences of an organisation’s digital transformation effort go well beyond technology. These factors involve the organisation’s business, its data, and its people.

Digital transformation and business
Digital transformation is a genuine attempt to take an organisation’s business to a new level of growth and effectiveness by transforming:

  • How the business relates to the outside world (in particular, how customers perceive and inter-relate with the business), and
  • How the business operates internally (in particular, how different organisational departments may need to collaborate, and how humans and machines may need to collaborate and inter-relate with each other)

When successfully realised, digital transformation can significantly reshape and enhance many aspects of an organisation’s business, including:

  • The extent to which the business can make existing products and services available to new customers and new markets
  • The extent to which the business can introduce new products and services into new markets
  • The speed at which the business can penetrate and develop new markets
  • The extent to which the business can leverage data
  • The experience that customers have when interacting with the business
  • The efficiency with which the business can operate and the level of automation the business can incorporate
  • The agility with which the business can maneuver and adapt to change
  • The manner in which the business can collaborate with partners

A common, overarching strategic goal of digital business transformation is to instill customer-centricity as being paramount to business models, automation, and the organisational culture.

A successful digital business transformation (including the attainment of a meaningful extent of enhanced customer-centricity) is enabled by the successful application of contemporary technology and data intelligence, along with the successful contributions of human workers.

Digital transformation and technology
What has made digital transformation possible is a set of technology innovations that enable organisations to carry out significant and meaningful business transformations.
The primary distinguishing automation technologies are:

  • Cloud computing
  • Blockchain
  • Internet of Things
  • Robotic process automation

The primary distinguishing data science technologies are:

  • Big data analysis and analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial intelligence

Together, these technology innovations empower business capabilities in two primary areas:

  • Improved and new forms of automation
  • More meaningful and responsive data intelligence

An organisation's business requirements © Shutterstock.com and goals in relation to its planned digital transformation will help determine the correct combination of these technologies.
The utilisation of these technologies is driven by the requirements of the business, and they correspondingly generate and process data in support of business data intelligence requirements. Human workers can be further supported by the digital transformation resulting from the application of these technologies. In some cases, the new capabilities introduced by the solutions may allow manual tasks to be automated by the solutions.

Highly engaging leaders demonstrate that they are committed to helping their people to achieve their goals and to grow as people. They take an active interest in their team’s learning and development.

Digital transformation and data
Digital transformation leads to automated business processes that are naturally data driven. Data becomes a prime asset that empowers the organisation to develop sophisticated business automation.
The utilisation of contemporary data science technologies as part of a digital transformation can inject an organisation with large quantities of ‘data intelligence’, meaning the organisation will have the opportunity to:

  • Gain meaningful insights into its own operations
  • Gain meaningful insights into its market or community
  • Gain meaningful insights into customer history and behaviour
  • Gain meaningful insights into its existing products and services
  • Discover opportunities to introduce new products and services into its market or community
  • Enable its systems to learn from historical data to produce improved analysis results
  • Enable its systems to assume decisionmaking responsibilities

Data intelligence can be used to improve automation and increase opportunities to automate manual tasks previously carried out by humans. Data intelligence can further support human workers responsible for carrying out decisions.

Digital transformation and people
The transformation of both business and technology landscapes within an organisation will naturally augment or reshape traditional organisational structures and change the way human workers contribute and relate to the organisation.
These changes to how human workers carry out new or improved business tasks, work with new technology, learn from new data intelligence, and collaborate and relate to the organisation in new ways, can lead to the formation of new organisational cultures, more integrated with digital capabilities and focused on customer-centricity

Digital transformation and organisations and solutions
An organisation undergoing a digital transformation will inevitably introduce benefits and impose challenges on its business operations, its technology ecosystem, the utilisation of its data, as well as its relationships with its human workers.
To proceed with a digital transformation, the organisation will need to develop digital transformation solutions, which are essentially applications responsible for automating and/ or contributing data intelligence, each of which may encompass one or more related business tasks.

Conclusion
Digital transformation provides enormous potential for organisations to improve and grow their businesses. Some initiatives fail because of too much emphasis on technology and/or data transformation. A key critical success factor of any digital transformation initiative is obtaining an understanding of and planning for all required forms of transformation.

Thomas Erl is founder of and Senior Adviser with Transformative Digital Solutions Inc. He is Series Editor, Pearson Digital Enterprise Series from Thomas Erl. He is also CEO of Arcitura Education Inc. He is author, A Field Guide to Digital Transformation.

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