Digital transformation is the rare tech buzzword that has actually evolved beyond hype and gained a real foothold in helping organizations understand how IT and business teams are evolving in today's operational climate. But while the ideologies around digital transformation have matured and cemented themselves as necessary, many businesses are at wildly different stages in their transformation efforts. This has led to a great deal of diversity in how different organizations think about digital transformation.
For example, a study from the MIT Sloan Management Review found that, compared to studies of previous years, more companies are recognizing themselves as making progress toward digital maturity. While this trend is strong, a Salesforce survey found that 64 percent of enterprise employees recognize that their company is prioritizing transformation, but 69 percent said they wouldn't feel comfortable defining digital transformation for somebody else.
"Getting digital transformation initiatives off the ground requires a great deal of strategic planning."
These studies point to a situation in which executive and business leaders have come to embrace digital transformation and start shifting their ideologies around it, but the average worker, and even many managers, aren't really sure what it means for them yet. This can prove extremely problematic as businesses work to enact the cultural change that goes hand in hand with transformation.
With this tenuous situation in mind, it's important for organizations to develop a strong understanding of what digital transformation really is, identify what it will mean for them in the short and long term, establish strategies to get employees on board and start formalizing their plans. Getting digital transformation initiatives off the ground requires a great deal of strategic planning, and it starts with clear understanding of exactly what transformation is, something that can be particularly tricky to deal with.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the process of evolving from using isolated digital solutions to integrating varied technologies so they can be used seamlessly within day-to-day business processes.
Usually, transformation is a slow process in which a variety of procedures evolve separately based on pain points, with the movement eventually snowballing as increased use of modern technologies creates a strong culture of innovation and continuous improvement. That culture is the key, however, as this trend isn't just about the tech. As a manufacturer for example, a digital transformation program may look like:
- Going from manual inspection of production lines to automated tracking via internet of things devices. Then, when that data is getting siloed in a legacy platform, upgrading to a fully integrated, mobile-enabled solution that provides data visibility to engineers on the line. Once processes have been accelerated and improved in light of that data, the next project may involve using augmented reality to provide hands-free access to data overlays, creating safety and convenience improvements.
- Evolving from using a few robots for repeatable processes to advanced robotics solutions that can automatically switch between multiple tasks. Once those solutions have matured a bit, processes could move toward full human-robot collaboration, with processes being redesigned to optimize what each user does best.
These types of capabilities represent how full data integration to a single source of truth, modern cloud platforms and robust operations technologies can come together to change the fabric of how businesses operate.
Actionable steps toward transformation
You'll probably note that there are two common threads in the digital transformation examples provided above: They both provide examples of ecosystems in which inter-related technologies evolved side by side and they both involve the lines between a business process and a technology tool blurring, so much so that the tech and business are aligned, not separate things. This is where digital transformation really becomes a unique thing: It isn't about simply deploying technology. Instead, the focus is seamlessly building technological advantages into your business.
Ultimately, transformation doesn't revolve around specific technologies or systems. It's a movement toward unified operational models that focus on giving employees the best possible tools to create stronger customer experiences while driving a culture of continuous improvement. Here are a few steps you can take toward digital transformation:
- Start making IT plans in a cyclical way in which upgrades and investments support one another and drive ongoing efficiency gains across business units. Isolated, siloed upgrade cycles are too slow.
- Begin exploring how you can improve the employee work experience in ways that allow teams to support customers better.
- Focus on constant learning and development so your staff can adapt and change alongside the market.
Digital is really the operative word in this transformation process. When we think about a digital world, we're often drawn into a vision of being constantly connected and in control, able to make smarter choices seemingly on a whim. That's probably a bit of a pipe dream, but digital transformation initiatives take that idea of connectivity and responsiveness and work to build it into how businesses operate.
The first steps to digital transformation are never easy, but ICS-Support can help. Our full service IT consulting solutions can empower you to take a more strategic, thoughtful approach to your technology roadmap.