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What Is Digital Transformation?

In the first of the four Industrial Revolutions, steam power was the disruptive technology that changed the world. In the second, it was the assembly line; in the third, it was the computer. Today, we are in the fourth Industrial Revolution and it is digital. Intelligent digital technologies like AI and machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) networks, advanced analytics, and robotics have the power to reinvent how we work and do business – and how companies engage with their customers and the world. 


Modern digital transformation takes existing business processes and systems and integrates a digital technology stack that is customised for the unique needs and goals of each business. Digital transformations are business transformations – they begin with good communication – with clear goal-setting, strong leadership, and solid change management strategies.

In the pre-digital business era, documents and images were shared on paper and produced by manual means. As a result, corporate data generation was minimal. But with the rise of e-mail and word processing – and the launch of the World Wide Web – data volumes began to burgeon. Digitisation was in full swing. In response, tech industries raced to produce more memory, faster processing, and increasingly useful and relevant hardware and software solutions – and thus began the rise of the modern digital enterprise.


Today, intelligent business technologies have evolved to where they not only automate all the processes and devices across a business, they also deliver powerful analytics and real-time insights on the best ways to optimise and improve those processes, every day.

Intelligent technologies are built for integration – with each other and with existing processes. New devices, modules, or applications can gradually be integrated into the tech stack – becoming part of the cross-business network. And if the business model changes or an unexpected risk or opportunity rears its head, an intelligent network can automatically adapt to deal with it in real time (and use predictive analytics to anticipate it in the first place).

  • Deep insights to inform real-time decision-making: For many businesses, assessing performance and ROI has often been a backward-looking process. By the time data is gathered, processed, and manually analysed, the ship of opportunity has long since sailed. With modern ERP and advanced analytics, businesses can see real-time data and customise powerful analysis algorithms to make the best decision in the moment.
  • Improved efficiency and productivity: IoT network devices and machines continually transmit data, machine logs, and performance reports. Through the application of advanced analytics, this data can support predictive maintenance and lowered downtime and deliver insights for more productive and efficient workflows.
  • Enhanced customer experiences: Your customers want their needs met on their terms. Personalisation, omnichannel access, customised service plans, and real-time access to data can help you deliver to their expectations, while helping you increase leads and drive retention and loyalty.

Improved resilience and greater agility are two of the most powerful motivators for digital transformation.

  • Increased resilience: Improved resilience and greater agility are two of the most powerful motivators for digital transformation. In 2020, the consulting firm BCG published a paper that talks about how the pandemic called attention to existing operational weaknesses and how businesses are more motivated than ever to embrace digital solutions as a means of delivering greater resiliency and flexibility.
  • Sustainability: Digital transformation gives businesses the tools they need to achieve their sustainability goals. Smart technologies allow companies to capture and analyse complex datasets from all areas of their global operations. With these insights, businesses can assess processes such as raw materials sourcing, fuel efficiency, shipping and logistics practices, and much more. Using the power of AI and modern business systems, companies can build supply chains and business models that are predictive and resilient, and that grow increasingly more sustainable and transparent over time.  

By 2018, over 89% of executives had adopted a digital-first business policy. At the start of 2020, that number had only grown. However, the fact is that many digital transformation projects get stalled. But it is not the technology that challenges the process – it’s the strategy. Misaligned goals and poor communication are the leading causes of slowdowns in this process.


Common questions about digital transformation.

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