Digital transformation for companies: looking beyond the essentials

Digital transformation has graduated from being a best practice to become a price of entry, and it is imperative for companies to respond to challenges keeping this in mind.

According to Highlights of the 2017 CEO Survey by Gartner.

The vision of digital business and the disruption it will bring is well recognised. Forty-two percent of CEOs say, "digital first' or 'digital to the core' is now their company's digital business posture."

There is no doubt that the rate of digital transformation will increase exponentially, and that enterprises can't implement across the enterprise fast enough. But, despite the 42 percent of CEOs who say that it is their priority, over 60 percent believe they are already behind. This means that they are not currently meeting the essentials of today's digital marketplace – they are not equipped to address rapidly changing customer demand, deliver personalised customer experience at scale, or keep pace with a continually evolving digital landscape.

digitalDigital transformation for companies

Expectations are that reticent executives will realise that the price of entry is to embrace the digital tsunami that is unleashing a sea of transformation. The consequence of modernisation of back-office systems is inevitably driving closer, with more accelerated cooperation between departmental and service silos and with more seamless customer journey experiences. While Gartner rightly points out that the focus should be on aligning digital projects to business value (Make Digital Business Transformation a Practical Reality: A Gartner Trend Insight Report), many companies are still stuck playing catch-up.

The essentials of digital transformation continue to be championed by digital leaders: renewing legacy systems, embracing platform thinking to drive value through crowd collaboration between producers and consumers, shifting from systems of record (build, run, maintain) to new systems of engagement that drive enhanced customer experience and more.

But while lagging companies struggle to meet these essentials, new challenges and opportunities are emerging that will prove more difficult to address while playing catch-up.

The widening global talent gap needs to be addressed by serious investment

At the end of the day, digital transformation requires talent to create new and innovative ways to efficiently respond to the increasingly complex nature of a company's internal and external business climates. Steps need to be taken to address the dilemma of assembling and developing an adequately prepared workforce.

The pace of change in our physical, digital and technological world is challenging our ability to achieve this given significant disruption to business, work and people.

Until companies begin to take this seriously, they will continue to face an ever-widening shortage of specialised roles such as data scientists, cybersecurity specialists, software developers and experience designers that are critical to customer experience and digital transformation. Institutions, businesses and governments will start to realise that they need to seriously invest in new ways to collaboratively equip its people with skills to respond to global opportunities and challenges of an interconnected future.

Companies will need to open organisational apertures to address the challenges of an increasingly complex, digital world.

Global enterprises naturally develop multi-layered structures composed of different departments, entities, and stakeholders whose perspectives are limited by the context in which they operate by addressing familiar, comfortable frames of reference. The limited perspective, coupled with the complexity and increasing flexibility of organisational models, has led to myopic, compartmentalised, and decentralised strategies and operational divisions, which result in disconnected silos and capabilities with narrow apertures into systems-level external and internal pressures and challenges.

As anyone familiar with the pitfalls of organisational silos knows, big problems or opportunities seen through small apertures, can have devastating consequences. Case in point: Kodak's missed opportunity to own digital cameras or Blockbuster ignoring the impact of Netflix. As a result, organisations will increasingly search for ways to open their own apertures to define opportunities, risks and challenges more holistically so that complexity can be navigated and organisational problems can be reframed to create more durable, impactful solutions for an increasingly uncertain, asymmetric and complex digital world.

Privacy needs to become the first order of business

Yahoo. Equifax. Uber. When it comes to data breaches, identity theft, elections and even "fake news", it's not a matter of 'if' anymore; It's a matter of 'when'. That's why more and more companies will shift their focus from prevention to detection and response. The cybersecurity industry is expected to triple in the next five years with a third of US technology jobs focused squarely on the industry.  As a result, we will see far more demand from enterprise to renew legacy systems to increase consumer confidence in their ability to protect their personal information and respond in real-time response to threats.

The cybersecurity industry is expected to triple in the next five years with a third of US technology jobs focused squarely on the industry.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has even redefined the importance of privacy as a "fundamental human right," thus raising the bar even higher and opening the door to new conversations about how best to balance customer privacy, transparency, and national security.

Given the acceleration towards a digitally connected IoT ecosystem, (interconnected autonomous vehicles, connected home, AI etc.), the risks of hacks proportionally increase with the opportunities and conveniences, creating an increased urgency for cybersecurity to keep up with technology advances.

In conclusion, I would like to say that these are just a few imperatives that are accelerating in importance in the evolving digital landscape. While digital transformation may have been considered a 'best practice' in the past, it has now become a 'price of entry' for companies that want to be around in the next five to 10 years. With the advent of new challenges and opportunities, it's clear that the companies that will win are those that have moved beyond the 'catch-up' stage of digital transformation into the preference stage of addressing such challenges and opportunities in near real-time while elevating customer experience to an art form.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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