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The Autonomous Digital Enterprise, Conclusion

October 6, 2021


According to many business experts, the Digital Age requires organizations to transform into Digital Enterprises. Digital transformation, however, involves much more than simply buying the latest technologies. In fact, experts insist the focus should be more on “transformation” than on becoming “digital.” For example, Paul Leinwand (@PaulLeinwand), global managing director for capabilities-driven strategy and growth at Strategy&, and Mahadeva Matt Mani (@MMahadev), lead for the transformation platform for PwC and Strategy&, assert, “Digitizing isn’t the same as digital transformation.”[1] Tricia Wang (@triciawang), a self-described Tech Ethnographer & Sociologist, agrees. She explains, “A lot of companies treat digital as if they are ‘doing digital’ — this is ‘digitization’ at its worst — as if it’s some checklist of things to do. It’s very transactional, and people are so busy doing digital they don’t even know WHY they are doing it in the first place! Whereas [some companies] embrace ‘being digital’ — this is ‘digital transformation’ at its best — it’s a total paradigm shift in the culture and operations — it’s not just about buying the latest digital tool, but about creating a new system, new cadence, new mindset.”[2]


For many companies, the pandemic demonstrated the importance of digital transformation. Ayman Sayed (@asayed), CEO of BMC Software, reports, “A September [2020] Fortune article estimated that nearly 100,000 businesses that shut down in 2020 are permanently out of business. And technology would not have necessarily saved them all. But the ability to pivot an organization’s focus and execution, with technology supporting speed and efficiency in the process, has demonstrated a clear value in helping businesses stay open.”[3] In the opening installment of this article, I discussed why Sayed and other experts believe the future belongs to organizations that go beyond transforming into Digital Enterprises and continue the process by becoming Autonomous Digital Enterprises (ADEs). In this concluding installment, I want to discuss some of the trends experts point to as driving the ADE movement as well as some of the technologies that make the transformation possible.


Trends and Technologies


Business journalist Meenu EG has identified several trends and technologies he believes are driving the ADE movement.[4] They include:


Hyperautomation. Tech writer John Emmitt defines hyperautomation this way: “Hyperautomation brings together artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) tools with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to enable the automation of complex business processes. Hyperautomation can lead to real digital transformation of the business. As one of the top 10 strategic trends of 2021 touted by Gartner, the idea of hyperautomation is to automate ‘anything’ that can be automated. Implementing hyperautomation requires streamlining entire processes in an organization, getting rid of legacy applications and enforcing lean, optimized and interconnected processes.”[5] EG adds, “[The] Autonomous Digital Enterprise employs automation and artificial intelligence across all the working systems. It enables technology and data analytics to arrive at better business solutions. Hyperautomation ensures minimum human involvement, improved business insights, and minimized errors. This transfers human intelligence towards an upper layer by restraining them from doing mundane tasks. Humans can now work alongside machines ensuring maximum optimization of resources.”


Personalization. Although it may sound counter-intuitive that an Autonomous Digital Enterprise can get personal, EG notes that an ADE is customer-centric. He explains, “[An] ADE operates in a customer-centric way devoting its powers to create and personalize better customer experiences. It uses data analytics to collect customer data and analyzes it to build a friendly ecosystem to cater to their needs.” He insists, “A ‘do-it-yourself’ experience is what customers want. [Customers] prefer interacting with an automated system to arrive at solutions. Virtual assistance proves more useful than people-led customer interactions that go through an irritable thread of calls.” Although I agree automation has a place in customer service, I personally believe the human touch is still an essential part of great customer experience.[6]


Advanced Analytics. The lifeblood of any digital enterprise is data. Unanalyzed data, however, is as worthless as unmined gold. Today, cutting-edge organizations leverage cognitive technologies, like the Enterra Cognitive Core™ — a system that can Sense, Think, Act, and Learn® — to obtain actionable insights. EG adds, “AI-enabled software [can] analyze data chunks and predict forthcoming trends and risks. These results help in providing the best services and customer experiences.”


Cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly dangerous risk for most organizations. In this area, autonomous solutions are sorely needed. EG explains, “Adaptive security systems can detect and react to authentication needs and threats with efficiency and speed. Analyzing and storing sensitive data using Zero Trust Architecture is a significant evolutionary method [that is essential] to become an ADE.” AI technologies can also help detect fraud. Fraud detection helps protect both the enterprise and its customers.


As organizations look to the future, April Hickel (@AprilforOps), Vice President for ZSolutions Strategy at BMC, insists they shouldn’t forget a mainstay of the past — the mainframe computer. She explains, “While many have looked to cloud computing, automation, and AI for the flexibility, speed, and agility they need, the mainframe plays a central role in powering one’s ADE journey along with the digital services that organizations and their customers rely on.”[7]


Despite the implication of its name, an Autonomous Digital Enterprises doesn’t eliminate human input. As EG notes, in an Autonomous Digital Enterprise there is “minimum human involvement” in processes that can be automated. Business journalist Apoorva Bellapu explains, the ADE provides a technology-rich environment, but not one devoid of humans. She writes, “An ADE is an excellent way to ensure that the balance between employees and customers is always maintained — by making sure that the employees are engaged and customers tended to. What happens here is — such an organization can very well harness automation and apply intelligence just the way it is required in order to achieve both goals — build growth with customer-centric strategies as well as employ actionable insights that make it a lot easier to achieve success.”[8]


Concluding Thoughts


As I noted in the initial installment of this article, decision-making, including autonomous decision-making, plays an essential role in the Autonomous Digital Enterprise. The combination of better decision-making and automated processes makes an organization more agile and resilient. Sayed concludes, “As the economy continues to shift and return to a pre-pandemic, growth-oriented state, embracing a technology and business strategy designed for quick pivots will continue to prove valuable. With every market disruption and industry shift, opportunities will emerge for the organizations that are nimble enough to recognize and act quickly. The future enterprise that will gain the most during changing times will be the one that can successfully run its business as it continues to reinvent for the future — the Autonomous Digital Enterprise.”


[1] Paul Leinwand and Mahadeva Matt Mani, “Digitizing Isn’t the Same as Digital Transformation,” Harvard Business Review, 26 march 2021.
[2] Trevor Miles, “Let’s be clear: Digitization is not the same as Digital Transformation,” Kinaxis Blog, 8 December 2017
[3] Ayman Sayed, “COVID has revealed the essential value of the digital ‘pivot’,” Fortune, 27 April 2021.
[4] Meenu EG, “Evolving Into an Autonomous Digital Enterprise,” Analytics Insight, 14 January 2021.
[5] John Emmitt, “The Evolution of Automation Technologies,” Security Boulevard, 16 February 2021.
[6] To learn more, see Stephen DeAngelis, “Customer Experience and the Human Touch,” Enterra Insights, 7 September 2021.
[7] April Hickel, “Seven trends accelerating Autonomous Digital Enterprise,” TechRadar, 22 April 2021.
[8] Apoorva Bellapu, “What Is the Autonomous Digital Enterprise Buzz All About?” Analytics Insight, 21 August 2021.

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