What Is Digital Transformation?

Contributing Writer

In the tech world, I see the phrase “digital transformation” at least a few times a week—whether it’s a fancy new marketing slick, an industry webinar, in a strategy session, or one of many other possibilities. But, what exactly is digital transformation? In business, I define digital transformation as the process of taking a look at all areas of your business, making the decision on how you will use technology to restructure how you go to market and drive value to your customers, and then implementing that plan. Having a digital transformation strategy is having a plan to innovate and stay relevant now and in the future.

The Digital Experience

As our lives and the world around us become ever more digital, buying behaviors are changing—along the expectations of those buyers. The human experience still matters, and digitally transforming doesn’t mean replacing that human element. Instead, the human experience works along with the digital experience to further the connection to buyers. One of my favorite stores, Nordstrom, purchased two retail technology companies this year to do just that. Is your marketing driven by data? How do you collect and use that data? Is there the opportunity for digital to create a new revenue stream, or keep you ahead of your competition? This doesn’t just apply to businesses working for profit either.
I recently had to go in and update the emergency contact forms at my child’s school. There were two full days that select staff had to be onsite—from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.—for parents to stop in as time allowed to do so. The sheer amount of paper used was astounding. It’s crazy that someone was going to have to enter these papers one by one into the system. The millennial side of me felt a tinge of first world problem rage that I even had to stop by the school in the first place. Surely, they must realize the amount of time that could be saved if this was digitized.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

Take a quick second to think of all the companies that are no longer with us—or are barely hanging on—because they were too slow to embrace a digital-first mentality. All the companies where innovation wasn’t at the forefront are gone. (On a side note, I do miss wandering around Blockbuster for half an hour or so trying to pick out a movie or two.) Will your current business strategy keep you competitive and relevant? Right now, maybe. But, in the future?

Welcome to the Machine

We are busier than ever, and integrating the evolving capabilities of this new digital world can only help. I’m fascinated with artificial intelligence (AI), specifically machine learning (ML). Machines not only have the ability to process and analyze data faster than any human, but they can turn that data into insights and actions. I’m not someone who subscribes to the notion that machines will one day take our jobs and control humanity. It is the pairing of humans and machines that will lead to greater achievements. Regarding digitally transforming your business, how you use customer data is key in providing that advanced customer experience. Maybe a correlation is found between data sets you never even thought to compare and uncovers that new revenue stream to mark? There are countless examples of how ML can play into strategy.

So, Where Do I Start?

Chances are you’ve already started down the digital path—a path that has been decades in the making and evolving this entire time. It is even more important now than ever though that decisions are made within a single silo of an organization—company-wide support and collaboration is required. What everyone is beginning to realize is that IT departments are becoming front and center in modernizing and tailoring customer experiences. One of the first things to do is look at your current data center. I recently read 89% of organizations have adopted (or have plans to adopt) a digital-first business strategy, but that 9 out of 10 IT decision-makers claim legacy systems are preventing them from harnessing the digital technologies they need to grow and become more efficient. As it sits right now, is your data center nimble enough to support digital transformation? With your digital strategy leading the charge, there is zero time for downtime, lag, and loss of data—among other things.

Is Digital Transformation Easy?

No, change never is. Whether you went into business with a passion around IT or not, IT should be front and center of your approach. Digital business is here and it’s disrupting every industry it touches. Taking the time to create your digital strategy for the benefit of your customers can and will set you apart. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Ramp up your transformation today and get ahead. Connection and our partner community have the expertise to help you put digital first.