Businesses today, across every industry, are recognizing and witnessing the profound impacts that digital technologies are having in the marketplace. For many organizations, this new era of technology has allowed business models to be re-invented, opening up new opportunities for accelerated growth or simplified operations. For other organizations that are unable to embrace or implement new digital technologies, this can mean a loss in market share or the diminishing of returns.
So, what is digital transformation and how are organizations using digital technologies to innovate business models to enhance the success of the business? Digital Transformation is more than just a simple step change to an existing business process, product or service. It is the re-imagining and creation of new and innovative business models and possibly new business categories. This has already been the case in certain industries such as the retail, public services, telecommunications and finance to name but a few.
It would be easy for the public to take an overly simplistic view of digital transformation as we all engage with technology in way that is simple, intuitive, high speed and mobile. But what the public doesn’t see is the way in which a business has transformed its ‘back end’ operations to provide such an enhanced customer service. The journey occurring behind the scenes has required the updating of IT platforms, building business networks, up-skilling employees and preparing business functions for the impacts.
In Australia, the public sector “Digital Transformation Agency” has been created to provide the strategic and policy leadership for whole-of-government digital service delivery. This new era of digitization within the public sector is transforming the way in which services are delivered to citizens and opens up opportunities to utilize predictive analytics on public healthcare, education or welfare.
But not all organizations have their digital objectives so carefully mapped out. Despite the desire to implement a digital strategy these businesses are languishing by creating ad-hoc projects that are disconnected and potentially not even aligned with the company’s objectives. Such initiatives are normally kicked off to meet some immediate need but are rarely transformational and will generally run out of steam or funding before they produce any long-term gains. So, it is vital that a long term digital strategy is clearly defined and agreed upon to allow such short term digital initiatives to meet the long-term vision for the business.
Ultimately it is the CEO of an organization that will set the agenda and direction for any digital transformation initiatives and provide an environment within the organization that is conducive to adopting innovative digital solutions. The CIO will then implement and drive the digital change but it is becoming more common for new roles to be created that require both technical and leadership skills in order to successfully implement the change.
Ultimately, for an organization to adopt and implement a digital program it will require the right people with the appropriate skills, experience and professional qualities to fill key roles. Unfortunately, with the speed of change within industry and the rapid change in digital technologies such personnel are in short supply. Universities can prepare a future workforce but it will be the consulting organizations that will truly build a capability to support organizations on their digital transformational journeys by fostering a workforce with skills in both IT and business.
In summary, it is likely that most organizations are aware that digital technologies may disrupt their businesses in the future. Many are taking small steps now to implement some level of digitization to meet immediate needs while others are developing long term goals. The key to success will require a clear vision, the right people and adaptive technology.