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What digital transformation means in 2018

by Alastair Lechler on 16 Jan 2018
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In the grand scheme of things, 10 years isn’t a long time. However, when you think about how much technology has advanced in that time, it’s an eternity.

Back in 2008, Google Chrome had just launched and social media platforms were only starting to hit the mainstream. Since then, crowd-sourced funding, 3D scanning, wearable technology, cloud computing, and electric and self-driving cars have all become reality. We’ve seen the emergence of tablet PCs, 3D TV’s, sharing economy-based apps, and even the beginning of gene editing trials.

So it’s safe to say that a lot has changed in the last decade.

And just as technology has evolved, so has the definition of digital transformation.

How digital transformation has evolved

We used to think of ‘digital’ as ‘IT’, and digital transformation used to mean just that; building digital channels and computerising processes.

Today, digital is driving strategies. All departments from HR, to Finance, to Marketing, are looking for digital solutions to make operations better, faster, or cheaper. Technology supports our business processes and functions, boosts productivity and team collaboration, and improves our connectedness with customers.

Digital transformation is now one of the hottest topics of discussion at events and conferences around the world. Research by PwC shows that 68% of executives now recognise the importance of digital transformation. That’s twice as many as the 33% who were focusing on it back in 2007.

In today’s environment, the rate of change means disruption is the only constant. As a result, digital transformation is imperative for organisations wanting to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive global market.

The organisations who continually evaluate and improve their capabilities and services with digital transformation are the ones who will continue to survive in the wake of constant change. And the pace of change is only going to get quicker.

Trends in 2018

As we kick off the start of a new year, what can we expect from digital transformation in the coming 12 months and onwards?

Automation is the new reality in business. The last few years have seen improvements and refinement in everything from workflow and business management systems, robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). These are expected to become even more refined in 2018.

These advancements will open up new opportunities for organisations. AI, for instance, is expected to trigger a move towards “faster, cheaper and smarter automation of everything from emails and content generation to industrial manufacturing” according to Forbes.

Blockchain has the potential to disrupt nearly every industry in some way. It will change the way we do business, from smart contracts to payment processing, asset protection, supply chain management, and information systems.

While the move to blockchain won’t come overnight, as the buzzword of 2017, it’s expected to really find its feet this year. Especially in finance where it’s expected to transform the industry. In fact, it’s been predicted that 20% of trade finance globally will incorporate blockchain technology by 2020.

Cloud computing has become a global phenomenon in the modern workplace, enabling greater productivity, flexible working options and more agile ways of working. While cloud adoption has been on the up for some time, better understanding of security and infrastructure means the barriers many had to take up is being lifted more and more.

Research shows that in 2018 CFOs will be looking to cloud solutions to help link spending and business outcomes. Public cloud providers AWS, Microsoft and Google will also be opening more and more in-country data centres, which may pave the way for organisations previously put off by the idea of their data being stored overseas to take the leap to a cloud system.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing with it more data, and this means more opportunities to drive greater efficiency within organisations. However, it will bring significant data integration challenges. Big tech players like Microsoft and AWS have already invested in IoT Analytics services that offer advanced data analysis of the data collected from an organisation’s IoT devices.  

The people side

In digital transformation, just as important as the technologies and infrastructure involved, is the people.

Technology is just the enabler. It’s people who will ultimately drive an organisation’s digital maturity. Organisations are at risk of losing out on opportunities to engage with customers, drive innovation and boost competitiveness if they don’t invest in cultural change.

As with any business transformation, team engagement will be vital. A key part of this is communicating the benefits so leaders and staff understand how technology will transform their ways of working.

We’ve come a long way since the days of leveraging digital to save money on data storage and building websites to better connect with customers. Digital transformation has evolved, and it will continue to do so. Organisations who are unprepared for the unprecedented pace of change risk falling behind.

How to approach your business transformation

Topics: business transformation, digital transformation

Alastair Lechler

Written by Alastair Lechler