There’s so much hype around ‘digital transformation’ that, in typical tech industry style, it’s quite possible that the very meaning is lost as everyone assumes that everyone else knows exactly what it’s all about. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back to the basics: just what is digital transformation – and why is it important?
iScoop has a great definition: "Digital transformation is the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritised way."
Simply put, digital transformation is how companies today are taking advantage of new opportunities to do things better.
‘Digital’ technologies, of course, have been around since the first computers were switched on (that would be UNIVAC 1 in the early 1950s). However, the pace of change has picked up dramatically in recent years, and it is that which is giving impetus to the hyped-up digital transformation we’re seeing today.
What’s behind that change, from a technological point of view, is SMAC. That’s Social media, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. Combined, these forces are putting digital capabilities into the hands of any business which wants them – and those capabilities are driving new frontiers of performance, ability, growth and innovation.
Social is allowing companies to make connections with customers like never before. Mobility is untethering people from their desks and driving a productivity revolution. Analytics means the power to understand more and achieve unprecedented accuracy and insight. Cloud makes the most advanced technology available at a fraction of the cost.
Together, the application of these digital technologies to business means the creation of capabilities and the realisation of efficiencies which weren’t before possible. It means enabling people to achieve more in less time. It means being able to reach customers more effectively, in the ways they choose to interact. It means eliminating paper-based processes and targeting other costly and inefficient processes (and taking cost out of the business).
It also means establishing a foundation on which organisations can innovate and add new revenue streams or lines of business.
Digital transformation is such a big deal because the impact of these technologies is, well, transformational. It changes the way business is done.
For ‘digital natives’, that is, startup companies which don’t have legacy infrastructure and old ways of doing things, being ‘digital first’ provides a huge advantage. They can get up and running and create value propositions by accessing online services at very low cost. They don’t have the overheads of ‘traditional’ companies: they are agile, lean, low-cost and, by extension, very efficient. They understand customer delight and, through SMAC technologies, know how to deliver it.
On the other hand, existing businesses don’t simply disappear; far from it. For ‘traditional’ companies, the ‘transformation’ part of digital transformation is probably even more relevant. That’s because these organisations recognise the seismic shift represented by SMAC and they are doing something about it: transforming in order to take advantage of the new capabilities and possibilities presented by the more digital, more connected world of today and tomorrow.