The two key pillars of digital transformation

Is looking forward rather than back the best way to keep the opposition at bay?

Any rugby fans out there – especially the Irish ones - will no doubt of heard about Ireland’s historic 40-29 win against New Zealand earlier this week, finally defeating the mighty All Blacks for the first time in 111 years.

It seemed appropriate then, that today I found myself at the home of rugby – London’s Twickenham Stadium – for BMC Exchange, where the conversation centred on the ever-pervasive subject of digital transformation.

Paul Appleby, executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing, eloquently kicked off proceedings by leaving us in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge facing businesses: “[Digital transformation] is a discussion that is not unique to this room, this city or this country. It’s a discussion that is taking place all around the world.

“This whole dialogue about digital business, this whole dialogue about the digital economy is pervasive. It crosses geographical boundaries, it crosses cultural boundaries, it crosses industry boundaries and it’s a dialogue about an imperative for all of us. An imperative for us as IT professionals, an imperative for us as business executives, an imperative for us as societies and economies to look at the nature of the dynamics of change and prepare our organisations, prepare our people, prepare our societies for the changes that are occurring as we speak.”

After speaking about the so-called fourth industrial revolution and the scale of digital disruption taking place within all industries, he asked an important question: “What do we really mean by digital business?” The answer, he said, is split into two pillars:

  1. Using digital technologies to “protect, preserve and future-proof our existing business” from the new start-ups and disruptors that are changing whole industries.
  2. Leveraging digital technologies and disruptive business models to create new opportunities and revenue streams. Or, as he put it, “new frontiers of value.”

It’s the second point that I think deserves extra attention. Of course businesses first and foremost have to protect themselves from extinction but the real value comes from using technology to expand and grow, to enter new markets, create new products and grab new opportunities that were previously out of reach.

There’s only so long that businesses of any size will be able to fend off competitors without moving forward into something new and, with the pace of innovation showing no signs of slowing, the gap is getting smaller and smaller.

As Ireland showed against New Zealand, it might take an act of bravery or a moment of inspiration, but looking forward could just be the best way to keep the opposition at bay.

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens