Along with the likes of big data and the Internet of Things, digital transformation has been one of the key business trends occupying IT professionals over the last 12 months.
The world's relentless march into an ever more digital landscape shows no signs of slowing, leaving modern organisations faced with two options: Innovate quickly in order to keep pace or move slowly and fall behind the competition.
Digital transformation is affecting all areas of business - from sales, to marketing, to HR - so just focusing on one area isn't enough. New products and solutions are being created and adopted every day, so, by taking a holistic approach, executives can ensure that this new age of business is a successful one.
The first question most people will ask regarding digital transformation is: 'why?' The most important answer to this question concerns customers. Thanks to the rapid pace of innovation, customer's wants, needs and expectations are changing and businesses are facing a constant battle to keep up. And if that's not enough, the sheer number of alternatives available means that customer loyalty is now lower than ever. If they're not getting the service they expect, they will simply look somewhere else.
From an internal point of view, embracing digital has many major benefits, including cutting costs, improving agility and streamlining operations. For example, encouraging initiatives such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) can greatly increase productivity by enabling your employees to work on the move and the power of big data analytics can be used to increase customer engagement through personalised offers or promotions.
In terms of who should be driving digital transformation within your organisation, a recent study found that involvement of CEO is vital. 51 per cent of respondents said they perceive their CEO to be responsible for the company’s digital strategy, removing issues such as a lack of skills (cited by 57 per cent), disagreement on digital ownership within the business (52 per cent) and organisational inertia (51 per cent).
Other people might say that it is the realm of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the newly-formed Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to take stock of the digital opportunities available and communicate these to the CEO. Ideally, everyone in the company - from the CEO down to the janitor - will be involved in the process, as this will help foster a culture of innovation and transformation.
Speed is key
A study released towards the end of 2015 found that UK companies are losing revenue as a result of the slow adoption of digital transformation initiatives, highlighting just how important speed really is.
This has been compounded by the recent rise of 'digital disruptors', the agile, innovative startups that have been born and raised in this modern business landscape. Think Uber, AirBnB and Netflix, all companies that have changed their industries by placing an emphasis on digital technologies and putting the customer first.
And that really is the key to all of this. The proliferation of modern technology means that anyone with a computer and an internet connection can start a business in days or even hours. The traditional advantages enjoyed by industry leaders have diminished rapidly, so leveraging digital technologies to provide the best customer experience - and doing it before everyone else - is vital.
In fact, it might just make or break your business.
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