The Definitive Guide (2021)
This is the ultimate guide to digital transformation for 2021.
In this in-depth guide you’ll learn:
• What digital transformation is and the business benefits
• Challenges, disruptors and digital transformation software
• How covid-19 has made digital transformation vital for success
• And lots more
If you want to become a digital transformation pro, this guide is for you.
Let’s get started.
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In this introductory chapter, we present the key concept of this paper, stressing the importance of digital transformation in a market that has been heavily influenced by Covid-19, and the role of the CIO to meet new customer demands and expectations to make their businesses strive.
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Every industry has its buzzwords, from gurus, wizards and ninjas to words like synergize, leverage and streamlining. At a certain moment, digital transformation could have been considered by sceptics as another buzzword to add to the list, but in case there was any doubt, the Covid-19 outbreak has driven companies to reshape their entire business models, with many launching digital initiatives in a very short time.
Now there is no doubt. Digital transformation is not a fad; it is an imperative for every industry.
Throughout history, new technologies have been disrupting established industry practices and replacing old ways of doing business with more advanced solutions and innovative technologies. Sooner or later, companies that failed to evolve have had to transform themselves in order to survive.
The digital transformation of businesses has been ongoing for decades. From minicomputers to PCs, the Internet, mobile and cloud services and the current of AI-driven computing. Yet the scale and speed at which digital transformation is required after this pandemic is unprecedented and will leave permanent change across all industries.
There is still an ongoing digital revolution that can provide serious challenges to conventional businesses and unique opportunities to those prepared to adapt to new industry standards. This will see further acceleration post-Covid-19, or in any case when the reduction of lockdowns and restrictions will allow corporations to make decisions beyond the restraints of the current pandemic
The magnitude of change related to digital technologies is akin to the effects of new mechanizations, technological innovations and assembly line productions during the industrial revolution. What differs is the speed and urgency with which digitalization is affecting consumers, employees and organizations alike.
New digital technologies are more than capricious tweaks and process improvements. They fundamentally affect consumer behavior, customer experience, and organizations and are key in developing new products and services and finding new ways to target customers by better understanding their needs. Subsequently, this can alter existing industry structures and the competitive landscape to create new sources of revenue.
Over the years digital transformation has been widely addressed and studied. However, many executives are still struggling to find a go-to-reference to help them orientate new digital opportunities and transform their enterprises.
There are several reasons for this. Some managers are focused on obtaining workable solutions to concrete problems but not looking at the wider picture.
Covid-19 has changed this, by presenting a need for a solution that accelerates innovation.
At the center of this transformation there is a figure that plays a prominent role in leading enterprises into realizing this historical change: The Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Office of the CIO (OCIO).
CIOs are expected to identify the right path for their business and drive change. This means that for some CIOs, digital transformation can be concerning. Conservative approaches to managing IT that will affect the entire organization are the result of CIOs being cautious to radical changes because of what is at stake if the wrong choice is made.
With the current pandemic accelerating the need for transformation, CIOs must develop the best IT strategy, organizational structure and deployments to stay ahead of the market. This document will serve as a guide to understanding digital transformation and to assist in adapting to the new post-Covid-19 market.
Digital Transformation Fundamentals
In this chapter, we’ll cover the digital transformation fundamentals, including what digital transformation is and why it’s important.
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What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is a holistic realignment or investment in new technology to optimize and redefine business models, internal processes, organizational culture and customer experience to boost efficiency and meet market and consumer demands.
This customer-centric transformation affects the entire business from the C-suite to employees, and the product itself is key for companies to compete in the digital economy.
Digital transformation has become a prominent feature for every enterprise over the past years and even more so now that Covid-19 has affected companies and customers who turn to technology and digital mediums for work, keeping in contact and entertainment. But what is it exactly? Here a few definitions:
According to Tech Republic, the concept behind digital transformation is “how to use technology to remake a process so that it becomes more efficient or effective. It’s not just about changing an existing service into a digital version but improving it.”
Altimeter adds further insights by explaining that digital transformation is the “realignment of or investment in new technology, business models, and processes to drive value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.”
In contrast to other industrial advances that are focused on production, many definitions of digital transformation highlight the importance of customers. With the market being highly competitive, consumers have a wide array of services to choose from and brands need to shift their focus on retaining their loyalty by engaging them and optimizing their relationship with the company.
CIO pages defines digital transformation as a “customer-centric reimagination of the future of an enterprise and subsequently rethinking the business model.” This would require “reshaping the product/service portfolio, restructuring the processes re-platforming technologies, reskilling the workforce and instilling a new culture to get the end goal.”
Forrester also emphasizes the importance of retaining customers as part of understanding what digital transformation is. The company explains that “organizations must begin to look at digital holistically and transform by applying digital thinking across everything they do – how they win, serve and retain customers; how they operate internal processes; and how they source business services. In short, they must become a digital business.”
In order to become a digital business, Netguru explains that digital transformation is a process of integration of digital technology into all areas of business, profoundly changing how it operates by creating new – or modifying existing – business processes, customer experiences, and organizational culture. It is not only enhancing traditional methods but reimaging them for a digital age to meet changing market expectations.
MIT’s lead research scientist, George Westerman, adds to this in his work Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation by explaining that digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance.
The definitions are endless, but there is a general premise throughout. Digital Transformation is a process that integrates or realigns digital technology to change and adapt entire business models and cultures to adjust to new customer-centric needs.
And to do this, strategy is equally as important as technology.
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What’s the difference between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation?
When talking about innovation and the need for companies to deploy new technologies to survive in the competitive market four terms frequently appear. These are digitization, digitalization, digital disruption and disruptors.
We will focus on disruptors further on in this guide, but the first three terms are sometimes used indistinguishably. Disambiguating these concepts does not just clarify the meanings but helps us grasp the potential of fully transformative digital strategy.
What is the difference between digitalization and digitization?
Gartner defines digitalization as the “use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business”.
A digital business, consequently, is the result of multiple digitalization processes and a step lading to digital transformation.
However, in the same way that digitalization leads to digital transformation, the former cannot occur without digitization.
Digitization goes back to basics. It is the conversion of analog to digital. Digitalization uses digital technologies to impact productivity, work processes, revenue streams and customer engagement. Digitization is the optimization of processes like, for example, switching paper for digital files.
What is the difference between digitalization and digital transformation?
Digitalization and digital transformation go together. The former is a strategy that implements technology and implies a deep change to an entire business model. But the latter, implies a cultural change that transcends the company.
Digital transformation is customer-centric, focuses on user and customer engagement, organizational change from C-suite executives and employee empowerment.
Why is Digital Transformation important?
Digital Transformation lets businesses embrace innovative digital technologies so that they communicate, collaborate and deliver services more efficiently and effectively. Other key benefits of digital transformation are that it allows companies to keep up with changes in the market, but also increases profitability and customer satisfaction.
Importantly, digital transformation is more than making small tweaks to processes in order to make businesses more modern. It begins by changing legacy tactics and opening to innovation that can spearhead a company in a new market environment.
We have seen in the definitions that digital transformation goes hand-in-hand with customer experience and that it is a necessity in order to keep up with the market. Companies that have failed to evolve and keep up with the changes brought by new technologies or situations like Covid-19, need to transform themselves to remain competitive. But why is digital transformation important, and how can statistics explain to us how essential it is and how it is reshaping businesses?
Investment in digital Transformation is growing- it’s a competitive necessity
Digital transformation has become a matter of survival in a constantly evolving digital world. It is not a matter of choice either, but a necessity to stay competitive.
“The push for digital transformation is accelerating in a world where companies increasingly compete on innovation, speed, and adaptability,” states Deborah Ancona, professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of its Leadership Center
Even before Covid-19, 70% of companies stated to either have a digital transformation strategy in place or were working on one. The IDC estimates that last year 40%, of all technology spending went toward digital transformations, with enterprises spending over $2 trillion.
With up to 93% of companies agreeing that innovative technologies are necessary to reach their digital transformation goals, it is evident that businesses must choose the right technology to reach their objectives and advance on the digital front. Legacy tools are built for modern customer needs, and companies need to find solutions that can meet current and future requirements.
Companies are changing their business models and adopting digital-first business strategies
A key part of digital transformation is implementing strategic and cultural change within a business. Before the current crisis accelerated the need to apply digital solutions, 87% of companies already thought that digital would disrupt their industry, but only 44% were prepared for potential digital disruption.
Digital technology has transformed the working landscape. So too has Covid-19. Having a digitally-driven business model has allowed companies to keep up with the speed of change, compete in rapidly evolving markets and meet rising customer expectations, and with the current pandemic changing the way we work, with employees and customers being distanced from physical offices, digital technologies have been even more vital and those who have embraced them have reaped the benefits.
There is no turning back on the digital revolution. Companies have adapted their business priorities and invested in technology. 89% have adopted a digital-first business strategy that can lead to digital transformation or plan to do so, and 60% of those companies that have undergone a digital transformation have created new business models.
Companies that have yet to deploy digital strategies are lagging and rushing to join the race. 55% of companies without a digital transformation believe that they have less than a year before they start to lose market share.
There is no room for complacency or for quitting
Digital transformation implies constant evolution and innovation. Whilst 21% of companies think that they completed digital transformation, only 7% of companies have fully implemented them, and even they will need to be aware that changes happen all the time. If companies stop innovating, they end up failing their customers. If a company believes that it has completed a digital transformation, then perhaps it doesn’t understand what it means. Customer expectations are always changing, and that requires a constant need to be updated on the newest technologies.
Having said that, digital transformations don’t always succeed. 70% of transformations fail, and this mostly due to resistance from employees. This stresses the importance of transforming the business from the ground-up, including all the workers who will be incorporating new technologies and processes into their daily tasks. 71% of companies cite the workforce as either very or extremely important in supporting their digital transformation strategy.
Businesses must acknowledge failure as a prerequisite for success. For example, Google and Apple took risks when introducing wearable computing devices, even though the popularity of Apple wrist watches differed from Google Glass. Some companies have also been investing in IoT for nearly a decade, but it is only now when it is becoming more influential. Similarly, chatbots have been around for years, but companies that have persisted in updating their investments in modern conversational platforms can reap greater rewards.
Success rates also vary depending on the size of the company. Organizations with fewer than 100 employees are up to 2.7 times more likely to report a successful digital transformation than organizations with more than 50,000 employees, as it is easier to change the culture of a smaller enterprise.
Employees may be skeptical of new technologies because they may not fully comprehend the reason why these are being implemented. This can result concerns that they may pose a risk to their jobs or result in stricter surveillance, but the intention of new technologies is to assist employees and make their work easier, removing burdens from repetitive, allowing to work from home, providing them with time to strengthen their skillsets and boosting productivity
Consequently, successful digital transformation projects work on developing a digital culture in the workplace and, importantly, they insist on finding the right note in their digital-first business strategies.
Digital Transformation brings companies closer to their customers
A Forrester report says that 20% of brands abandoned their customer experience last year, opting instead for short-term traditional methods like price cutting. With customer experience being an integral part of digital transformation, short term revenue from slashed prices does not equate to customer loyalty, and companies who have yet to embrace transformative technologies are failing their customers and putting the companies at risk of falling behind.
However, companies that earn $1 billion a year earn an additional $700 million over three years by investing in customer experience.
Customer experience has become a major brand differentiator, and one-third of customers would leave a brand after one bad experience, while 92% would abandon a company after two or three negative interactions. Acquiring a new customer costs seven times more than maintaining an existing one, so investing in customer happiness pays off.
What’s more, customer satisfaction is imperative to maintaining a brand’s reputation. 84% of consumers do not trust adverts anymore and 88% of consumers have turned to reviews to determine the quality of a business’s customer experience and reliability.
The role of customers transcends that of merely being consumers. They are the advocates for a brand if they feel that they are treated well. They will be loyal to the brand and its services and actively promote a business to their friend and networks. This is an asset that surpasses adverts or review sites.
It’s no surprise that nearly half of all companies say that improving customer experience and customer satisfaction were the leading influences to start a digital transformation.
Digital Transformation done right will bring success
Successful digital transformation projects can be measured in various ways. 56% of CEOs say that digital improvements have led to increased revenue. Executives have also stated that along with meeting customer expectations, the top benefits of digital transformation are improved operational efficiency and faster time to market. 39% of executives are also aware that reaping the benefits from digital transformations can take some time and that they will get the most value from these changes in three to five years.
This was before Covid-19 accelerated the need to turn to digital solutions causing the biggest work-from-home deployment in history, and customers began to flock to digital channels to communicate with their brands. This has put many companies to the test. If they want to meet customer demands, then they must be always available to get in touch with them.
Having digitalization as a business priority is beneficial to enterprises regardless of the results arrive, as digital-first companies are 64% more likely to achieve their business goals than their peers.
Automation and Customer Engagement are here to stay
With intelligent systems predicted to drive 70% of customer engagements by 2022, automation tools and systems are going to be major players in increasing brand loyalty and customer retention, while providing personalized customer interactions, 24/7.
Businesses are seeking to become lights-out businesses that can provide constant support to their customers and allow agents to focus less on administrative tasks and more on top-tier supports.
Digital Transformation Fundamentals
Digital transformation is all about applying digital technology to reinvent and improve how companies work, engage and do business. It also affects how enterprises use their talent, processes and culture to make the most of these technologies to meet their goals.
We know what digital transformation is and why it is important. but what are the key elements behind digital transformation that must be considered?
Digital Transformation begins by transforming your business
We have seen the high number of companies adopting digital-first business strategies and new business models to stay ahead of the market. Minor changes do not suffice when trying to be a market leader.
However, a common question when addressing a digital transformation strategy: What is more important, a business-first approach, or a digital-first approach?
Digital transformations are like evolutionary breakthroughs, those who adapt survive. But the changes that occur also affect every line of business from sales to operations. Companies must ensure that the technology they invest in suits their business needs and not invest in technology for the sake of it.
“Many business leaders are recalibrating their strategies as they’re becoming more realistic about the difficulty of achieving digital transformation” says Melissa Swift, leader of the digital advisory unit of Korn Ferry, “They’re realizing that the answer isn’t better technology, it’s better everything else around it“.
To do this, businesses must have a holistic approach to their digital transformation, focusing on their business strategy, processes, customers and employees instead of what digital technology alone can do for their business.
It may seem difficult at first, but companies must decide what business they really want to be in. Corporate giants have redefined themselves as digital companies, focusing on the technology aspect of their business strategy and not just on their products.
Early digital adopters are already reaping the benefits of going digital, and they have done so by using digital technologies to redefine their business models, processes and operations. That way, technology is an enabler of business outcomes and a central element for companies to become customer-centric, improve engagement and achieve optimized operational success.
Successful digital transformation requires carefully researched digital and business approaches. Companies must identify and comprehend the wide range of digital possibilities available and align them according to their business objectives and KPIs. Only then must they implement a sustainable digital strategy. This is easier said than done because it will need the support of all management employees.
Every decision must be carefully planned, identifying business functions, processes and roles that can be digitalized and evaluating how it will affect employees, customers and stakeholders. One the company culture and KPIs have been defined, a new mindset must be established to foster change and adapt business processes to newly implemented digital technologies.
The CIO must be able to justify why and how every technological piece contributes to a company’s objectives and show how this innovation provides a positive ROI. Adopting the latest innovations without identifying business benefits will not only be costly; it can also be counterproductive.
In the end, however, a proper digital transformation will convert a business from doing digital to reaching maturity and being digital.
Different companies will need different technologies
Not all businesses operate in the same way, and not all industries need to deploy the same digital technologies. The importance of digital transformation may be undeniable, but the methods and tools differ.
Some companies rely on cloud solutions to store data on multiple devices, other industries use IoT to increase efficiency. Social media, Big Data and Analytics are increasingly important to industries that have a heavy focus on customer feedback. Overall, the number of new technologies used by companies may differ, but organizations with successful transformations deploy a broader range of technologies than their counterparts.
Most companies do have one target in common: increasing customer engagement to provide personalized offerings to their users. This has been even clearer during Covid-19, where companies have had difficulties physically accessing customers and contact centers have been overwhelmed by requests for support over digital channels.
This is where the digitalization of contact centers and upgrading tools that allow brands to communicate and maintain conversations with their customers is gaining increasing importance.
Digital Technology is more than technological innovation
Delivering digital transformation today is more than digitalizing analog processes. Whilst initially it was a case of saving time, efficiency and resources, like replacing filing cabinets with hard discs, now the use of technology can create new products, new ways of business and better ways to understand your customers.
Innovation and strategy are clear elements of Digital Transformation. When embarking on innovating a company’s technology infrastructure and implementing cultural and strategic change in an enterprise there are three central pillars to this transformation and that will be most affected. These are Customer Experience, Operational Processes and Business Models.
1. Customer experience is an essential asset in most company’s business strategies focuses on creating interactive relationships with customers to attract and retain brand loyalty. Communication has gone beyond people talking to people. People now talk to machines, and machines communicate with other machines through various channels.
With two-thirds of a company’s competitive edge coming from customer experience, this has become a vital element of digital transformation strategies, where technology infrastructure must be able to provide customers with omnichannel, personalized, contextualized services that can be carried out anytime, anywhere and that are backed by customer analytics. By putting the consumer and their journey at the heart of their strategy and using data to generate new insights that increase opportunities to lower acquisition costs, boost retention and improve customer loyalty.
2. Digital Transformation and the restructuring of operational processes foster collaboration, knowledge sharing and digitization processes that are even more important that there is a strong remote working environment. Operational processes will be influenced by data-driven decision making.
3. Digital transformation also renovates business models, altering existing products and introducing new services that can be complementary to traditional ones, or completely new.
CIOs know that Digital Transformation goes beyond technological innovation and is more a structural transformation of an entire company, its positioning, organizational models and internal processes.
There is an increased focus on customer journey and Data-driven decision making
Before digitalization, data was expensive to produce through research, surveys and extensive quantitative measurements. It was also expensive and time-consuming to store in files or even databases and was mainly used to optimize existing operations.
Today, data is abundant and the role and possibilities for benefitting from data use are limitless if you know how to make the most of it and turn it into insights.
Businesses can assemble the right data and generate long term business value with it, in the form of new market insights by understanding in better detail what a customer wants. It can also assist in helping to identify which customers require the most attention, predict customer churn, or to personalize their communications with their clients.
Analyzing customer usage can help identify contextual patterns and more profound customer insights for as well as prompt data-driven decision making with dashboards and predictive analytics.
Even unstructured data can be turned into an asset thanks to Big Data, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, Cloud computing and the devices that comprise the Internet of Things.
Third parties and partnerships are valuable when embarking on Digital Transformation
Businesses must be quick to innovate to stay ahead of the curve, but at the same time, they must ensure that the risks are worth it. When there is an added urgency to adopt innovative technologies as part of business strategies such as during the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, businesses can seek solutions by running smaller, real-life and genuine proof-of-concept trials and evaluate whether to deploy them in their enterprises
However, very often, meaningful digital transformation cannot be accomplished alone. Businesses can implement solutions faster and identify growth opportunities by seeking out partners that combine best-in-class technologies.
Specialized skills may be required to carry out new initiatives and restructuring legacy processes and applications, especially when a company does not have the expertise or resources needed in-house to adeptly complete complex digital projects. This way, the right solutions can be deployed properly. Consequently, companies rely on the support and collaboration with external parties to assist in starting new projects.
The Benefits of Digital Transformation
We have seen why digital transformation is important in a competitive market. This chapter will reveal some of the key benefits of digital transformation on your business.
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Digital Transformation Strategy: Ten benefits for success
We know that companies need to innovate to evolve and to survive. But what are the benefits of a successful digital transformation strategy? What does digitization do that leads to the survival of businesses? Here are ten benefits of digitization on enterprises:
1. Deliver a better customer experience
Advances in technology have improved the way companies interact with their customers. There is now a two-way information, where customer feedback is more valuable than the message being relayed by a business.
With this, companies can provide a better and more consistent experience that meets customer requirements. Speed, personalization, 24/7 availability and seamless omnichannel journeys are all factors that improve engagement and condition a customer’s loyalty.
2. Improve collaboration
Digital technologies allow more information to be available to understand why techniques are effective. This new level of transparency and digital culture which allows people to openly be able to access information fosters trust, improving teamwork and internal cooperation, global management and cultivating collaborative external efforts.
Technologies are available that improve communication between peers helping more employees work more efficiently and encouraging collaboration across departments.
3. Manage deeper customer insights
The importance of access to digital information shouldn’t be undervalued. According to Accenture, 75% of customers admit being more likely to buy from a company that recognizes their details, knows their purchase history and can make recommendations based on past purchases
Customer analytics yield tremendous rewards, from customer segmentation, to churn prediction, purchase probability, to the ability to provide personalized services to boost acquisitions, retention and conversion rates.
4. Reduce cost of operations
From saving space with better data storages, to lowering service costs with automation, technology is efficient in reducing a company’s expenses. The transformation of procedures and digitalization of documents optimizes processes and reduces unnecessary expenditures.
Additionally, digitalization allows companies to accurately estimate future expenses, and ensure that budgets are under control.
5. Make Data-Driven decisions
With data analytics tools, dashboards and predictive analytics capabilities, it is easier to monitor, collect, analyze and mine customer data for making informed and optimal decisions. Business now have the benefits of understanding the habits of customers and use statistics and data to back their strategies.
6. Empower employees
Customers must be connected, but so too must employees. With less silos, digital cultures with a customer-centric and employee-centric focus allows employees to become empowered when they have direct access to the information they need.
With crisis like Covid-19 bringing difficulties to work from the office, digital technology and improved collaboration tools has facilitated remote-work. Additionally, enhancements in ERP and CRM allows employees to view processes and make better informed decisions, boosting morale and productivity.
7. Create new business models, products and opportunities
Digital transformation opens the door to a culture of innovation. This leads companies to explore and discover new value prepositions. From nurturing and monetizing data to mining new data sets to provide highly personalized services, new opportunities arise with new technologies.
In a recent survey, 84% of executives interviewed by Harvard Business Review agreed that new business opportunities are emerging as their organization digitally transforms.
Digital systems provide services that were previously unthinkable, creating new sources of revenue and new ways to get closer to the consumer. Big data and artificial intelligence have been catalysts to new technological trends that can create richer experiences, more valuable insights and boost productivity with faster, more effective decisions based on real-time data and automated processes.
8. Decentralize production
Digital transformation provides companies with more capabilities to become fully digital. Some companies seek to become lights-out businesses, other want to automate processes as much as possible, whilst others may deploy remote monitoring systems. This in itself is an asset, but in exceptional circumstances like Covid-19, the ability for digitalized companies to not stop or slow production has been a competitive advantage.
Many problems and queries have been resolved 24/7 and despite the absenteeism of workers. These employees have also been able to develop their skills and train to contribute more intellectual value to the company with the automatization of more repetitive processes.
9. Handle compliance and effective risk management
Digitalization is effective in integrating risk and compliance management as part of a business’ operations as well as managing enterprise risk.
These covers a wide range of risks such as technological, strategic or operational risks, as well cybersecurity, privacy third party compliance and prevention of data leakages and encryptions.
10. Maintain your business ahead in the market
Companies must be able to compete to survive. Digital transformation allows the continuous evolution of the business environment, and competing businesses are also part of this change.
By persistently innovating, enterprises are keeping pace with the competition and keeping their business strategy constantly updated and responsive to volatile changes in customer demands.
Who Should Lead Digital Transformation?
In this chapter we examine who should lead digital transformation, exploring the essential functions of the office of the CIO.
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C-Suite leadership in Digital Transformation
As we have seen, it is strategy, not technology, that drives Digital Transformation. The power of an efficient digital transformation strategy lies in its objectives. There should be less focus on individual technologies and a broader operational strategy that can fully transform a business. But who is responsible for planning and overseeing these changes?
Executives are leading the way
Digital Transformation affects a whole business, but it is a top-down initiative that is led with vision from the C-suite and involves the entire company. This can be CEOs, or newly created roles like the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), though, more often than not, the responsibility lies on the Chief Information Officer (CIO). What is certain is that digital transformation needs C-suite leadership and cannot be done in siloed environments.
Digital transformation focuses on a customer-centric culture, but needs strong leadership and the ability to initiate, drive and manage change. These leaders must be digitally-savvy and be able to empower people to work in new ways, possessing a clear knowledge of new tools and the capability to communicate through traditional and digital mediums.
CIOs, CDOs, CMOs or CEOs?
When companies achieve successful digital transformation, it is likely that they have digitally native leaders making important decisions.
The role requires somebody who is a catalyst and driver of change, and who can incorporate new ways of thinking and acting in areas where digitalization is happening slowly.
Companies are looking for new roles that may take the responsibility of carrying out this change. The role of the CDO is gaining prominence, and reports suggest that companies that deploy this figure are 1.6 times more likely to report a successful digital transformation.
However, the role and upcoming importance of the CDO is relatively up for debate. CDOs tend to come into play in situations where the CIO lacks specific technical skillsets to implement digital transformation or is bogged down running operational IT. These executives look after insight and analytics with a clear focus on data, and on new digital opportunities and factors like customer and employee experience and e-commerce.
Transformation ownership is split between CEO, CIO, CDO and to a lesser degree the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). In fact, the CIO tends to be the leading figure responsible for transformation and the communicative link between CEOs, top management and IT departments that ensures that the transformation is carried out effectively.
Whilst many CEOs are taking a more active role in digital transformation given the pressure and decisions that affect the entire organization, the CIO is the figure in the company who fully understands business processes and technological infrastructure and can assume how to lead a digital transformation, monitoring the evolution of technologies and learning to sense the right time to incorporate them into plans and innovation strategies.
With customer preferences changing and buying journeys becoming digitally led and oriented towards self-service, multi-channel marketing and digital marketing has also placed the CMO in the spotlight as an element of digital transformation.
CIOs are often seen as the more traditional executive who looks after the IT systems and BI initiatives within an enterprise, delivering the data and information that a business really needs. It is these association with traditional technology that gives weight to the CDO position.
For many however, the CIO and not the CDO should assume the leadership of digital innovation. They are expected to navigate through opportunities to identify the right path for their business and drive change. The recent creation of the figure of CDO can provide answers to the technological complexities of digital transformation, but their roles may end up overlapping and slowing down the process. CIOs are fully capable of creating internal culture above all at managerial and executive level with their knowledge of the company and business skills and can turn tech-led innovation into customer value.
Ideally, a CDO does what a proficient CIO should always have been doing.
This is why is no one-size-fits-all solution to who should be the main figurehead of digital transformation. Some companies have chosen the CDO, others prefer having a collaborative effort between CIOs and CDOs, whilst others stick to the CIO and his or her supporting team.
The Office of the CIO
Many companies are changing their perspective on decision making. There is a stronger belief that socio-technical systems, groups of people and not individuals, can create innovative change.
With CIOs being overloaded with operational IT issues, they can have little time to fully address digital transformation. Still, they are the ones best equipped to understand the customer, harness data and drive the transformation with other enterprise leaders to foster a digital and customer-centric business strategy. To tackle the numerous issues of digital business leadership, CIOs are increasingly setting up offices and teams that will support them. For many, the collaborative role of CDOs and CIOs can be integrated alongside other IT roles within the “office of the CIO” (OCIO).
The OCIO is formed by al team that overlooks how IT is managed across an enterprise. The team reports to the CIO and ensures that all IT operations are well run, freeing up time for the CIO to strategize with other C-suite colleagues and focus on wider IT and business initiatives and leadership.
The CIO must select a business-minded, analytical and proactive team leader for the OCIO that has credibility with both business and IT leaders and fluent communication with the CIO. There is a wide array of roles that can be part of the OCIO, such as the CDO, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), the Chief IT Operations Officer and Systems Director.
The eleven CIO essentials
The CIO is the figure in the company who most understands the combination of business processes and technological infrastructure and can assume leadership of digital transformation. However, to lead transformation, CIOs must monitor the evolution of technologies and learn to find the right time to incorporate them into a company’s strategy.
With digital transformation persistently changing business models, back-end systems and the key responsibilities for CIOs, what are the essential tasks a CIO must focus when overlooking new digital transformation initiatives? We have listed eleven of them.
1. Develop workforce capabilities for the future
An important factor for success in digital transformation is to develop talent and skills that will facilitate the transformation. This requires redefining the roles and responsibilities of employees and creating cross-functional teams so that they align with new objectives.
Digital transformation projects need the availability of figures with new skills and in-depth knowledge if the digital world along with the vision and ability to deploy new technologies. CIOs must bridge potential gaps between the traditional and digital parts of the business and give voice to figures and key stakeholders such as the CDO or employees who integrate new digital methods and processes into existing ways of working and investing in digital talent and employee development and training.
To do this, CIOs must possess communication skills and the ability to manage human resources to spread digital culture within the company and build consensus towards digital transformation.
Companies willing to boost their in-house digital talent will need to customize their learning programs. This will require improving individual employee profiles in order to build a solid foundation for the development worker skills once the current ones are obsolete.
Additionally, there must be a culture that strives for continuous improvement, and the automation of repetitive tasks that can enable the team to focus on issues of higher value and expertise.
2. Empower employees to embrace innovation
It isn’t easy to encourage employees to challenge old ways of working, but it is a major factor for success. So too is taking risks. CIOs must encourage the OCIO to experiment with new ideas and collaborate to find new ways to take the company to the future.
Top CIOs can align IT activities to business strategy and performance goals and proactively come up with solutions to business challenges.
Again, communications skills are paramount in reducing organizational resistance and driving change, as people can often be a bigger obstacle than any technology. This may require changing traditional hierarchal communication channels and encouraging enterprise-wise wider-scale communication that go beyond e-mail, such as internal social channels, webinars, communities, forums, blogs and so on can support conversations and create awareness with increased transparency.
3. Establish digital governance and KPIs
CIOs must be ambitious in their vision and leadership to turn digital investments in assets. They must also monitor this progress to ensure that advances are measured and managed accordingly. Leaders need to set targets and KPIs of what they consider is a positive outcome.
This may mean adjusting organizations to accommodate these new digital ambitions, and this can change depending on each company. At the same time, CIOs must constantly be looking for ways to reinvent themselves, find new revenue opportunities and measure ROI on digital transformation, ensuring that these return on investments relate not only to IT but also at a corporate level.
4. Provide a digital upgrade to daily activities and tools
CIOs are constantly reimagining the workplace and making it as updated and convenient as possible to the company’s employees. Tools and services must be accessible to all employees and in sync with current market needs.
With thousands of employees facing new working conditions as Covid-19 has accelerated remote work, CIOs are responsible for upgrading interactive tools that will make working from home easier for employees and keep services running for customers.
5. Enhance engagement and experience for both customers and employees
Customer behavior and preferences are evolving, and these new habits are becoming a major catalyst in driving organizational change. Customers are making changes that are more mobile and instant and want personalized customer journeys. Their engagements and experiences are vital in maintain brand loyalty and many companies are embarking on customer-focused digital transformation projects.
A CIO must understand how customers make their decisions, what technology they use and how the company can use it to boost their services and revamp their infrastructure and unite employees across departments to meet these new needs. With research from Deloitte stating finding that 57% of CIOs ranked customers as the top business priority, it is no surprise that digital transformation projects are focusing on customer engagement and experience.
Similarly, employee experience must also be safeguarded. Before working remotely, office spaces were also undergoing digitalization. For example, desktop phones were becoming a thing of the past with employees possessing company smartphones instead. Digital internal communications, employee portals, cloud storage, online training tools and conversational AI platforms to assist employees are important to keep the office updated too and must not be left aside by the CIO.
Digital transformation can change the businesses work. Just as it can optimize customer experience, it can improve employee experience and efficiency, whilst automating underlying workloads. This will require systematic changes in front-end strategies and back-office capabilities which will need higher expertise and upgraded processes, systems and operating models.
6. Manage evolving business values
Initially, businesses would find a differentiated offer and use it to position themselves in the marketplace and work on optimizing that business model for as long as possible. The digital age has switched the focus so that executing and delivering the same value proposition is no longer enough.
Rather than defining value by what the industry has done in the past, businesses and CIOs define themselves by their customer’s ever-changing requirements. Customers have become a top priority for the CIO and they are an important driving force behind the business expectation for digital transformation. Subsequently, each new technology should be judged by how it can create new business models and find new revenue opportunities that allow a company to stay ahead of the curve and adapt before they are forced to do so to survive.
Customers are an important driving force behind the business expectation for digital transformation, and companies must be responsive to market changes and launch products and new initiatives swiftly.
7. Capitalize on AI and Data
CIOs are responsible for building the architecture that will enable quality customer experiences. To do this the OCIO must capitalize on data assets and drive insights and analytics to further understand the customers. Along with this, AI is going to play a central role in modern technological infrastructures.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are going to feature prominently in many business’ digital transformation strategies. With Covid-19 highlighting the difficulties some companies have faced when trying to meet customer demands and queries from remote locations, many businesses are focusing on enabling automated or self-service models.
The use of Robotic Process Automation (RPAs), ML and Conversational AI allows customers to find what they are looking for without needing to contact specialists. Issues and outages are remediated without human intervention. This gives employees to focus on more analytical tasks with the amount of data that they have.
8. Set Cybersecurity and information security
As businesses shift to online paradigms across multiple channels, information and cybersecurity are vital. The OCIO is responsible for setting and safeguarding standards and policies that protect IT across the enterprise and taking measures when these standards are not met. There is a wide range of domains that need supervision such as Operating Systems, Customer data, Cloud services and more.
9. Minimize enterprise risk
CIOs need to ensure that enterprise risk is minimized with their digital initiatives. We have mentioned the importance of cybersecurity, but there are other contextual, implementation and governance risks that must be assessed and elaborated in risk management frameworks to be used by the organization when using new digital transformation initiatives.
CIOs know that IT-related problems can be costly to an organization’s reputation. They must subsequently carry out numerous assessments to manage risk across the whole enterprise. To do so, CIOs must have a full grasp of IT’s role in organizations, possess and integrated and holistic view of the risks enterprises can face and be able to evaluate how prepared an organization’s systems are to withstand these risks while complying to laws and regulations. When possible, the CIO must focus on reducing regulatory compliance costs through automation and process upgrades and how to justify these decisions with positive return on investments.
10. Maximize productivity and innovation
The CIO must be responsible for ensuring that digital transformation procedures maximize productivity using the innovative technologies that best suit the company and that have been invested on using the capital at the CIO’s disposal.
This includes setting enterprise architecture principles, providing guidance to IT and DevOps teams, defining which services are most adequate for the company’s transition and setting the security and business continuity standards to make sure that the company is innovative, adapted to new customer standards and productive.
In order to do this, the OCIO must transform the development of new products and services and disrupt the existing business model in order find new ways to targets customers and assume the end-to-end transition to become a fully digital enterprise.
11. Explore and establish new partnerships
Not all digital initiatives can be carried in-house, especially in urgent times as has been the case with Covid-19. CIOs must explore and initiate new relationships and partnerships with innovative parties. CIOs must be change instigators who are proficient in setting up networks and ecosystems of innovators and influencing others to buy-in to the cause.
This requires having a sharp eye for spotting opportunities for leveraging digital technologies and scanning beyond traditional tech partners to drive new ideas and capabilities when solutions cannot be done in-house.
Disruptors and Digital Transformation software
In this chapter we’ll explore the software and innovations that have forged digital transformation in the past and what to expect in the future.
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Throughout history, new technologies have been disrupting established industry practices and transforming old ways of doing business. Technological and digital advances can be perceived as threats to some businesses, but it is also an opportunity to evolve and take significant step in becoming a market leader.
CIOs must be at the center of this digital transformation, using new technologies that affect both customers and internal processes and allowing companies to transform their products and services, find new ways to target customers, disrupt existing business models and the competitive landscape and find new sources of revenue.
The surge of digital technologies has created a demand for new skills and channels that change the way industries operate. Along with this, the availability of vast amounts of customer data has provided new opportunities to understand customer habits and provide personalized services.
The current Covid-19 has accelerated the need for companies to deploy technologies, to survive in the market, but digital disruption is nothing new and it has been happening in almost every sector.
What is a disruptor?
Disruptors are the result of a created product or service that displaced existing market leaders and eventually replaces them at the helm of the sector. Disruptors don’t tend to be CIOs, but rather they are entrepreneurs. They are however, linked to the fast-paced technology industry, and their products influence the decisions that CIOs may make.
Disruptors don’t always take the market by storm, but they gradually build a reputation before penetrating the higher quality section of the market and challenging it by offering a new and advanced alternative to a conventional and established market favorite. This leads to the market leader being driven out of the market or forced to adapt to new circumstances.
Disruption doesn’t need to be digital, but during the 20th century digital disruption has led to companies having to adapt to new market needs and in modern businesses having to embark on digital transformation.
There are numerous examples of digital transformation affecting the market, from Wikipedia disrupting traditional encyclopedias and CD-ROM by providing free and unlimited access to information, to Satellite navigation replacing traditional atlases and, maps, emails replacing the postal service or the numerous disruptions the music industry has faced when changing from vinyl, to cassettes, to CDs, to file sharing and ultimately to online streaming and retail like Spotify and iTunes.
Disruption has been occurring in almost every sector, and companies affected by this have had to evolve, and sometimes change their business models to survive. This is one of the key premises of digital transformation.
Disruptive technologies can have numerous effects on a business, from influencing management decisions, transforming the development of new products, establishing new to target and understand customers, to altering existing business process, customer experience and the competitive landscape. An MIT review showed that 87% of executives believed that digital technologies would disrupt their industry.
After two industrial revolutions, the 20th century began with businesses knowing that disruptors could seriously affect their markets. However, few could predict just how much change the century would bring.
A brief history of Digital Transformation
1930s – 1960s: Digitization throughout pioneering businesses
We can look as far back as the 1930s and 40s to look at the first steps in digitization with Claude Shannon’s contribution in establishing digital circuits and binary digits, to Alec Reeves conceiving pulse-code modulations that became the standard form of digital audio. During that decade there were clear technological advances boosted by the first electronic computer in 1941, and technological innovation that was used for military purposes during the Second World War.
It was in the early 1950s, however, when computers were first used for business purposes. General Electric’s Major Appliance Division plant installed the UNIVAC I computer to process payrolls and manufacturing control programs.
In 1955, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. pioneered in the digitization of customer information by digitizing 600 megabytes of two million life-insurance policies.
In 1956, United Airlines used IBMs new 350 Disk Storage Unit on their extensive reservations systems, and processing 84,000 daily phone calls and storing flight reservations.
The 1960s saw the introduction of the ARPANET, the foundation of the Internet as Gordon Moore conceived what was to be known as Moore’s Law, a theory on the growth of computing power that guides innovation and increases the scope of digitization.
By the end of the decade, diverse sectors were beginning to be affected by digitization processes. Libraries began to use Machine Readable Cataloging Records (MARC) and the introduction of charge-coupled devices (CCD) at AT&T Bell Labs were to play a key role in the development of digital cameras.
1970s to 1990s: An end to paper processes and the introduction of the home computer
The introduction in 1972 of the first all-electronical digital watch by Pulsar, with a full digital display, was one of the first of new digital products that would cause disruption in the market. Three years later, in 1975, Steven Sasson introduced the first digital camera at Eastman Kodak. The camera captured images in 23 seconds with a resolution of 0.01 megapixels, but already presented a challenge to conventional photography.
The Banking industry also witnessed the first impact of a digital disruptor. With Barclay’s Bank using the first Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) in the late 1960s in the UK, a vast and risky $100m investment by Citibank to install ATMs all over New York City a decade later paid dividends. With the assurance that at least two would always be working 24/7 across the city at any given time, a huge blizzard in 1978, that dumped over 17 inches of snow over the city resulted in banks being closed for days. The use of ATMs, however, grew 20% and Citibank’s reputation was bolstered by this event in what was an innovative example of digital transformation in banking.
The late 70s also saw the introduction of personal computers, and the number of households owning a PC would grow at an alarming rate over the next twenty years. This also included the first e-mails to replace conventional letters, and operating systems like MS-DOS and Windows 1.0 and its future rival, Apple.
Arcade video games such as Space Invaders also began to transform the entertainment landscape, but not as much as the first commercial compact disc (CD). Produced in 1982, the first CD was a 1979 recording of Claudio Array performing Chopin waltzes. By 1988, CDs were outselling vinyl records.
The job market was also witnessing changes as a result of increased digitization. Data entry jobs began to appear to help companies transition from analog records into digital data with the introduction of software like SAP and Oracle.
More importantly, the third industrial revolution saw the use of electronic and IT systems to further automate work processes, sparking fear for some employees and a chase for business to stay at the forefront of the market.
The decade was to end with a very significant market disruptor: the introduction of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, that would be central to the development of the Information Age.
1990-2000: The World Wide Web and interconnected world
The decade of the 90s coincided with the world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup. By the time the event started, General Instruments, an American manufacturer of cable television convertors and satellite communications equipment, had announced that it had successfully implemented a digital HDTV signal into a conventional broadcast channel. The World Cup became the first public digital HDTV broadcast. By 1998, digital television transmission would replace analog television broadcasting in the UK and the US.
The beginning of the 90s went hand in hand with the growth of the Internet. Much had changed since the introduction of ARPANET, and between 1990 and 1992, the creation of the World Wide Web, HTML HTTP brought forward new changes that would dramatically alter how people connect.
One year later, in 1991, the first 2G cellular network was launched in Finland and digital cell phones were sold commercially. Using digital signals instead of analog transmissions between mobile phones and cellular towers, 2G technologies increased system capacity and provided data services such as digitally encrypted text messages (SMS), picture messages and MMS, forever changing how consumers communicate with each other.
In 1992, Sir Tim Berners-Lee posted the first photo uploaded to the web, showing the parody group Les Horribles Cernettes, consisting of four of his colleagues at CERN. The term “surfing the web” was coined by Jean Polly and CERN declared the Web protocol and code free to all users.
In 1993, the Global Network Navigator (GNN), launched the first commercial web publication and the first website to offer clickable adverts was launched by the O’Reilly Digital Media group.
More innovation was to come that year. In November 1993, the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory connected a video camera monitoring a coffee pot to the Web, becoming the first webcam and visually connecting people worldwide to a local point.
In the summer of 1994, one of the first transactions on the web took place, when a large pepperoni, mushroom and extra cheese pizza from Pizza Hut was ordered online. Amazon was founded that same year, paving the way for e-commerce, while the year also saw the inception of Yahoo!
Following on GNN’s introduction of clickable adverts, HotWired became the first web site to sell banner ads in large quantities to major corporate advertisers in October 1994.
The audiovisual and movie industry continued to witness innovative technological advances. In June 1995, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) launched the world’s first Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) channel. After advances in CGI in films like Tron (1982), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2 (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993), Disney and Pixar Animation released Toy Story in 1995, the first feature-film to be made entirely with computer-generated imagery (CGI).
That same year, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte and Neil Gershenfeld wrote to Wired magazine about the possibility for hardware and software to “comfortably follow you around…merge into softwear” in their message “Wearable Computing”.
Investors began to take note of the importance of internet-related companies. In December 1995, Netscape share prices soared on its first day of trading, in what was later considered the birth of the “dot-com bubble”.
By 1996, digital storage had become more cost-effective for storing data than paper. Companies that had invested in this digitalization were already reaping the benefits.
Digital currencies were also introduced in 1996 when E-gold was launched, and so too was the Nokia 9000, the first mobile phone to incorporate a website browser. On the flip side, Ether Zuckerman created one of the most frustrating aspects of online advertising: the pop-up ad.
In as little as two years, dozens of new players had emerged on the online scene. PayPal was founded as Confinity, a security software company for handheld devices, but quickly changed its business model to focus on digital wallet and electronic payment systems.
Google was also founded as a company and search engine with an algorithm that focused on PageRanks and page relevance to determine a website’s importance.
That year, Netflix also caused its first disruption in the entertainment consumption industry by launching as the first online DVD rental store.
Finally, 1998 saw the peak of analog camera production as they were subsequently replaced by digital cameras.
The end of the millennium was marked by frenzy over the millennium bug and excitement over the possibilities of the Internet. While not everybody envisioned how much the internet could transform the market, many visionaries were aware that the world was about to change. In his book “When Things Start to Think”, Neil Gershenfeld highlights that “bigger change is coming…The real promise of connecting computers is to free people, by embedding the means to solve problems in the things around us”.
2000-2010: The era of new customer habits
The Millennium saw the first clear results of companies who had embraced new digital technologies during the 1990s. Companies who had failed to deploy digital information storages now found themselves in the minority. By 2007, 94% of the world’s information storage capacity would be digital, in what would be a complete reversal from 1986, when 99.2% of all storage capacity was analog.
The new digital world also brought new concepts to how consumers spent their time. The first blogs were created, as well as MP3 players like the iPod challenging the CD, and digital audio channels to download sports, music, news and entertainment. Simultaneously, VHS dominance in the video format sector after beating Betamax was finally overcome by the DVD, who would later be challenged by Blue-Ray. The creation of YouTube in 2005 would change the way people shared videos, consumed culture and eventually how they are influenced by others.
The launch of Wikipedia in 2001 proved to show to what extent disruption can reach varied sectors and cause brands to change their business models and adapt to new market needs. Encyclopedia Britannica, having had to struggle with CD-ROM upon the introduction of Encarta, eventually dropped its printed edition and focused on courses, articles and its subscription website amid the new online competition.
©Expedia’s launch in 2001 would change the way consumers travelled, and Skype’s release in 2003 set a new standard for voice calls that shook the telecommunications industry.
In 2002, Chana Schoenberger and Bruce Upbin published “The Internet of Things” in Forbes, stating that people “need an internet for things, a standardized way for computers to understand the real world”. That same year Jim Waldo spoke in the Journal of Information Systems Frontiers about the surge of interactions between machines on the Internet without human intervention: “The Internet is becoming the communication fabric for devices to talk to services, which in turn talk to other services.” Glover Ferguson, chief scientist for Accenture backed the claim in “Have Your Objects Call My Objects” in the Harvard Business Review, stating “It’s no exaggeration to say that a tiny tag may one day transform your own business. And that day may not be very far off.”
People’s purchasing habits also began to change. In 2003, electronic payments in the U.S. surpassed the use of cash and checks for the first time. Financial institutions were also legally permitted to create digital versions of original checks.
During these years, social media stepped into the fray. The creation of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr altered how consumers shared their hobbies, their opinions and their networking between contacts and provided great opportunities for targeted advertising as well as data collection. In as little as four years, online advertising would surpass newspaper advertising for the first time.
In some cases, people even used the internet to vote. In March 2007, Estonia became the first country to use internet voting in a parliamentary election. The decade ended with the introduction of new industry disruptors which would condition consumer expectations for until today.
2010-2020: Digital Transformation becomes the norm
During the end of 2008, the introduction of Bitcoin, blockchain, peer-to-peer electronic cash systems and decentralized digital currencies was described in The Economist as technology that “could transform how the economy works”. Whether cryptocurrency has died off is still debatable. Many believe the crypto bubble has burst, a victim of scammers and the dangers of speculation, and that it cannot recover, whilst other experts are more optimistic.
Industries were changing at a dramatic pace as a result of technological innovations. In 2010, production of digital cameras, who had overtaken analog cameras just ten years before, peaked at 120 million as they were replaced by a new disruptor: smartphones.
In 2011 Amazon.com sold more Kindle books than print books. Airbnb was beginning to disrupt the vacation rental industry. Streaming revenues like Spotify and Pandora overtook CD sales and altered how we listen to music and how musicians made their money, and Uber posed a new threat to the ride-hailing sector.
Even technologies that had successfully overcome previous industry leaders were at risk of succumbing to newer technologies. By 2012, DVDs and Blu-ray discs were second choice as consumers turned to online movies and streaming for their entertainment.
Consumers had adapted to the technological opportunities around them. In 2012, annual e-commerce sales reached $1 trillion worldwide for the first time and kept growing. Shortly afterwards, the number of Internet users worldwide reached 3 billion.
With this customer data has become a priceless asset. Facebook’s data warehouse holds over 300petabytes and over 2bn can be reached through Facebook ads.
People are networking differently. Skype and WhatsApp have changed how we communicate. Software like Slack and Microsoft Teams have reformed how we interact in the office. There are multiple channels, always-on and oriented on making communication easier, more accessible and customer-focused.
Disruptors essentially remove barriers for consumers. A clear example can be seen in the travel industry, where leading companies like Tui and Thomas Cook have faced difficulties by not adapting to new consumer needs for shorter waiting lines, no independent advice and high cancellation fees and have succumbed to digital disruptors like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor who provide customer reviews, price comparisons, free cancellations and fast bookings 24/7 in addition the services usually provided by their traditional competitors.
Customer engagement has become a major differentiator between brands during this last decades as users communicate, entertain themselves and carry out daily tasks like shopping and banking in new ways that are interlinked with technology. Companies have had to learn that there is no room for complacency. Sector leaders may arrive on scene, but they soon depart if they fail to evolve.
The year 2020 has seen a major change in the need to accelerate digital transformation with the Covid-19. But even before this, the last few years have seen the emergence of new disruptors, coinciding with the introduction of virtual and conversational assistants like Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana that have sought to increase revenues by improving customer experience, but they are not the only disruptors that will change the current industry landscape. What are the key trends in digital transformation in 2020?
Eleven modern disruptors
The figure we now call the CIO has always managed infrastructures and platforms. In the new digital world this is no different, only now, the CIO must also manage the tools, devices and applications that guarantee that business can operate efficiently and innovatively.
As more companies have moved their IT-services to the cloud, the CIO’s role is more strategic liaising between the business and technical teams to identify industry disruptors and determining what steps to take to keep their business moving forward.
But what are the technologies that are changing the way we work? Even though you cannot always predict how technologies are going to evolve, the last five years has seen the appearance of major disruptors and software that companies are going to have to place close attention to as part of their digital transformation.
Mobile technology refers to technologies that run on portable “mobile” devices such as smartphone, tablets and wearables. Mobiles have reached functionality and connectivity levels that are comparable to PCs while being lighter smaller and more convenient to carry.
The introduction of high-speed mobile internet means that consumers are using their mobile as their sole source for web browsing, communication, entertainment, shopping and transactions.
This has left enterprises with no choice but to shift and adapt towards mobile communication channels and to new worker and consumer habits. These include the request for instantaneous access to information anytime, anywhere to increase engagement.
Employees also use mobile technologies to communicate with co-workers and access information with greater flexibility. This alters office workflows and presents companies with a new approach to work organization and employee efficiency, and these must not shy away from leveraging mobile as part of their business strategy.
Big Data and Analytics
Big data is a term used to define massive amounts of data coming from diverse sources. Traditional business intelligence (BI) analyzes transactional data on the whole sales and support process, and this is still an important element of big data, but there are larger volumes of data coming from digital sources such as mobile, web and social media.
The power of big data doesn’t come in the volume, but in how it helps organizations harness their data and use it to spot new opportunities and optimize decision making processes.
The more data companies get access to, the bigger the transformation from using descriptive analytics based on historical statistics to making informed decisions based on predictive analytics by examining patterns, identify weak points and strong points and work on them, leading to smarter business moves, more efficient operations, increased revenue and happier customers and employees.
Storing and processing such vast amounts of data would be impossible without cloud computing. “The cloud” allows companies to access and manage their data over the Internet through third-party providers without incurring large investments into their own on-premise IT server infrastructure.
Companies have numerous uses for cloud services, from CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SFA (Sales Force Automation) and HCM (Human Capital Management) functions.
Many organizations are replacing traditional systems to “cloud only.” Cloud-based infrastructure services (IaaS) are delivered on demand and on a pay-per-use basis, lowering operating expenditures and making cloud computing resources available to businesses of all sizes.
Businesses also get access to cloud-based applications- or software as a service (SaaS), so that they do no need to install, maintain and update software, but instead using it through an online subscription and a web interface that can be accessed from any device.
Finally, platform as a service (PaaS) allows customers to develop and deploy applications in the cloud without having to invest in web hosting, software or server infrastructure.
Cloud computing affects all employees across an organization, as they can access their work-related information from any device, whenever they want. This increases accessibility, transparency and real-time collaboration from different locations, and employees benefit from automatic data back-up and recovery.
CIOs are expected to guide organizations through the transition to cloud services and use their solid understanding of cloud computing services. They restructure IT-related operations and abandon legacy IT-systems to use new technologies while maintain a focus on cybersecurity.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The advances in cloud computing have given way to a network of connected physical devices that can exchange data over the internet. This is known as the Internet of Things. IoT devices are going to have a major impact on how companies do business.
Firstly, the vast amount of data collected by devices means that businesses will have greater access to information on consumer behavior that can result in targeted and smarter offerings.
The connectivity of devices embedded with sensors that are identifiable through individual IP addresses, allows companies to receive, register and transmit sensor-based information which is only made more convenient with cloud computing, mobile internet and increased machine-to-machine interaction capabilities.
IoT will also change how companies manage their inventory, enhancing remote work requirements that have already been accelerated during Covid-19 and improving efficiency and productivity.
There are many ways this can happen. For example, IoT sensors and devices can assist in manufacturing sectors by indicating when machines need repair, allowing employees to respond remotely and remain productive, and preventing the need to send inspectors. In the logistics sector, companies are leveraging IoT devices to remotely track their assets as they move through the supply chain.
IoT-enabled remote patient monitoring (RPM) is also being used in healthcare to virtually keep track of patients. The use of RPM equipment has allowed the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to maintain patient satisfaction scores while reducing the risk of hospital readmissions by 76%. Healthcare services are embracing IoT as a solution, with a Gartner survey stating that 79% of healthcare providers are already using IoT in their production process. Close to half (49%) of IT decision-makers say that IoT plays a role in their digital business strategy, with a greater use among enterprise organizations.
Companies are beginning to view 5G technology and its high data speeds as a vital component to their business. In a report by Capgemini, 75% of industrial executives mentioned 5G technologies as a key enabler and integral part of their digital transformation over the next five years.
5G is the fifth generation of mobile internet connectivity that enables far more devices to access the mobile net and providing download speeds up to 100 times faster than current technology.
The telco industry will especially benefit from this technology. 5G’s versatility, flexibility and reliability will efficiently address connectivity challenges, but industrial companies are also planning to apply for their own 5G licenses to have greater autonomy and security and due to concerns at how long it is taking for telecom operators to roll out 5G public networks.
Social Media is nothing new, and most companies have adopted social media marketing strategies focusing on specific channels. However, social media has changed how people communicate, share information, spend their free time and even look for jobs or networking opportunities. During Covid-19, the use of social media has sprung even more, even though some at times it has been to spread false news, and many companies have turned to their social media channels to talk with their customers, rather than to them.
Social media companies like Facebook are gaining a greater presence in the business landscape and becoming one of the most commonly used digital transformation technologies. However while the use of social media channels spreads over all demographics, different people use different channels, and over the last few years channels like TikTok and Snapchat have overtaken Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for younger audiences, while other channels like G+ and Vine have disappeared, showing just how competitive the market is.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming an imperative for business that want to keep a competitive edge. There are a vast range of opportunities AI can provide, and with companies possessing massive amounts of data, AI can process and analyze it quicker than humans and recommend courses of action based on this data.
That isn’t the best part. In the same way that a human brain learns from experience, AI software can also make decisions on its own, by using Machine Learning (ML) to detect patterns in the data and learn and improve from experience. ML and AI can be deployed for several outcomes, from image recognition software, software and bots to engage with consumers and carry out computerized tasks and self-driving vehicles.
AI and digital transformation are perfect companions and over the next years, numerous subfields of AI will become prominent features in successful digital transformation projects.
Conversational AI, Chatbots and Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a sub field of AI that focuses on making computer systems understand human language in the same people in voice and text. This is of particular use for companies investing in chatbots. Whilst conventional chatbots have been around for a while, modern conversational AI platforms are far more advanced and use machine learning and natural language processing for answering customer queries and performing tasks 24/7.
However, the best conversational AI platforms combine artificial intelligence, ML and NLP with hybrid approaches that include conversational systems to combine linguistic models with machine learning models. That way chatbots have a linguistic basis that help them maintain contextualized interaction that take longer to learn with algorithms and machine learning.
With this, conversational AI goes hand in hand with customer engagement and businesses deploying these solutions are seeing improvements in communication scalability, omnichannel services, response times, personalization in their offering and a more effective use of their human capital as staff can focus on more complex issues.
Conversational AI bots combine well with Robotic Process Automation (RPAs) as these are process-centric approaches be applied to automate repetitive tasks to eliminate human intervention. However conversational AI solutions are a lot more flexible and can provide customers contextual journeys that result in greater engagement.
This has been further enhanced during Covid-19, as staff and customers have been physically distanced from offices, shops and branches. Customer queries can be solved round the clock and from any location with conversational AI. Numerous industries can benefit from conversational AI. For example, chatbots can help digital transformation in healthcare, banking and finance by providing basic online consultation and diagnosis and administrative activities. The e-commerce, telecoms, manufacturing and travel industry can benefit from chatbots to carry out task, purchase and travel reallocations, customer queries and technical assistance.
Overall, conversational AI platforms can improve customer journey and experience and be an integral part of a company’s digital transformation.
Chatbots: The Definitive Guide
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
The web changed connectivity between businesses. Today, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are having a similar impact. APIs allow systems to communicate and share data with one another, for example, by posting YouTube video on another website or allowing chatbots or virtual assistant to leverage technologies implemented by third parties and integrate in different channels.
With customers seeking omnichannel capabilities, APIs have become engines of innovation, increased engagement and competitive differentiation
The banking and financial sector is in a fundamental transformation process that is triggered by new technologies. Blockchain is one of the most significant disruptors in the industry as it can deeply change how transactions are handled and will have a big impact on how traditional banks do business.
Banks will need to change their business models, deliver new value propositions and increase transparency and security to compete with the decentralized and immutable properties of a blockchain.
VR and Augmented Reality
Not many companies are ready to take the step into adding virtual technology to their digital transformation strategy, but disruptors tend to strike first on minority users before rising to the mainstream. A large part of virtual reality is geared towards the gaming and entertainment industry, but the technology is gradually spreading to wider audiences.
With huge parts of the population confined as a result of Covid-19, companies began to find ways to showcase their products using these technologies. This included engineers and manufacturers using VR to experience their creations, real estate agents using VR to show people around properties, or opticians using VR to show their models on their customers without the having to go to the store. It can also be used to assist employees in training and recruitment procedures to simulate problems and correct them virtually, saving expenses, risks and resources.
Digital Transformation Challenges and How to Overcome Them
In this chapter we’ll highlight the challenges businesses face when carrying out digital transformation and provide solutions to overcome them.
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We have seen that despite companies being expected to spend $1.2 trillion on digital transformation initiatives, nearly 70% of digital transformation strategies fail or underperform. Large and ambitious projects run the risk or not achieving the wanted results, but what are some of the common challenges and reasons why digital transformation programs fail?
Lack of impetus to foresee organizational change
According to McKinsey, one of the reasons change programs fail to achieve their goals is due to employee resistance and lack of management support. Digital Transformation requires changes to people’s jobs, their objectives, their strategies, their bosses and their daily roles. Enforcing these changes can be difficult and be a reason why companies put off digital transformation.
The impetus to initiate digital transformation starts at the very top of the firm and in the OCIO. Executives can often be skeptical of the benefits of emerging technologies and prefer a less risky fast-follower approach rather than a pioneering one. Also, companies that are not experiencing losses may not feel the need to carry out digital transformation until it is too late.
Executives may not be aware of latest trends, or not understand what digital transformation is, which furthers the importance of establishing and OCIO to counter organizational silos with a CIO who is updated in technological innovations, knows how to convince stakeholders to place digital transformation as a major company priority and deploy an appropriate budget and who can adapt to new business models.
The weight of legacy processes
If a process isn’t efficient, automating it won’t make it any better. Operational processes need to be rethought and made more efficient and in line with new innovative technologies and customer requirements. Many businesses are built on the premise of they worked when they were founded, and when disruptive technologies have arisen, business have made changes to adapt to that technologies, but still based on their legacy culture. With the sure of the Internet of Things, APIs, Artificial Intelligence, smart cities and strictly online customer habits new building blocks must be added that will transform, renovate or add substantial support to core legacy systems and ensure that businesses are prepared to build digital platforms.
Security and regulatory limitations
Many executives, in particular those in healthcare and financial services, are cautious about certain technologies due to security and privacy concerns. Businesses are concerned about hackers and outsiders accessing confidential data on patients or customers that can seriously affect their hard-gained reputation or result in penalties. This means that many companies in the financial sector are taking a slow approach to social media to not receive sanctions or be part of any scandals. This cautious approach also transcends to rushing in to deploy other technologies and monitoring them accordingly.
Despite these regulatory concerns, the OCIO should take responsibility in monitoring technologies and foreseeing how they can be deployed in their business strategy whilst overlooking cybersecurity. The fear of sanctions over possible data breaches should not prevent a company from moving forward. There are tools to ensure cybersecurity and the protection of sensitive information. Additionally, part of establishing a digital culture within a company is to set policies for employee use of devices, technologies and social media, and clearly stating regulations.
Lack of clarity
Digital transformation can encompass many initiatives. Being able to define and measure an initiative is easier said than done. Many companies find difficulties in conceptualizing their digital transformation strategy into actionable and quantifiable initiatives.
Not all digital initiatives make sense for companies or their employees. The clearest way to justify digital transformation was to consider value and cost. With Covid-19 new needs have arisen, such as facilitating customer and employee access to services and systems. Audio and videoconferencing technologies result in travel costs and employee coordination, whilst conversational AI platforms provide omnichannel 24/7 solutions to customer queries and increase brand loyalty.
However, the benefits from other investments may be harder to define and some companies have embarked on digital transformation as an experiment to investigate the potential of new technologies without a digital transformation roadmap. Additionally, different C-suite executives will focus on specific aspects and objectives, from the supply chain, to marketing, to customer engagement.
The OCIO must be able to define the objectives and holistically justify investments in technologies as part of a new business model and digital strategy, understanding how it will affect company culture and how it can bring benefits to the enterprise.
Lack of skills and talent resources
Data-driven business performance and decision-making is efficient, but it poses a challenge to people who are used to making decisions based on their own professional judgement. With emerging technologies, there can often be a scarce internal workforce who can proficiently take the reins. Companies end up hiring experts in the job market or working with third parties.
Additionally, many executives may lack the digital literacy to appreciate the scope of digital transformation, dismissing emerging technologies as temporary vogues, but the OCIO must cooperate with HR and CEOs to equip themselves with the best skillset, IT department and resources to carry out their digital strategies.
This sounds relatively simple, but some reports suggest that nearly 70% of leaders believe that there is a lack of digital skills in their organization. Upskilling is key to developing a successful transformation and to prepare to grow at the same rate as new advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies.
Business and the OCIO must always have digital technologies in mind when making business strategies, and the digital natives incorporated by the business must also be forward-thinking and have innovative mindsets that can keep the enterprise ahead of the curve and of competitors.
Digital transformation is about technology, strategy and culture. It needs to sink deep into a company and its employees to be a success.
In a survey of 700 executives by Harvard Business Review, 63% ranked cultural challenges as the biggest impediments to transformation efforts.
A company’s culture conditions how employees behave, and behavior is hard to change overnight when new business objectives come into play. Company policies, statements and actions must be committed to digital transformation.
Even though the OCIO is the hub which drives digital transformation through the enterprise, every department and employee in an on organization must embrace a digital mindset, even though issues may arise when job changes are considered due to automation and information empowerment.
Companies need to help employees adapt to new information capabilities or to grow comfortable working with centralized shared services and standardized processes, while workers who may fear job cuts due to automation need to be provided roles where they can use the time freed up carrying out repetitive tasks to make the most of their expertise and skills.
Coordination difficulties across business unites or processes can cause many companies to fail in their digital transformations. The OCIO needs to invest in overseeing and coordinating all digital effects, from marketing, to production, to IT and its contact centers. This will result in stronger employee empowerment and customer experience, as well as better synergies between internal functions.
Leading digital transformation, maximizing data access and knowledge sharing across an enterprise is a key objective for the OCIO and with many organizations having siloed departments this requires an additional coordination effort. This will require new technology tools, but more importantly a shift in employee behaviors driven by effective leadership and people dynamics.
Reluctance to work with third parties
As part of their digital transformation and incorporation of new technologies, companies need to determine if their services will integrate with brands like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. The concept of collaborating with these companies can be exciting for some but can also be a clash of egos at executive level, particularly when CEOs consider these brands as competitors and becomes a reason why companies put off digital transformation.
However, unless the company wants to become a disruptor and try to launch a competitive disruptor or split the disruptor’s market, most companies need to cooperate with digital giants that provide top of the market digitized products. The incumbents in every industry eventually collaborate with these platforms or make the choice to try to beat them at their own game but ignoring them and not deploying new technologies is not a viable solution.
Not understanding customer needs
Customer demands are always changing in sync with new technological innovations. It is important to get the timing right and to understand what your customers really need. Many businesses aren’t used to two-way communication with their consumers, but social media facilitated communicating with customers to know what they want, and conversational AI can get direct feedback in the form of “voice of the customer” as they communicate with their brands.
Knowing your customer is vital, and with digital transformation enabling mass personalization of services, it is essential to make the most of big data and customer feedback to decide what they want, how to present it to them and how to make it profitable. Customers must also understand why they are giving their details and how it will be used. In the end customer experience and engagement is a major pillar in digital transformation and new business strategies, so it’s important that CIOs get this right.
Not planning ahead
Digital transformation plans are ongoing. They are part of a constant evolution within an enterprise. Yet specific transformation procedures need roadmaps and outness to define how long a project will remain a core business objective and to establish benchmarks to aim for. Once these have been reached, the company must not rest on its laurels. The OCIO must set new goals as the organization’s digital transformation grows.
Digital Transformation and Customer Experience
This chapter will provide further insights into why customer experience is so important when implementing digital transformation.
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Customer experience is the focal point of Digital Transformation
When determining the fundamentals of digital transformation, it is important to establish customer-focused business strategies.
Ahead of increasing innovation speed and improving time-to-market, customer experience has become the main objective for digital transformation initiatives.
There is stringent competitiveness in the market, and while there was a time when products could compete solely on their different capabilities, the vast options from which consumers can choose means that purchasing decisions hinge on marginal differences.
Customer experience has become the biggest differentiator for brands. Consumers no longer base their loyalty on price or traditional product-based advantages, but on the experiences, they receive and how their increasing demands are met.
Digital transformation and technologies allow businesses to understand consumer behavior and preferences and can influence them by creating personalized, predictive and dynamic experiences that will affect their products and channels.
Customers indulge in their individualism, but they behave in tightly connected networks that influence others and can drive new business opportunities. Engaging them is imperative, and this requires integrating the entire business so that there is value at every customer touchpoint.
Customers seek a fluent dialogue and journey with their brands that go beyond the initial purchase or reactive customer services at certain touchpoints. Customer experience and engagements now transcend to how a consumer is treated by a brand, what feelings they have towards their loyalty and how they identify with it.
Consumers who have an emotional connection with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.
It’s not a choice for the OCIO, but a necessity
During a moment of accelerated digital transformation, cross-device shopping and omnichannel demands pose challenges for companies who want to maintain consistency. Processes and technologies need to be upgraded to provide constant and seamless experiences across all platforms.
Focusing on customer experiences during digital transformation is not a choice but a necessity. Research from Gartner shows that 89% of companies compete on the basis of customer experience, and that figure is set to increase.
Surprisingly, despite 80% of companies believing that they deliver superlative experiences, only 8% of customers agree. This mismatch of expectations highlights how companies must not be complacent when providing digital solutions. Customer demands are well informed about new technological advances. A lot still needs to be done.
A report from Deloitte found that 57% of CIOs ranked customers as the top business priority, and this statistic has been rising. Digital transformation must encompass the entire C-suite and be part of a holistic strategy.
Therefore, while originally the CMO, for example, is centered on omnichannel customer engagement, with CFOs focusing on financial technologies such as blockchain-based enterprise transfers, the CIO and the OCIO must visualize the digital “big picture” and build the right capabilities to incorporate new technologies and new objectives, of which customer engagement is a key element.
Evolving customer demands and behaviors are the main catalyst driving organizational change and digital transformation. The way customers make decisions and the technology they use should condition how companies bring their services to market and the technology and infrastructure they deploy.
There is a lot at stake. 70% of the buying experience is based on how customers feel they are being treated and 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a great experience. Loyalty is worth it, because customers are five times more likely to buy again and four times more likely to refer a brand to family and friends if they feel they are treated well.
The statistics for showing the benefits of optimizing customer experience speak for themselves, but what exactly makes for a great customer journey and how can digital transformation improve customer experience?
A new era for customer experience
Providing proficient customer service is a key element of top customer experience. With so many people confined at home and carrying out online purchases and requests, the burden for contact centers has increased and businesses must ensure that customers are satisfied with these processes. With this, 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by a contact center as a competitive advantage.
However, customer service and contact centers aren’t the only facets of customer experience. Whilst resolving isolated queries is reactive and isolated, customer experience is a proactive and ongoing approach, where it is important to listen to customers and anticipate what they want in every part of their journey.
Personalized offerings are an essential element of customer experience. This can be seen, for example, when Spotify creates personalized playlists based on user preferences and recent trends, suggesting music from the same bands and genres as well as recommending new groups that are based on the user’s tastes.
Netflix does something similar with its personalized recommendation system to make sure the right titles get presented to each member at the right time. Their analysis of customer habits and the titles they have watched means that Netflix go as far as presenting different posters depending on the genres, actors and previous films each user has seen in the past.
Customer experience can differ from customer service in that it doesn’t always have to be triggered by a customer initiating contact, it can exist throughout an entire relationship with a brand, like in a streaming service or a conversational AI-led virtual assistant, of which customer service is an inclusive element.
Digital Transformation is driving customer experience
There is a correlation between technological innovations, digital transformation and better customer experience. When we mention Spotify and Netflix, we need to remember how they were disruptors in their markets that boosted customer experience. Algorithms that detected music and movie preferences were of no use with CDs and DVDs.
Almost every major digital service deploys similar tactics to better understand their customer habits. This means that it is now normal for customers to expect or demand personalized information. In fact, customer expectations are getting more demanding as technology becomes a major feature in everyday life. With 67% of customers citing bad customer experience as a reason for churn, companies need to work hard to maintain brand loyalty.
This is why customer service and customer experience are a combined effort. While in the past, contact centers and customer service would only be used for additional information or help, customer service has become more than a support feature. It is a differentiator that can improve upselling, customer retention and customer satisfaction.
Consumers are beginning to value experiences over possessions. They are mobile-centric, and they expect offers to be directed towards their personal likes. Digital companies like Airbnb and Uber have succeeded by capitalizing on new opportunities that were built around customer pain points and experience.
Hailing cabs and making hotel reservations can be quite tedious, so technology made it more convenient. With these companies, customer experience is deep-rooted in their business strategy, and the technological investments they have made are oriented towards making the consumer journey as simple as possible.
Points to consider when improving customer experience
With new technologies, there are better opportunities to provide optimal customer experience and reap the benefits. But what key elements should be considered when focusing on customer experience?
Make it personal
It is clear by now that customers demand highly personalized experiences. 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. It means that brands need to remember, make proactive recommendations and anticipate their needs before delivering their services at the right time.
For many consumers, that means being available round the clock. This does more than simply make a customer feel special, it encourages cross-selling. 49% of customers bought items they did not intend to purchase due to a personalized recommendation from a brand.
Personalization is ammunition in an ultra-competitive market that helps retain customers, and the vast amount of data available with new technologies can make this even easier, if it is used correctly. With McKinsey claiming that only one percent of data collected is ever used, it is the OCIO’s responsibility to leverage the potential of data and convert it into a valuable asset.
Proficiently implemented customer experience can also provide analytics data on customer behavior that can be used to generate new insights and provide better offers to boost retention. Data must be leveraged to provide a unique competitive advantage.
Companies possess the ability to deliver personalized and automated experiences to their customers in real-time. These customers then turn to social media and their networks and advocate for the brand. 80% of customers say that they are more likely to do business with a brand if offers a personalized experience.
Understand the importance of Omnichannel
Today’s customer experience is omnichannel. People want an experience over a variety of channels that are seamlessly connected, so that if they leave one channel they can pick up where they left and continue their journey on another channel. Businesses must cope with a wide range of customer interaction touchpoints whilst focusing on the entire customer journey. Companies with the strongest omnichannel experiences see the benefits, as they retain 89% of their customers on average, compared to 33% retention for companies with weak omnichannel customer experience.
This can explain why the percentage of companies investing in omnichannel experiences has risen to more than 80% from 20%.
Consumers use numerous devices that are interconnected with cloud services, with mobile leading the way. With this, 83% of consumers say they want to be able to move between channels when talking to a brand. Companies must support cross-channel interaction, because consumers want to have one seamless conversation with a brand, albeit through various channels, and 89% of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat their questions to multiple customer service agents.
Make it mobile friendly
Of all the omnichannel capabilities, mobile capabilities are key. The fact that 57% of customers wouldn’t recommend a brand with a poorly designed mobile site exemplifies this. A fifth of website traffic comes from these devices, and if mobile sites are not user-friendly, more than half of customers won’t visit the page, even if they like the brand. This explains why 84% of customer-centric companies focus on the mobile customer experience.
Ignore the risk of churn at your peril
Not providing a proficient customer has its consequences. Businesses must be wary of losing their customers because it harder to regain lost trust than to keep customers satisfied. Customer expectations shape digital priorities, and the high-class experiences provided by industry leaders are setting the bar for customer experiences across all enterprises.
Customers share their positive and negative experiences too. According to a report, 72% of customers share positive experiences with six or more people. If the experience is negative, 13% of them will share with 15 people or more.
However, just because they don’t complain doesn’t mean they don’t leave the brand. Only 1 in 26 unhappy customers actually complain, but one in three would leave a brand after just one negative experience and 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.
Therefore, you don’t get too many chances to get this right, so it must be well planned from the beginning.
Value the importance of self-service
Digitally native consumers are more autonomous in their quest to resolve queries and do not always turn to human agents for assistance. 58% of customers don’t mind or would prefer to speak to a bot than deal with a human customer agent. Companies should ensure that customers are able to find what they need using self-service options.
Customers want to find the answers themselves, to the extent the Gartner estimates that by 2030 a billion service tickets will be raised automatically by chatbots.
Artificial intelligence and conversational AI are going to play a key role in this. Already in 2018, an estimated 25% of all customer interactions were automated through AI and machine learning, and many companies have set to deploy AI within the next three years. With Covid-19 accelerating the need for consumers to use self-service as they are confined, the number is expected to grow.
Self-service can bring numerous benefits to an organization. Firstly, as 60% of customer service calls or requests for repetitive and uncomplicated tasks, self-service can reduce large volumes of calls to customer care centers.
Additionally, with customer expectations rising, companies must be able to provide quality services that are 24/7, cost effective, with omnichannel capabilities and with data storage to provide personalized offers.
Digital transformation must improve customer experience. The importance of customer experience is present from the basis of a business strategy. Companies must adopt a holistic and enterprise wise approach to customer experience. This is not only a matter of front-end, customer-facing functions, but also involves the back-end.
Firstly, legacy systems must be replaced with digital alternatives. 60% of customer satisfaction sources originate in the back office and automating back offices can help some sectors save 30% in revenue.
Often, the importance of dealing with high quantities of queries should not undervalue the importance of quality. Within contact centers, it should be in customer-obsessed culture to ensure that the consumer journey is optimal.
Digitalization, social media, omnichannel capabilities and advanced analytics have changed the relationship between customers and companies. With there being a two-way conversation between users and brands, the CIO must intermediate between the business front and customers to determine the technologies that will change the way the company works and strengthen the relationship and experience with the customer.
Develop trust and security
Data is an invaluable asset in the digital world. customers are reluctant to give their details for free or to any company. Trust is an important asset and it needs to be earned.
Customers also want to be assured that their data is safe and secure. Small and medium sized businesses might be at risk of hackers who want to exploit less robust security protocols.
Businesses must mitigate these concerns by delivering secure technology on cybersecurity systems. In that sense, security and trust are just as valuable as personalization, speed and convenience.
Changes in customer experience with Covid-19
While the key elements of customer experience remained unchanged, COVID-19 has brought some changes to the environment that can change the way customer experience is approached.
Competition is higher than ever
Spending patterns have been disrupted. Massive job losses have resulted in people being reluctant to spend. Even those who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs, are more discrete in their spending through lack of options or mainly due to prudence. This has further increased competition between businesses to provide additional value to their services to remain ahead of the market. Customer experience will be a game changer.
Digital channels are essential
Distribution channels have been altered or redefined. Supply chains and outbound channels have been affected because of Covid-19, and digital customers prefer to use digital channels. Now more than ever, ensuring omnichannel capabilities is imperative.
Contact centers are overwhelmed
Consumers are more concerned than ever because of the uncertainties of Covid-19. So too are employees working remotely. Companies need to train to maintain or strengthen work capabilities and automate customer services so that they can deal with round the clock requests. Businesses are providing HR services to deal with concerned employees, and conversational AI platforms to provide high-quality customer-experience to vast amounts of users.
Some companies must find rapid and trustworthy solutions
For firms who are reluctant to embrace digital transformation, they will find that they are now becoming a minority and risk falling behind in a highly competitive market. Digital solutions have saved the day for many companies, but those who did not embrace digital transformation beforehand now must rush to find rapid and effective solutions to change their customer journeys.
Digital Transformation Statistics
We have already revealed some statistics about digital transformation. This chapter will lay out some of the key facts and stats that paint the picture of the current landscape and highlights the importance of Digital Transformation.
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65 Digital Transformation statistics
Stats speak louder than words. In the last chapter, we revealed some statistics that showcased the importance of digital transformation and its fundamentals. To help further illustrate how several industries and numerous reports reveal the importance of this transformation, we have gathered 60 statistics to unveil how digital transformation is changing the world.
On deploying digital transformation
1. 70% of companies have a digital strategy in place or are in the process of deploying one.
2. Companies spent a total of more than $2 trillion on digital transformation in 2019.
3. 40% of all technology spending in 2019 went towards digital transformation.
4. 93% of companies agree that innovation technologies are necessary to reach their digital transformation goals.
5. 86% of executives say transformation requires a combination of the right culture, revised business processes, and new technology
6. 89% of companies have adopted a digital-first business strategy that can lead to digital transformation.
7. 55% of startups have already adopted a digital business strategy.
8. Top digital business strategy adopters include services (95%), financial services (93%), and healthcare (92%).
9. Six out of ten of companies that have undergone a digital transformation have created new business models.
10. 52% or organizations consider “digital business” to be a means to enable worker productivity through tool such as AI-assisted processes.
11. 68% of executives believe the future of business will involve people and AI working together.
12. 87% of companies think digital will disrupt their industry, but only 44% are prepared for a potential digital disruption.
13. 65% of companies are positive about their ability to adapt to technological disruption over the next three years.
14. Only 7% of companies have fully implemented their digital transformations.
15. 70% of executives say that over the past two years digital transformation has become significantly more important to business success.
16. 55% of companies without a digital transformation believe they have less than a year before they start to lose market share.
17. Of companies that haven’t started a digital transformation, 59%fear it might be too late.
18. One in five executives rate their companies’ digital transformation efforts as effective.
On the benefits of Digital Transformation
20. Executives say the top benefits of digital transformation are improved operational efficiency (40%), faster time to market (36%) and the ability to meet customer expectations (35%).
21. 84% of the executives agree that new business opportunities are emerging as their organization digitally transforms.
22. Four in five companies who have implemented digital transformation technologies say they can deliver new value for smart, connected products throughout their lifecycle.
23. 56% of CEOs say digital improvements have led to increased revenue.
24. 39% of outperforming companies have a fully integrated digital-physical strategy.
25. Digital-first companies are64% more likely to achieve their business goals than their peers.
On who should lead Digital Transformation
26. 28% of digital transformations are led by the CIO, and 23% are owned by the CEO.
27. 70% of companies say their CEO has an adequate or above average practical understanding of new technology.
28. 37% of CEOs are considered by employees to be holding back digital transformation initiatives.
29. 20% of employees said their company’s leadership doesn’t know what to do with digital transformation.
30. 63% rank cultural challenges as the biggest impediments to transformation efforts
31. Around 40% of companies have dedicated digital transformation teams in place.
32. 80% of companies say their digital transformation efforts involve multiple business units or the entire company.
33. 47% of functional CIOs work with lines of business to build a business case for new tech initiatives.
34. 71% of enterprises cite the workforce as either very or extremely important in supporting digital transformation strategies.
On digital disruptors and new technologies
35. Email overtook voice calls as the most used customer service channel.
36. 76% of companies are investing in emerging technologies.
37. HR, manufacturing, and legal are considered most likely to adapt to technological change.
38. Intelligent systems will drive 70% of customer engagements by 2022.
39. 86% of companies believe that cloud technology is critical to digital transformation.
40. 70% of businesses used a multi-cloud strategy in 2019, up from less than 10% in 2017.
41. 60% of executives believe connected technology and the Internet of Things will play an important role in their company’s digital strategy.
42. 80% of companies have already adopted AI chatbots or have plans to do so by 2020.
43. A third of marketing leaders believe AI will lead to the biggest improvement in customer experience.
44. Over two thirds of global business leaders believe the future of business involves humans and AI working together.
45. 63% of customers are satisfied receiving customer service from a bot, if they can re-route to a live human agent if required.
46. 92% of customers are satisfied using live chat services, making it the support channel leading to the highest customer satisfaction.
47. By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.
48. By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.
49. 84% of customer-centric companies focus on the mobile customer experience.
50. 78% of consumers use mobile devices to connect with brands for customer service. The number increases to 90% of Millennials.
51. Nearly 80% of Millennials are willing to purchase from brands that have a mobile customer service portal.
52. 65% of consumers research a product online before going to a physical store.
53. Around half of all consumers use mobile messaging apps to connect with customer service.
On customer experience and omnichannel capabilities
54. Today, two-thirds of a company’s competitive edge comes from its customer experience.
55. 62% of companies see customer experience delivered by a contact center as a competitive advantage.
56. 67% of consumers will pay more for a great experience.
57. 70% of the buying experience is based on how the customer feels they are treated.
58. 76% of consumers expected companies to understand their needs and expectations.
59. Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.
60. Loyal customers or five times more likely to buy again and four times more likely to refer the brand to family and friends.
61. Customers who have a bad experience with a website are 88% less likely to return.
62. 80% of companies are investing in omnichannel experiences.
63. 89% of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat their questions to multiple customer service agents.
64. Companies that deploy strong omnichannel experiences retain 89% of their customers on average.
65. Only 50% of companies support cross-channel interactions, even though 83% of consumers want the ability to switch between channels.
How Covid-19 has Accelerated Digital Transformation
This chapter will highlight the changes Covid-19 has caused on many industries and how digital transformation has been accelerated as a result of the pandemic.
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Digital Transformation in the new normality
We have seen how important digital transformation is, but also how some companies are still reluctant to overcome the challenges and cultural shifts this transformation implies in an enterprise.
Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on areas of weakness within enterprises. While many companies had established crisis contingency plans, these didn’t include a worldwide shutdown affecting workforces, supply chains and customers.
Despite governments trying to establish normality, or what they call the new normal, irreversible changes have taken place as a result of Covid-19 that will affect almost every industry. Businesses have had to ensure continuity during this crisis, but it has been difficult to address the fast-pace and unknown variables of a pandemic. Of all the conditions that could be considered, widespread quarantines, travel restrictions and a lack of access to people were unexpected.
Many sectors have faced new challenges because of Covid-19, and the pandemic has exposed a clear divide between companies that had already invested in digital transformation and those who had not.
People-intensive industries with employees working in offices, field technicians on the road and customer representatives in stores have had to adapt quickly to a remote working environment to maintain productivity. The continuity of operations critically depends on each company’s digital capabilities.
Secondly, customers have been unable to access stores or branches and have turned to digital channels to request information, make queries, carry out purchases or keep in touch with their contacts. Contact centers have consequently been overwhelmed with calls from concerned customers who have had endure long waiting lines.
Much has been said about the importance of digital transformation, and businesses have taken note to make it a major strategic target on their agenda. More than ever, it is no longer a case of if they need to deploy new technologies but how.
The Covid-19 pandemic has served as an accelerator to many digital transformation policies that were already underway. However, the urgency of having to provide quick, omnichannel and 24/7 solutions to a massive number of customers means that companies have not had time to speculate on experimental approaches and have had to put their trust in experts who can be relied on.
With this, businesses have been quick to recognize the capacity of artificial intelligence and innovation to take their services to the next level and improve their business models and customer journeys.
The Covid-19 effect
Nothing could have prepared enterprises for the effects of Covid-19 on every aspect of business. The risk of future pandemics, or other risks such as climate change, could also affect companies similarly in the future. Businesses must strengthen their crisis management strategies and deliver resilience, flexibility and scalability into their operations.
New requirements, customer demands, government regulations and safety standards have driven companies to implement changes to these new situations. However, some of these solutions are temporary fixes tending to immediate needs. For enterprises with complex operations, surviving Covid-19 and any future crisis, requires a deeper digital transformation strategy.
There is a serious risk of a second wave of the pandemic and companies must be prepared to face it head on even when they barely getting back on their feet.
In order to prepare for a post-Covid-19 environment, businesses must learn from the past to ensure that the same mistakes are not made.
Lessons from the past
In the middle of a crisis, it’s easy to be caught up firefighting minor calamities and miss the larger opportunities to get ahead of the curve. History shows that companies that take the extra time to solve issues in ways that can transform and impact business and culture in the future, instead of merely being reactive to the issue at hand, have a greater chance of surviving future crises.
Global crises have always had a direct impact on redefining the status-quo, and Covid-19 is not the first pandemic to spark innovation to evolve and survive.
The Athens plague in 430 BC restructured the city’s laws and identity; the Black Death in the Middle Ages transformed the balance of class power in Europe, and the spates of Cholera in 19th Century London introduced city-wide embankments to provide modern sewerage systems.
This time, the changes we will see will affect how we work and the role of technology in reforming work processes. Like city embankments in the past, digital disruptors like artificial intelligence, chatbots, IoT and automation may be the landmarks of these new changes.
We don’t have to look to past centuries to see how companies have successfully adapted to crises by changing business operations. For example, after the global financial crash in 2007, only 9% of companies flourished, but they did it with a secret formula: a focus on operational efficiency and investing in the future.
Businesses must be ready to boldly face transformation and modify their business operations or even reinvent themselves to keep up with swift changes in the market.
The need to adapt quickly
Businesses are making their moves to mitigate damage and increase assurances for customers. This includes maintaining efficiency with employees working remotely, coping with new surges in demand and addressing revenue issues with customers and partners who have been impacted financially during this crisis.
There is growing concern over the possibility of future spates of Covid-19 or any other crisis of similar magnitude, and industry leaders want to be prepared the next time around and take these steps when there is a lull in the storm.
Yet Covid-19 has not only brought challenges but also opportunities.
Changes result in new customer requests
With consumers confined at home, their normal activities may have been restricted but new consumer habits have arisen to satisfy their demands.
Consumers, for example still need to stay connected and are turning to new ways to do so online. Telecoms have provided online and mobile communication to help keep people connected, entertained, educated and even to stay fit. Youtube channels featuring home workouts like Joe Wick’s PE with Joe received over 80 million visits in recent months.
We have seen a vast increase in voice calls and teleconferencing. In April, video-communication platform Zoom reported an increase in traffic of 800% in comparison to last December, while Skype reported an increase of 304% and Microsoft Teams users rose 70%. Messaging platforms have also profited during this period, and online video streaming has also witnessed a boost with Netflix traffic going up 58% and YouTube 13%. These increases have had a significant effect on bandwidth demand. Network usage is skyrocketing, and consumers want to contact their broadband and mobile suppliers but are finding difficulties getting in touch with them.
Simultaneously, many platforms like Netflix and YouTube have had to throttle their speeds to help with the massive usage increases and prevent a broadband overload. This had led to other customers having growing concerns over network reliability due to spikes in demand, connection drop-rates and lower video quality. Consumers have queries and demands but cannot find a way to get through to their service providers.
The acceleration of digital transformation has subsequently led to a simultaneous growth in customer expectations, queries and demands.
Outsourcing is not a solution
Before the crisis, many companies relied heavily on contact centers to provide customer services and sales interactions. In many cases, these enterprises looked to reduce costs by offshoring contact center resources and many intensive back-office processes. When Covid-19 induced lockdowns many enterprises were unable to use their centers overseas.
Shifting the burden to onshore centers was not the solution to the problem. Enterprises were not equipped to address the increasing demands for new domestic call centers while handling the sharp reduction in staff and with no way to hire or train new recruits.
The lack of access to workers goes in contrast to increasing customer demands for 24/7 services and via the multiple digital channels at their disposal. This is where telecoms have focused on the importance of digital self-service, automation and artificial intelligence to enhance contact center case resolutions and provide greater customer insights and real-time decisions.
New customer requests need quality interactions
Modern consumers are tech-savvy and have high expectations of the brands they interact with. Companies that are at the forefront of digital transformation also tend to consumers with the most advanced and demanding expectations.
The accelerated pace of technological development is changing customer behavior and enhancing interest in interconnected, smart and automated features. With the introduction of Conversational AI, this decade will see more than a third of the population belong to a generation that has replaced display-focused communication with conversation-focused platforms.
With increasing customer churn and a fiercely competitive landscape, companies must provide the best digital technologies and customer experience.
Such is the influence of customer support, that one-third of consumers would question their loyalty to a brand if the customer service did not meet their expectations. Equally, telco companies that provide exceptional customer journeys in their contact centers have higher recommendation rates, customer retention, revenue and a greater likelihood to cross-sell and provide additional services to their clients.
Digitalized models provide a competitive advantage
Despite the massive challenges of the pandemic, those enterprises who had adopted digital transformation are capitalizing on their highly digitalized business models and becoming very public success stories. There are winners and losers in this crisis, and this is also relative to the telecoms sector.
So, as the new normality commences, the transformative leaders in the sector will shape and drive the “new normal” for this industry, producing changes from back-office outsourcing to the delivery of customer service and interaction. Enterprises will not look at these challenges in the same way again. Furthermore, the different factors that give enterprises a competitive edge have also been altered. Where cost of operation was once king, continuity of service will be the new master.
Businesses will look to the winners and see what they can learn from them. This will have huge implications across disparate technologies, from infrastructure and security to business process automation (BPA) to Conversational AI.
There will be greater digitalization across all enterprises adapted to consumer needs and commodities, and, as a major result of this acceleration in digital transformation, companies will ensure that customer engagement and satisfaction, a clear differentiating factor in the market, is of the highest standards by staying in the front line when it comes to innovation.
New offerings: how Covid-19 has fast-tracked tech in some sectors
The Covid-19 crisis will set new changes in business operations and processes, but also in how companies serve their customers. Enterprises are seeking ways to replace physical services with digital alternatives, or at least ensuring that offerings are made with minimal physical contact.
These new offerings must move companies beyond their comfort zones, as they engage with new partners and platforms and look for opportunities to advance. But the pandemic has provided a chance to put new technologies under the spotlight to test-run their future roles in the new normality.
Artificial Intelligence has played a big role during the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments are using AI to track and predict the spread of the virus and in training for artificial drug discovery and treatments alongside pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organizations.
Natural language processing has also stepped further into the fray. NLP has been used to parse social media for posts that mention specific symptoms. Robots and drones have also been used to enter areas that are unsuited for people. The need to deploy conversational AI has also been accelerated, especially as a go-to-point for people suffering mass-shortages, distress during the initial stages of confinement, or adapting to new online services as a result of the closure of physical branches and stores.
Covid-19 has redefined how businesses and their employees go to work and interact. These changes have brought new challenges to HR and IT departments who need to find ways to support a vast number of employees across multiple time zones.
Companies have found solutions in digital transformation. With most employees unable to return to their physical workstations until the crisis is over, companies that are now relying on remote workers are swiftlyincorporating technologies, like HR chatbots and communication and collaboration platforms to maintain productivity levels.
Digital transformation use-cases showcasing the acceleration in innovation have spread across numerous sectors, some of which we will look closely at in this chapter.
Healthcare and Wellbeing
There has also been an acceleration in digital transformation in healthcare. Medical services have begun to use AI to make quicker decisions. For example, some radiologists are using AI deep learning to make a better diagnosis of chest X-rays. Telemedicine, moreover, has seen a sharp rise as doctors tend to patients remotely.
Despite existing for several years, telemedicine did not have full support from healthcare patients or providers. However, to prevent patients with Covid-19 symptoms from overwhelming hospitals and clinics, the need for virtual health advice is accelerating this option.
Asynchronous telemedicine, without face-to-face meetings is on the rise too, as are health management platforms that can allow, for example, diabetics to monitor their glucose levels via mobile apps and assistants that can provide personalized recommendations and address potential issues before they occur.
AI and Telemedicine aren’t the only ways that digital transformation has affected the healthcare sector. Electronic health records, genetic screenings, pharma IoT, wearable monitoring devices, and even robotic surgery are innovative technological advances in medicine.
Health isn’t all about medicine either. Gyms and fitness brands have turned to social media and apps to keep their businesses running, providing virtual classes, workouts, nutritional information and tools to combat stress and and motivate people at home.
The finance industry has been a big player in digital transformation and has had to adapt to new changes as a result of Covid-19. From mobile banking apps, blockchain, smart ATMs to virtual assistants and chatbots, the finance and banking is a sector that is used to embracing disruptors.
Covid-19 has accelerated the need for banks to provide new digital solutions to customers. Blockchain, peer-to-peer transfers and digital identity verification are certainly innovative technologies being newly deployed by some banks but a key challenge that has arisen and needed to be met as a result of Covid-19 was the lack of access to employees and branches as a result of confinement and the risks of future ones.
Banks have realized that sooner than later, human assistance may be reduced to a minimum in banking. Physical branches are closing, and robots are proving to the job faster, 24/7 and in some cases with advanced conversational AI, they can offer a superior user experience.
Chatbots are being used to enhance customer support, not only providing information and personalized advice, but carrying out tasks like renewing policies, handling refunds and changing credit card limits.
By assisting in preventing fraud and managing internal operations, conversational AI has also helped banks leverage both robots and humans to provide better user experiences. An Accenture report states that almost 80% of bankers think advancements in AI will enable banks to offer a “human-like customer experience”, with 76% believing that robots will be leading the way in customer interaction within the next three years.
The telecoms sector has always been an early investor in digital technology and is used to applying new business models and enhancing their global network with upgraded use of real-time data, new technologies and advanced customer support.
Telecoms have made use of several new digital transformation technologies to impact their business, including benefiting from more robust consumer analytics with Big Data, to the digitization of order management and improved IT interfaces. However, they have also excelled in turning to self-service CRMs, business automation and artificial intelligence.
In a mobile-first world, telecoms have turned to machine learning and AI, shifting their practices to become more customer centric. In a similar way as the financial sector, Covid-19 has accelerated the need to bolster their customer experience to resolve issues for customers with new demand and who are confined at home.
The demand for better broadband deals and smart home assistants has resulted in a huge increase in calls for contact centers and in telecoms using conversational AI to resolve technical issues, improve fraud prevention and increase workforce productivity by allowing human agents to focus on back-office operations and training while chatbots tend to the customer.
Additionally, telecoms have placed their trust in chatbots that can learn about customers and personalize their future interactions, providing tailored advice via multiple channels and boosting sales with promotions and cross-selling that is in sync to each customer’s likes.
By maximizing RPA integration with these platforms, chatbots help telecoms by doing more than resolve queries but also carrying out seamless operations, opening accounts, suggesting better deals and making personalized upgrades.
Media and Entertainment
As with Telecoms, Covid-19 has had a marked impact on media supply, consumption and advertising. With people confined in their homes, the demand for content, albeit streamed, live or multi-player has skyrocketed. Live sports, sitcoms and movies have been largely put on hold during the pandemic, and some brands have turned to eSports to try to engage with customers. Major advertisers in sports brands have also come under significant pressure, losing revenue or even becoming inappropriate during social distancing and confinement, as has been the case with online gambling firms who have been urged to introduce betting caps as confinement has increased riskier bets and gambling addiction to make up for lack of sporting and the closure of casinos.
Entertainment and streaming companies have surged, and the aforementioned reduction of video quality to ensure network stability has had a knock-on effect on the telecoms sector.
The growing demand for all forms of online media, while theme parks, theatres, museums and sports arenas have recorded losses in revenues, has put extra pressure on streaming platforms to release content early, while musicians are going online and depending on music streaming platforms to make up for their cancelled shows, and consumers have switched live-events for gaming and eSports.
Regarding traditional media like the press, the ongoing decline of printed newspapers has been drastically accelerated during the pandemic as they focus on their digital sites. Many online newspapers that provided free articles have had to turn to premium offerings to make up for the loss in advertising and revenues.
Retail and E-commerce
Retail has been strongly affected by digital transformation and Covid-19 has imposed further changes to this highly competitive sector. Customers expect shopping experiences to be as smooth, instant, personalized and convenient as possible. With people being confined at homes and spending a long time on their mobile devices they interact many more times with their brands through remarketing campaigns and advertising.
E-commerce and online shopping have risen dramatically, as people look for ways to buy goods without heading to stores albeit through comfort or because of restrictions. With people stuck at home, there has been a decrease in purchases of specific items and clothing such as office attire, but the search for home devices, voice-tech devices, furniture, comfortable summer clothes or groceries, for example, has risen.
With customers using so many devices and accessing their brands through varied touchpoints there is a growing need within the sector to tend to seamless omnichannel user experiences.
Digital transformation in retail has also been characterized by self-service purchases and conversational platforms that tend to customer needs are also being met with mobile notifications announcing the availability of items, VR “see how it fits” options and the ability to shop whole outfits on mannequins by scanning QR codes, in a sector that does not shy away from digital innovation and has found a greater need to find new solutions with Covid-19.
Digital Transformation Strategy
In this chapter, we examine the key steps to consider when planning a digital transformation strategy.
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Digital Transformation strategy: CIO decision-making
While most CIOs are aware of the importance of undergoing a digital transformation, there are doubts as to what the key steps are when structuring the blueprint of a digital transformation strategy.
Ambiguous as it may sound, the steps are not written on a stone tablet, and each company must set out to ensure that whatever digital transformation business strategy it embarks on is fully adjusted to their objectives, finances, infrastructure and culture, or that they are ready to undertake important changes within their enterprises to adapt to a new corporate environment.
While each business has its own way to implement technological innovations, the process can be complex and not exempt from risks. CIOs must have a clear vision and an elaborate strategy for digital transformation. Given that these strategies require in-depth analysis, risk assessments and budget adjustments, it is understandable why so many digital transformation plans fail.
Having a clear digital transformation strategy is essential. But what is it? And how do you go about planning it?
What is a Digital Transformation strategy?
Businesses must firstly establish a digital transformation strategy definition and understand what it ensues.
A digital transformation strategy is a plan of action that describes and provides a framework for how a business must strategically position itself in the digital economy. By considering new customer habits, enterprises must innovate and set out the operational and business model changes to adopt emerging technologies and remain competitive in the market.
Sure, businesses have always used new technologies to grow. But why is it so strategic and transformational today?
It affects a company in every aspect beyond the IT department, from the creative minds set out to engage customers with new user-experience and digital market tactics, to management teams that must set out to reshape a business and align operating models with new business models to increase profits, to the product itself and C-suite executives who overlook the enterprise.
Why do you need a Digital Transformation strategy?
The business landscape is constantly changing, adapting, innovating and facing disruption. Companies must be prepared to adapt to this rapidly shifting environment.
However, adopting new technologies and upgrading or bringing in new machines to the enterprise is only a part of a full digital transformation strategy.
CIOs must anticipate emerging technologies and drive innovation themselves. This is where digital transformation strategies are truly important.
One of the outcomes of planning digital transformation strategies is that CIOs can understand where their business is now, where it wants to be and set out a plan to reach their objective.
To structure a digital transformation strategy, CIOs must be fully informed of their business processes, operations and priorities, to identify the problems that need resolving, take advantage of their strong points, mitigate risks and act swiftly to execute these decisions to stay ahead of the competition.
How do you start a Digital Transformation strategy?
There are several steps to take when starting a digital transformation strategy.
Diagnose and evaluate the business
Firstly, CIOs must diagnose the state of their enterprise to determine where they are beginning their journey and identify what needs to be done to move the company forward.
CIOs must examine their digital infrastructure, recognize the critical components required for their strategy and have a firm understanding of what their current environment looks like.
This means spotting legacy systems, business and operation processes and corporate culture to identify the gaps that digital transformation can improve.
Without a holistic diagnosis of the company’s systems, there will only be isolated parts of the business becoming more digital. Without coherence and a digital spine holding the company upright, scattered projects will not lead to any tangible results beyond digitized versions of legacy processes and services and digital transformation projects will fail.
A proper diagnosis will provide the CIO with insights and understanding of the current situation the enterprise is in and the challenges that must be addressed and overcome to reach new objectives.
Set goals and objectives
It is vital to have a clear idea of what these objectives are. Identifying goals and outcomes is part of the diagnosis process.
By understanding where a company is now, CIOs can look to the future and set digital goals and achievements that will serve as benchmarks and milestones in the digital transformation journey.
Convince the top-suite
Knowing where and how the company needs to advance in its digital business transformation strategy is vital in order to encourage C-suite executives and stakeholders to buy-in to these changes.
Digital transformation cannot be taken lightly. With it affecting every part of business, all the key decision-makers in the enterprise need to support the strategy and share the company vision within the organization. This will eventually transcend to every employee in the enterprise.
With the entire C-suite agreeing on the terms, CIOs can secure funding, understanding that it isn’t a one-off procurement, but a new flow in investments that will affect the entire organization. It is important to have a budget as soon as possible as it will help structure the digital transformation strategy.
Once the CIO has outlined the gaps, strategic goals and objectives, the next step is to review and select the best tools that align with the key targets, budget and infrastructure the company has. These integrated platforms must improve the business and provide a better customer experience and be scalable in order to evolve along with the company.
Create a roadmap
With all this in mind, CIOs can finally set out to create a strategic roadmap to help achieve set objectives.
The roadmap must include assessing how to reskill employees, recruit new talent, and reframe infrastructure in a coherent plan of action. Along with this, CIOs must establish a timeline to determine how long they want to spend before measuring KPIs and results and setting the first benchmarks. The roadmap must be flexible in order to give way to adjustments if results are not up to standard.
Measure your results
Notably, the roadmap must address the key elements of digital transformation including the need to invoke a digital mindset and a culture of innovation that affects all staff and customers by adopting new technologies and using data and analytics to evaluate these strategies in order to progress.
Digital Transformation strategy tips
Knowing that you need to make a digital transformation is an important step, as is creating a roadmap and preparing yourself to carry this process out.
The most successful digital transformation strategy examples are always customized to each company’s specific needs.
Whether this is using data and advanced analytics to make better-informed marketing campaigns, updating e-commerce and digital campaign strategies, turning to cloud solutions or deploying new technologies, each company must cater to its own specific needs.
Here are six quick tips to consider when planning a digital transformation strategy.
1. Invest in technologies that will improve your business models and efficiency while bringing you closer to your customers. These solutions must be attractive for both customers and employees and make their actions easier. Kickstart digital transformation strategies by choosing technologies that are proven to be efficient as opposed to new, untried solutions. These must be customer-ready and capable of answering their demands to increase their loyalty to your brand.
2. Upgrade security to ensure that there are no breaches in the system. CIOs must not take cybersecurity risks lightly as they can seriously disrupt business operations and processes.
3. Build and trust a Research and Development team so that IT systems can be fully leveraged. While it is important to select proven on-market solutions, R&D teams can maximize the utility of these solutions in the company and play an integral part in the selection process.
4. Make use of analytics and data to extract patterns and trends. These actionable insights can raise your business to a higher level and answer corporate queries regarding system errors or customer preferences.
5. Create digital solutions that can be integrated to other channels and digital systems while offering scalability to grow along with the company.
6. Avoid legacy processes and train your staff to embrace digital transformation. As digital transformation involves the entire company, opening communication lines to facilitate inter-departmental communication when undergoing digital transformation is an effective element of a digital transformation strategy.
The Future of Digital Transformation
This chapter will delve into the industry and consumer changes we will see following the digital acceleration brought by Covid-19 and provide insights into the future digital transformation trends that will alter the market.
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Adapting to a post-Covid world
The last few years have been crucial for planning and implementing digital transformation. Covid-19 has vastly accelerated this need across all industries.
Senior executives, including the OCIO, are now fully aware that digital technologies are driving change and disruption in their sectors and that they must make decisions that can transform their business completely.
The clock is ticking. Even before Covid-19, 85% of key decision makers felt they had two years to get to grips with digital transformation or risk falling behind their competitors. 59% of business leaders worry that it may already be too late.
CIOs and the OCIO will be responsible for guiding these changes, implementing technology that can measure and respond to consumer behaviors and addressing any digital technology and skills shortages. With this, Artificial Intelligence and automation will boost efficiency, enhance customer experience and provide customer insights to reinvest in future strategies.
The future through a new lens
There were already predictions and theories of the future of digital transformation before Covid-19 brought profound changes to the markets and to the general public. Whatever was planned before March 2020 has to be evaluated through a new lens.
Customers have changed and so too have their habits, demands and work environment. When employees were sent home from work and established themselves as remote workers, new behaviors were sown that changed many aspects of their daily activities.
CIOs must be able to detect these changes, but it isn’t an easy task. New ways are being deployed to adapt the workplace to these new post-Covid conditions. For example, automation and conversational AI has proven to be effective in reducing costs, and can also free up employees from repetitive tasks, allowing them to be more creative or to focus on more complex issues that require their expertise. Innovation is key, and it must be centered on customers and their behaviors.
Consumer habits have changed
Consumer patterns have been erratic since lockdowns were introduced. Moreover, C-suite executives have had to further transform their businesses to protect their employees and serve customers who have Covid-19-induced movement restrictions.
The pandemic has seen a historic deployment of remote work that has accelerated consumer and business digital adoption by five years in as little as two months.
Consumers have turned to omnichannel capabilities and demand seamless 24/7 services. The restrictions Covid-19 has imposed means that they no longer see much value for physical branches and expect services to be provided digitally albeit through mobile, websites or other channels. The same goes for how they consume entertainment, culture and media, with cinemas, for example, putting in added effort to convince audiences to return to theatres “safely”.
These habits are here to stay. 75% percent of consumers using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things go back to “normal.”
Consumers know that their data can be used to provide personalized experiences and expect tailored responses from brands to ensure that customer journeys are of the best quality. Canned or negative interactions can put their loyalty to a brand on the line.
This puts organizations under extra pressure to innovate and make digital transformation a top priority, even though it can be an arduous task as it involves adapting whole IT infrastructures and internal workflows. However, customer-centric initiatives that allow brands to interact and reach out directly and securely to their users will be more present than ever.
Changing industries, automation and skilled human agents
Industries are transitioning. For example, during the pandemic, banks have transitioned to remote sales and contact centers have discovered that conversational AI can transform how they interact with vast numbers of consumers who cannot access branches. We will see how automation, self-service and conversational AI platforms will be responsible for dealing with customer queries and carrying out transactions and processes.
Automating processes should not result in mass job losses. Consumers still want to know that they can access a human agent if they need to. Automation will allow human agents to train to learn more specialized skills and use them, and conversational bots know when to refer calls to human agents if necessary. 68% of executives believe that collaboration between people and AI will be key to the future of businesses.
Grocery and retail stores have shifted to online ordering and delivery as their primary business. Schools and institutes have pivoted to online learning schemes. Doctors are delivering telemedicine and many businesses are looking to alter their supply chains with “lights out” policies.
Regardless of the sector, companies will need to ensure that their digital channels meet the standards set by their competitors. Digital transformation has sped up and now there is scant room for complacency.
Some industries are going to witness slower recoveries, due to factors like their sector or their geography, while other sectors have faced unusually higher demands are dealing with structural overcapacity.
Other companies may even find new opportunities to tend to unmet customer requirements. Industries are going to have to be more flexible and provide variable costs as opposed to fixed costs due to the unpredictability of pandemics or other crises, and the effects these can have on supply chains and operations.
The use of big data will be extremely valuable. Old forecasting models may not have been equipped to predict spurts of demand in crises like Covid-19, but new data recovered during this pandemic can be used to rebuild analytical models and steer decision making.
Remote work is here to stay
Many organizations have been forced to shift to remote working models almost overnight. Whilst businesses are preparing to return to their office spaces, albeit in a hybrid modality, the standards have been set to ensure that in the case of another pandemic or crisis, businesses can handle the instant mobilization of staff to their homes.
Organizing projects remotely using cloud software, holding meetings on teleconference portals, and responding to customer inquiries while providing support to users and employees digitally is now a substantial feature in current business models.
The OCIO needs new capabilities
CEOs and the OCIO need to develop new mindsets after Covid-19. Flexibility and speed have become more important than ever. Covid-19 caught many businesses off guard and showed the flaws of legacy processes and operations. Part of the OCIO’s digital transformation strategy must foresee systems that can swiftly adapt to crises.
This will also require bold decisions and the full implementation of technologies to ride out any storm. Half measures or experimental procedures will not suffice. When asked about the importance of staying ahead of technological shifts, John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO said, “Very often you have to be willing to make a big move even before most of your advisers are on board. You have to be bold. And you need a culture that lets you figure out how to win even without a blueprint.”
These decisions must also be carried out holistically, to ensure that digital initiatives cover the full range of dependencies and cross-functional mechanisms to access a business.
Ten Digital Transformation trends we will see in the future
There are many articles talking about the effect digital disruptors will have in the future. Covid-19 as accelerated the need to deploy certain technologies in a way that we can foresee what trends are urgent and will be prominent features in the near future. We have highlighted some of these trends here.
1. Data will be a bigger player than ever
We have mentioned the importance of big data in the post-Covid environment. Data and advanced analytics are going to play a key role in organizational cultures and in decision making. Business that deal with vast amounts of customer data can leverage it to provide real-time business intelligence. We will see more businesses investing in Business Intelligence (BI) software.
2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will accompany Big Data
Given that companies are going to invest in analytics and in BI software, AI and Machine Learning will help business navigate through the vast collection of data they amass. With these two, complex data can be analyzed quickly, efficiently and intuitively.
AI can use data algorithms to define customer preferences to guide digital transformation projects and rely on predictive analytics and propensity models to predict their behavior, making it a priceless asset for any company.
3. There will be a major shift to digital labor and RPAs
RPAs and Automation are nothing new, but after Covid-19 more companies will want to leverage platforms that allow them to continue uninterrupted in the event of a crisis and reduce dependence on personnel.
Many businesses will use RPA to automate tasks and upskill and boost the value of their existing workforces. Gartner projects spending on RPA software to hit $1.3 billion this year, with Forrester forecasting that there will be a $2.9 billion RPA software market in 2021.
RPAs can touch many operational processes and reduce costs, increase efficiency and relieve employees of repetitive duties, providing them with time to do more intellectually demanding tasks.
However, in order to generate the most value from RPA, businesses must integrate them with other technologies such as conversational AI platforms, machine learning and smart workflow tools to provide richer experiences and drive end-to-end digital transformation.
4. Conversational AI will consolidate itself as a key solution
Many companies have been reluctant to invest heavily in chatbots or digital assistants in the past. However, conversational AI has advanced dramatically over the years. Today, the best conversational AI platforms do more than understand messages, they follow complex conversations, can detect emotions and intentions with machine learning and natural language processing, and can carry out tasks as well as interact.
Modern chatbots can meet new customer demands for immediacy, personalization and quality customer experience. Enterprises will need industrial-grade applications that are human-like, capable and robust, while providing scalability, multiuse, omnichannel and multilingual facilities that are expected in intelligent platforms. Fortunately, these platforms already exist.
5. The rise of 5G
During 2020, 5G will hit the ground running. The biggest names in telecommunications are making sure that 5G technology will bring faster broadband speeds and more reliable mobile networks to meet surging customer demands.
5G will affect advances in smart city and smart vehicle developments as well as IoT intensive technologies, in a way that can affect multiple sectors.
6. Wi-Fi 6 will boost connectivity
Wi-Fi 6 will bring much faster processing and connection speeds to customers who are working from home or going online to carry out daily activities and entertainment. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will work collaboratively, with the former being used for outdoor activities while the latter is the preferred choice for indoor and office spaces. Wi-Fi 6 will extend faster data speeds to more devices and with vaster amounts of data than its predecessor. With more devices set to be connected to the Wi-Fi networks, faster, smarter and more efficient Wi-Fi capabilities are required.
7. User and Customer Experience (UX/CX) will still lead the way
With digital transformation success being tied to user and customer experience, business investments in digital transformation will be conditioned by these elements. Technologies that can be deployed to boost UX/CX will gain more significance now that these have become major brand differentiators.
Covid-19 has strengthened the importance of connectivity (5G, Wi-Fi 6), cloud storage, smart automation (RPA, AI) and intuitive interfaces that tend to customer needs like Conversational AI. These technologies will become prominent across all industries as of 2020.
8. Workspaces will change
Covid-19 has marked a turning point in how people work. Mobility, work flexibility and office spaces will be different from now on. Along with the need to maintain distance in the workplace and provide digital capabilities to keep in touch from remote locations, HR teams must guarantee points of contact for their employees. The importance of digital portals and AI powered support for employees has grown.
Employees will also demand more from their employers, and the precept of business needing to be people-centric also applies to them. Office tech must meet the same high standards as consumer tech, and employees, especially millennials. In a survey 42% or millennials said they would quit a job with “substandard technology”.
Millennials appreciate higher-value tasks and feel frustrated doing repetitive procedures because of outdated technology. This is where automation, AI and conversational AI can help improve the work environment, helping employees use work-technology to get their work done efficiently. For the 44% of workers who do not have basic digital skills, the OCIO will need to ensure that training capabilities are up to standard.
9. New digital skills will be required
New technologies will drive innovation will increase competition for skills in the job market. Many job roles are going to be built around functional, professional and digital skills. 90% of jobs are seen to require digital skills in the future, and 71% of executives believe the workforce is essential to their digital transformation strategy.
Organizations will focus on strengthening their digital talent base while they realign their business and operating models to adapt to the changing business landscape.
10. There will be greater respect for data privacy
Recent privacy failures from technology companies and the establishment of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, along with calls to impose stricter controls on tech giants will result in more companies having a more serious stance regarding privacy, and data security.
GDPR fines of up to 20 million euros, or 4% of the annual worldwide turnover the preceding year, show the seriousness of not complying to these regulations. Numerous companies across Europe have borne witness to this.
Additionally, while customer experience is a key brand differentiator, a customer’s loyalty, especially when it comes to providing their data, is influenced by the privacy and transparency of the brand they interact with.
Companies should be encouraged to ensure cybersecurity and facilitate opt-in or out choices in data collection schemes, though whether some tech giants will abide by this is debatable.
We have seen that whilst digital transformation is nothing new, constraints of legacy processes and cultural obstacles have often held the process back. With companies accelerating transformation throughout this atypical year, there is scarce time to further delay digitalization and to rest on their laurels.
New disruptors are appearing in the market, and businesses expect their CIOs to plan the digital transformation strategies that will deploy the best technologies according to their industry needs and to meet the standards of the new brand differentiator: customer experience.
Artificial Intelligence is playing a prominent role across all verticals and has provided relief to companies caught offside when Covid-19 brought travel restrictions and introduced mass-scale remote work. Solutions like automation, conversational AI and self-service have gained increased relevance and will remain even when the pandemic and the restrictions surrounding it dissipate.
The working landscape has been transformed and companies are currently riding the crest of new technological advances. Those that are prepared to embrace digital transformation and make fundamental shifts to take the customer journey one step further will reap the rewards.
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