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Digital Transformation: from reactive to realized value

Digital Transformation: from reactive to realized value
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ryzhi)

Today, enterprises face more challenges than ever – managing and securing a remote workforce, staying profitable, and above all, unlocking innovation in a time of reactivity. The pandemic is pushing businesses from all industries worldwide to reimagine their digital transformation plans and roadmaps. Just recently, TechRepublic Premium released data that showed 60% of respondents had to alter digital transformation plans because of the pandemic.

With many companies needing to invest in new technologies to accommodate changing workplace environments and shifting customer demands – is that investment a one size fits all for all businesses? Brands like Cisco and Amazon Grocery have been aggressively accelerating their transformation efforts to free up their people to work on what matters most right now – the customer and employee experience. But it's also important to remember what we're experiencing right now will continue for an undetermined amount of time. 

So how can businesses envision a more foolproof and proactive strategy for automation and innovation moving forward? What are the challenges of not being prepared for events such as COVID-19? How can organizations embrace automation without investing in solutions that don't benefit the enterprise holistically? The key to success is in ruthless prioritization of high-value enterprise automation and applying the right AI method(s) to realize value.

Long term value comes from empowerment through automation

The conversation around using automation to empower and support people in conducting higher-level work is not a new one. However, the pandemic's effects have shone a new light on how the failure to automate daily, repetitive tasks can hinder more than a workforce's mind space. It also takes away their physical ability to execute on strategic, business-building work.

In digital transformation, leaders must decide where, when, and what to automate, which requires understanding the unique needs of a company’s workforce. To fully comprehend the landscape, leaders should solicit feedback from employees across the organization, prioritizing their most significant pain points and what daily processes and workloads are causing the most drain on their time. Sourcing this insight uncovers where an enterprise can achieve specific goals and strategies and strengthen them via automation, related explicitly to up-leveling the customer experience.

For example, a challenge for many has been the complexity of data pipelines caused by the number of technologies involved in the four stages of the data lifecycle – ingest, store, process and analyze. This mix often leads to inefficient automation siloes and the frustration comes from how much time it takes to realize value from data analytics initiatives. Companies need to focus on enabling the integration, automation, and orchestration of complex data pipelines spanning real-time, event-driven, and time-based processes, across multiple data, application and infrastructure technologies – all running in production, at scale, and with governance.

After identifying where automation is needed most, there are two critical next steps. Select the tools and technology required for automation, then build the framework for implementation, employee training, metrics, and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will gauge the success and value of a given transformation initiative. A best practice I always recommend is to identify 2-3 use cases that will offer the highest business value and automate these rapidly to deliver desired outcomes. Using the positively impacted employees from these use cases as agents of change drives a broader transformation across the organization that will pave the way for more proactive and agile innovations.

Proactivity = adjusting, anticipating, and acknowledging

To become the kind of company that can remain agile and customer-centric regardless of external challenges, enterprises need to focus on how intelligent technology and automation will help the organization adjust, anticipate and acknowledge their needs in the face of rapid change.

For most enterprises, a massive shift to remote work was likely not in the plans at the start of 2020, but as the necessity rose due to the spread of COVID-19 new technologies and operational processes were needed to handle the switch. In many cases, digital transformation strategies and roadmaps became compromised, particularly as cybersecurity threats rose. The acceleration of AI developments and deployments to handle strategic shifts is vital, but infusing AI into every aspect of network and digital security as you adjust is arguably even more imperative to keeping transformation efforts on track and secure. Adopting measures such as mature access and authentication practices will allow IT departments and enterprises across industries to continue to thrive.

Further, I have noticed a growing collective view that the end of 2020 also means the end of the pandemic. While we can hope this will ring true as we ring in the new year, there are no guarantees, and enterprises worldwide need to anticipate that current shifts are likely to remain, at least for a while yet, and that more change as a result of the pandemic will continue for an undetermined amount of time. Looking to put temporary Band-Aids on organizational challenges with the hopes of a return to 'normalcy' come January lacks the insight required to future-proof your business. To continue thriving through the pandemic and beyond, whenever that is, it's imperative to understand that the results of fast-tracked digital transformation initiatives now are not necessarily temporary but are even more so becoming inevitable.

The key to driving success forward is acknowledging where adjustments are needed and anticipating how those adjustments will affect the business and how it operates long term. In the same vein, organizations need to recognize how drastic changes in consumer behaviors and preferences impact their offerings' value. It's not just about improving and innovating those solutions but creating a seamless, intuitive experience for customers at every stage of their journey.

What it means to be a future-proof enterprise

Every organization feels the need to revisit its digital transformation efforts, so there's a high level of pressure to take decisive actions and capitalize on new opportunities. The hardships and challenges being faced now need to be met head one and properly addressed in today's global ecosystem. No one is immune to these challenges, but we can still successfully capitalize on the opportunities that arise when technology and people are leveraged to help address them.

Moving towards the new year, we must commit to the adjustments needed to foster our new ways of working and interacting. The right path to becoming a future-proof enterprise will be in using these strategies to better harness automation to apply intelligence – both human and tech-driven – to accelerate innovation.