New and transformative technologies were rapidly entering the workplace even before the pandemic, enabling businesses to innovate and thrive in an increasingly digital world. 

But then 2020 happened, and what was supposed to take years had to happen in only a few months or less. 

Digital transformation has been key in responding to the disruption of work and business ecosystems, and most businesses ramped up their efforts to meet this sudden change. Eight in ten organizations fast-tracked their digital transformation programmes in 2020, according to Dell’s Digital Transformation Index 2020, which surveyed over 4000 business leaders globally. In addition, 89% said the pandemic highlighted the need for a more agile and scalable IT environment. 

Here are five reasons why digital transformation is essential for any business looking to grow and stay ahead of the competition in what is now a digital-first world.

Everyone expects on-demand

Today’s customer, internal or external, expects the same kind of experience in a professional environment that they have with technology in their personal lives. But for a business, this can be challenging to achieve. There have never been more choices, both in terms of how and where to deliver applications from, and who to partner with in the delivery of services.

Businesses increasingly demand more agile hybrid IT services and agile networking capability, and getting the user experience right is a critical part of business transformation. This goes beyond just the usability of applications for employees or external customers, and includes the experience of working with the IT team and tools.

For today’s IT leaders, the need to maintain the operational discipline around security and performance will remain a priority.

Helping employees be more effective

Workforce engagement is a hot topic, especially when dealing with a dispersed workforce that may never fully return to the office. Employers are looking for new ways to create productivity improvements, with digital technology playing a pivotal role in helping employees to become more effective in their primary roles both in and out of the office.

Digital transformation provides a valuable opportunity for core business functions, such as finance and HR, to move away from manual processes and automate key areas like payroll, enabling leaders to focus on wider business opportunities.

The network’s role in supporting innovation – by enabling remote working and providing access to technology and services on demand – is critical to delivering an environment that enables employees to achieve.

But the pressure to deliver consumer-level experience, great performance and enterprise-grade security can mean that on-demand services run the risk of becoming a millstone round the necks of IT departments.

Security is a top business priority

One of the biggest headaches for many IT leaders is how to place more data at the edge of their networks, while keeping that data secure. This is an increasingly complicated task, requiring rigorous enforcement around access, data compliance and shielding from attacks. But even the most stringent security measures are useless if an underperforming network forces staff to go elsewhere for flexibility or faster speeds.

It is essential that progressive businesses implement a security strategy consistently across all networks, applications and data, whatever services or service providers are being used.

As we look beyond the pandemic-enforced remote working to hybrid working models that incorporate workers’ different lifestyle needs, up-to-date security measures are especially important. Executives will need to balance security strategies that work for in-office staff with measures that still keep remote workers on personal networks and devices safe.

To allow the effects of digital transformation to be truly transformative, CIOs should surround themselves with both business and technology partners that understand the broader business objectives and can operate honestly and transparently to achieve these goals.

Strengthen business partnerships

Demands from customers are increasing, and competition within industries is fierce. Firms are becoming increasingly reliant on each other, working with suppliers and distributors, sub-contractors and specialized consultants, with the aim of producing a diverse range of products and services that interest customers.

Managing these partners often requires document-based communication, a process traditionally viewed as an exhausting obstacle to efficiency. But technology is now available that can redesign this process. Utilizing an eSignature system can enable a streamlined workflow that is more transparent, timely and accurate. This can even bridge the gap to mobile technology, helping employees be more effective and productive day-to-day.

More visible business priorities can often take precedence when compared with internal improvements within enterprises, especially as IT departments are increasingly stretched and budgets can be tight. But this is a mistake.

Through building a digital process at an early stage and integrating the wider organisation with technology, businesses stay ahead of the curve and make themselves more available to future partners. Internal processes can become more efficient and flexible, with the ability to scale as the business grows. Over time, digital transformation produces the tools to generate time and resource gains, strengthening business partnerships.

Make better decisions, faster

Placing data and analytics at the center of a digital transformation strategy will allow businesses to take advantage of big data.

Enterprises today have access to greater volumes of data than ever before, in no small part due to the Internet of Things (IoT). With the right set of analytical tools, this data can be converted into valuable business insights that can be used to make more informed, quicker decisions. The deeper analytical tools are embedded in business operations, the greater the integration and effect they can have.

Leveraging AI-based technologies can be the key to tapping into the potential of big data. Innovations across data and analytics are constantly rising to the surface, and many harbor advanced AI capabilities which both modernize existing applications and sift through data at a faster and more reliable rate, all supporting leaders in their endeavors to make the better, faster decisions that result in progression.f

It’s nigh on impossible to monitor all the developments in IT that help facilitate digital transformations, however, a close eye on how advances in AI can support big data initiatives is a sure way to stay ahead of the curve.

Source: Cooper 2021.