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What is Digital Transformation?

NOV 25, 2019 | Matt Hatton
 
region: ALL sector: ALL technology: ALL

Let’s get one thing straight: “Digital Transformation” is not a specific thing.

Digital Transformation is a useful umbrella term for a diverse set of technologies that can be applied in specific ways to effect a change in the way that an enterprise operates. No organisation enacts ‘a Digital Transformation’; rather they adopt specific technologies in support of use cases that have been identified as being critical for their competitive well-being. The same thing applies to most of the technology families that we have identified. No-one buys an ‘Internet of Things’ solution, they buy some of the constituent parts which fulfil particular use cases. Likewise Artificial Intelligence and many others.

It is worth noting that even the words being used are unhelpful. Everything we do these days is digital, rendering the term meaningless. Furthermore no enterprise should think of itself as undergoing a transformation. Success comes from adopting a permanent state of identifying and appropriately reacting to technological change. Transformation implies an end point. So far, so much with the semantics.

We have chosen to describe our coverage area as Digital Transformation simply because it’s the most universally recognised term for this melding of technologies, uses cases and business processes.

When we at Transforma Insights think of the DX space, our starting point is a dozen families of New Technologies, comprising numerous concepts that we believe will have a significant impact on the commercial and operational models of most enterprises worldwide. These comprise the Internet of Things, Hyperconnectivity, Human-Machine Interface, Artificial Intelligence, Distributed Ledger, Autonomous Robotic Systems, Product Lifecycle Management, Data Sharing, Edge Computing, Robotic Process Automation, 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing, and Future Technologies that are currently just over the horizon, but which are likely to have a transformative impact.

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Technologies in isolation are irrelevant, they must be given practical applications. Accordingly, the second dimension of our research focuses on a comprehensive understanding of Transformational Use Cases. We categorise these under three headings: Business Efficiency (including the likes of customer behaviour analysis, workflow optimisation, and process automation), Data-Centric Business Models (including predictive maintenance, image processing, and bots), and Connected Things (covering diverse categories such as smart grid, autonomous vehicles, and smart speakers).

The third part of Digital Transformation concerns Enterprise Change Management. It is a well worn trope that the biggest barrier to implementing any Digital Transformation initiative is typically internal. They often involve culture changes, new business models, new processes, different skills, and new partnerships, all of which can be challenging and need careful implementation through a considered change management process.

Digital Transformation is certainly no single thing, and the term isn’t particularly accurate at describing what is covered, but it does act as a useful umbrella for understanding a continuous process of disruption and reinvention that face enterprises in all verticals.