I’ve been talking about Digital Transformation for a while now, and recently I had an epiphany:
There’s nothing new about the idea of transformation. Businesses have been evolving and responding to change since they first appeared. That we refer to the current period of evolution and disruption as “digital” points only to the fact that Information Technology (for example, machine learning, the Internet of Things, big data, etc.) is the enabler and accelerator for business changes instead of steam power, electricity, the combustion engine or even the printing press. Some think of this as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Yet, the question of how to navigate and survive this period of transformation still looms large in the minds of business leaders, technologists and digital transformation peddlers alike. Certainly, there’s no quick answer.
Change of mindset
“Your customers are transforming without YOU“
Instead of seeing transformation obstacles and inhibitors and trying to find ways around them, I prefer to view this as a period of huge opportunity. The chance for everyone to innovate, differentiate and survive into the future by creating and adding more value to customers and employees.
Of course, not everyone can survive and it’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the biggest, most successful, businesses around today will not be here in a decade thanks to their inability to innovate or differentiate from the smaller, more agile competition. Small businesses now have global reach and are unencumbered by the weight of a large corporate structure holding them back from trying new things, from surviving.
No matter how you decide to view this period if you do nothing then keep in mind: your customers are transforming without YOU.
The democratisation of tools
There’s a close link between digital transformation and cloud, and many could be forgiven for thinking that they’re one and the same. A clear and well-defined cloud strategy is crucial to any digital transformation plan, but it’s about more than simply shifting traditional IT into someone else’s data centre and saving money.
In the last 18 months, many technologies that were previously out of the reach of many businesses due to cost or lack of skills have not only become available but they’re cheap, easy to use and often overlooked. By taking technology such as machine learning and creating simple but powerful “off the shelf” services such as the Cognitive Services APIs that Microsoft offers, even the least technical person in a company can start to build powerful applications that can make a real difference to a business. It’s these newer platform services, connected to the existing data that businesses are sitting on, that can help a business evolve to thrive in a mobile first, cloud first world.
Betting on tomorrow’s world
We all need to start somewhere. Building bots and developing complex machine learning algorithms to enhance your services takes time. For many small businesses, the barrier for entry may seem too high – but it won’t for long. Whilst you may not have the completeness of vision to know exactly what you need to do today, there are some quick projects you can undertake that will fuel your ambitions:
- Take some company data and connect it to Power BI to create an information-rich dashboard.
- Import your FAQ content into a QnA bot and create a powerful and simple chat bot for your employees or customers.
- Empower your shift workers to be more in control of their work life by implementing Microsoft StaffHub.
Digital transformation doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult or scary. After having a go at trying some new ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about how you’re approaching things.