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In the post-Covid-19 world, digital must be more than an aspiration

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

What does the term ‘digital transformation’ mean to you?

Before Covid-19, digital transformation was merely a long-term aspiration for many businesses planning to introduce more technology – namely software and virtualisation – into their operations. But then everything changed.

Following the lock-down, businesses of all shapes and sizes have been forced to digitise aspects of their operations in order to continue servicing their customers and keep their employees connected. For example, schools have introduced online studying, restaurants have shifted to online businesses, and banks have transitioned to remote sales.

Digital transformation has become a priority for all businesses as they look to keep pace with the demands of their customers and create more flexible, cost-effective operating models. There will be no going back to the world we had known before.

There is also a confluence of technologies that is powering digital transformation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is steadily underway and encouraging cloud adoption to keep pace with technology’s rapid change. McKinsey estimates AI can deliver global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030. By 2023, the worldwide number of IoT-connected devices is predicted to increase to 43 billion.

As Covid-19 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution collide, IT organisations will have to transform their business to compete. But what constitutes digital transformation? I believe there is an 80:20 rule to follow that will help businesses embrace digital, as follows:

  • 80 per cent of customer engagement should be through digital channels, with only 20 per cent through human assisted ones
  • Processes and operations should be 80 per cent AI and machine learning-based, with the remaining 20 per cent through human involvement
  • 80 per cent of new revenue should come from new digital service and business models, with 20 per cent through traditional channels
  • 80 per cent of new revenue should come from new digital service and business models, with 20 per cent through traditional channels

Transformation starts with your workforce

Also, businesses must consider the “fail fast” and “elevate success” concepts. The ability to experiment rapidly and fail fast to solve business problems is key to innovation.

Digital adoption requires a greater focus on organisational culture and investing in upskilling employees with a continuous learning mindset. The introduction of digital technologies, like AI and machine learning, do not in any way mean that humans’ role in the business value chain is diminished. They will have to learn how to apply creative thinking to the data that can be generated from these technologies. They will also have to learn to operate the technology in different environments.

Businesses need to take note of new methodologies like DevOps, technologies such as microservices, and journeys like cloud migration. These are areas that will ensure business agility, preparing the workforce for the next significant evolution to the way they operate.

Look at new ways to engage the digital-first customer

According to research from Amdocs, consumers are using new digital channels more than ever due to Covid-19. For example, 30 per cent of U.S. consumers are using remote work for the first time, 32 per cent are taking advantage of new online food or grocery services, 29 per cent are trying new media and subscription services.

Keeping a close eye on new digital frontiers and creating unique ecosystems of offerings for consumers will be critical moving forward. This also creates new revenue streams and business models that will be at the centre of our digital future. Partnerships will be meaningful here, as well as hyper-personalisation that’s synced across customer-facing channels.

The digitalisation of IT and networks

To support advanced business operations, IT organisations worldwide must embark on transformation journeys centred on the cloud and the flexibility that this infrastructure brings. The move to cloud will also be critical for businesses as they look to keep pace with industry developments and customer behaviours, and subsequently launch new offerings or pivot.

As we fast-forward to a digital future, an era of coexistence between traditional and emerging networks will face increasing operational business challenges. Creating a transparent hybrid cloud approach (on-premise, cloud and multi-cloud), will ensure businesses can tie together current applications with the latest technologies and network updates.

However, as IT organisations embrace public cloud environments, the threat of cyberattacks and malicious hacking attempts becomes a growing phenomenon. As part of a hybrid environment, companies will need to look into security and interoperability as well.

Adopt a data-first mindset

Being able to leverage pools of data to make better business decisions is the backbone of any digitalisation effort. It’s also a way to figure out what consumers or businesses may need before asking for it. AI will play a critical role in the future of data analysis, allowing businesses to extract insights and patterns from large sets of data, then automatically making predictions and decisions.

Applying artificial intelligence to all of the data that your business collects, will help it make critical business decisions and also keep pace with an ever-changing, connectivity-first society. For example, communication service providers can use AI technology to monitor network traffic and identify any issues before they occur in high-risk locations, like hospitals. Video content providers can use AI and data analysis to quickly create new offerings based on an understanding of what consumers are enjoying and demanding during lock-down.

Inject intelligence into operations

You may have heard the term of ‘technological singularity’, where technology’s rapid evolution outpaces what humans can comprehend. Operations will also have its own singularity event, due to the increased pace of real-time demands and machine learning’s increasingly vital role. This is when AI will be needed to automate processes with a focus on continuous learning, development, and governance, across every aspect of the business.

To stay one step ahead, businesses will have no choice but to implement AI-driven operations, focusing on making continuous improvements to IT environments. It’ll be the only way to remain adaptable and respond faster to change.

Any business transformation is a jump into the unknown, but those who continue to think ‘the old way’ will be left behind. This is especially true as Covid-19 thrusts us all into a digital-first world. Those who take steps to evolve their business can move into the future with agility and adaptability.

Avi Kulshrestha, President of Global Services Division, Amdocs (opens in new tab)

Avi Kulshrestha is President of Global Services Division, Amdocs.