You’ve probably heard the terms ‘market disruption’ and ‘digitisation’ but there’s a new concept that businesses are coming to terms with – digital transformation, which refers to the ability to identify opportunities in the market so that your business becomes the one doing the disruption. But what exactly is digital transformation and how do you achieve it?
First, the challenges
The majority of businesses today tend to treat all data – structured, unstructured, confidential, mission-critical, non-confidential – in exactly the same way. The store it the same way, access it the same way and protect it the same way. But data is as diverse as you and me – and we don’t like being painted with the same brush. When data is treated as it should be and considered holistically, it holds massive value for businesses.
But most of the time, data is shoved away and never looked at again.
Another challenge is the often talked about business-IT gap. On the one end, the IT department is concerned with applications, hardware, databases and operating systems, while on the other, the business or CEO is under pressure to innovate faster, manage risk and monetise more.
Often there is a fundamental gap between how the business views digital transformation initiatives and how the IT organisation views its domain. The gap is made worse by the legacy processes, systems and skillsets that still predominate in most enterprise IT organisations.
The dangers of operating this way is that IT – and by extension, the business – will soon become irrelevant in today’s fast-paced business world simply because they can’t keep up with digital disruptors who are experiencing exponential growth. Just look at how disruptors like Uber and Airbnb have shaken up the taxi and hotel industries, respectively – and neither of them own a single cab or hotel.
Digital transformation can therefore be considered business transformation – and it’s an imperative if you want to lead the digital revolution.
Become the disruptor
Digital transformation is about uncovering opportunities in your market that will make your business the disruptor.
Disruption of an industry happens when new entrants enter the market or when new products or services are made more accessible or more affordable, thus attracting non-users. The most basic example is what digital did to the music, film and book industries. But you’d be surprised to know that digital transformation is not about the technology.
It’s about the business strategy. It’s about completely rethinking traditional processes, especially for mature businesses that don’t have their roots in digital.
Digital transformation impacts every area of the business. Through improved operations and processes, automation increases, the workforce is more mobile and the supply chain is more efficient. This will likely result in better customer experiences, leading to greater customer loyalty and the acquisition of new customers. Together, these help the organisation to unlock new business models that give them access to new revenue streams and new markets.
Once you’ve identified how you can shake things up, you can then figure out how technology will help you to drive that disruption.
Key to this is being able to access huge volumes of data. Data is the foundation to accelerate digital transformation but success lies in bringing together disparate data sources in a way that complies with governance requirements to uncover patterns and insights into things like customer behaviour.
The only way to realise the benefits of digital transformation is to better access, integrate and analyse your data to create insights that empower digital transformation. Data becomes the common lens through which business and IT leaders can shape their digital transformation journey, and ultimately drive toward their desired outcomes. IT organisations must shift their thinking from supporting the traditional IT stack to enabling digital transformation through data.
With the rapid pace of change in today’s business landscape, the inability to transform and do so ahead of the competition can put the entire business at risk.
(Denishree Naidoo is Hitachi Data Systems’ Product Sales Manager in charge of UCP and Content for South Africa).