Digital transformation is a much discussed topic with profound consequences for businesses. There is near unanimity among analysts that transformation is an imperative for most businesses if they are going to survive and thrive in the Digital Age. What makes transformation so challenging, however, is the fact that each enterprise’s experience is going to be unique. Analysts from DXC Technology explain, “Digital transformation involves the changes a business makes across its processes, technology and people. A transformed organization shares information and makes decisions based on that information. The entire workforce can now be augmented with artificial intelligence to make better decisions. A transformed organization improves accuracy and reliability through automation, robotics and processing. It makes time for people to plan a transition to emerging Cloud and mobile technologies while reducing reliance on traditional PCs and servers.”
Digital Transformation begins with Data
The Digital Age is characterized by oceans of data being generated every second of every day. “Successful enterprises today are fueled by data,” explains Kevin Niblock (@KevinatSAG), president and chief operating officer of North America at Software AG, “and it is important to include data analytics in the overall [digital transformation] plan rather than creating a separate strategy.” The World Economic Forum believes data is a new natural resource; however, data sitting fallow in a database is no more useful than oil pooled in untapped underground reservoirs. To be useful, data needs to be analyzed and put to work.
Sujeet Chand, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Rockwell Automation, asserts, “Digital transformation isn’t about finding the needle in the haystack of big data — it’s about the relentless focus on deriving new business value from digitizing and optimizing your operations. And leading companies are already proving just how impactful such data-driven business improvements can be.” Chand almost understates the case. Transformation is much more than simply achieving “data-driven business improvements.” Jaco Viljoen, an Agile Consultant at IndigoCube, insists, “Many companies don’t really understand what ‘digital’ actually means — or, more importantly, what capabilities they need to prosper in a digital economy. … [A company must pass] through three stages on the path towards becoming digital: digital competence, digital usage and, finally, digital transformation.”
Niblock underscores the fact that all corners of a business are going to be touched by digital transformation. “As devices and platforms become increasingly connected,” he writes, “companies must move towards the digital world by acclimating their services, products and processes. Enterprises that can create and execute on one unifying strategy will help their digital transformation journey.” It’s easier to assert a unifying transformation strategy must be developed than it is to actually come up with one. Historically companies have maintained silos of data used to support various departmental processes. Integrating that data and eliminating silos is a good first transformation step; but, as Viljoen stresses, companies need to move from digital competence to digital transformation.
Takahiro Sato, President at Kyocera Document Solutions Europe, believes organizations don’t have much time to make the transition. “The world is such a fast-moving place in modern times,” he observes, “that even the strongest businesses can often find themselves scrambling to tackle new technologies and digital trends which turn their industries upside-down.”
Digital Transformation Involves People, Processes, and Technology
Business executives know that to be successful they need the right blend of people, processes, and technology. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that digital transformation must also involve people, processes, and technology. I deliberately list people first. Joe McKendrick (@joemckendrick), a tech researcher and speaker, explains, “The human is, and all always will be, at the center of the enterprise. It takes humans to organize technology — no matter how ‘intelligent’ — in a way that it best serves customers. It takes humans to understand and ultimately deliver what markets demand, and to create new markets where none have previously existed. No organization can exist in an entirely automated fashion — to successfully run a digital business requires a well-balanced combination of human business savvy and well-designed technology solutions.”
Digital processes are what many people think about when they hear the term “digital enterprise.” Advances in cognitive computing allow business executives to think about processes in entirely new way. For example, robotic process automation is relieving employees from hours of drudgery by automating routine and repeatable processes. Cognitive computing platforms can be trained to make autonomous process decisions or alert decision-makers when anomalies are detected. The combination of big data and advanced analytics is permitting executives to reimagine their company’s processes and even their business models.
Jerry Browning, a senior business consultant for IFS, notes the technology often used to connect people with processes is the Internet of Things (IoT). In the area of maintenance, for example, Browning notes, “What makes modern IoT even more useful now is the variety of smart devices that collect data from equipment and machinery working in the background. This accumulation of equipment performance and reliability data can enable comparisons of individual pieces of equipment with others of the same type or model. That comparative data can support asset lifecycle decision-making at the executive level and create an accurate record and understanding of the true productive capacity and serviceability of a portfolio of asset types.” McKendrick concludes, “It’s all about putting the human in the center of the enterprise. Technology is the tool that accomplishes this.”
Browning concludes, “As digital transformation enables rapid change in traditional operations, organizations are finding new and more efficient ways to do business. Interactions between trading partners are becoming automated, reducing the amount of time required to complete and manage transactions and, in many cases, changing the way those transactions take place.” Sato adds, “There’s plenty to be positive about when it comes to the digital future of the enterprise. … If businesses can harness the right talent, technology and strategy, they’ll tackle that challenge head on. We have an incredibly exciting digital future ahead of us.”
 DXC Technology, “Transforming to a Digital Enterprise,” The Telegraph, 3 November 2017.
 Kevin Niblock, “Five steps to enterprise digital transformation,” IoT Agenda, 24 October 2017.
 Sujeet Chand, “Digital Transformation: It’s All About the Outcomes,” IndustryWeek, 26 October 2017.
 Jaco Viljoen, “Does your company have what it takes to be a digital enterprise?” ITWeb, 20 July 2017.
 Takahiro Sato, “Digital in the enterprise,” Information Age, 20 July 2017.
 Joe McKendrick, “Credo Of Successful Digital Enterprises: People First, Technology Second,” Forbes, 22 July 2017.
 Jerry Browning, “3 Keys to Keep You Ahead of Digital Transformation,” IndustryWeek, 8 September 2017.