In multiple discussions with CIOs, banking and technology leaders, and the different experts that we work with from services and technology companies, the constant underlying theme is “how do we help our customers transform their business in the digital age?”
While everyone talks about it seriously, I have realized that digital transformation is like that story about 7 blind persons around an elephant, with each one describing it based on the part he or she is touching.
Digital transformation is not just about building or downloading a mobile app, building or consuming some APIs, using Agile and DevOps in your software development, using cloud for certain applications, using bots to service your customers, or having a more pleasing UI.
It is all these and more, and, in some cases, it might have none of these and still be digital transformation!
Technically speaking, we have been in the progressive digital age since the 1950s, from a definition perspective. We moved from analogue to digital when the transistor was invented in 1947 (although the Nobel prize was awarded in 1956 to Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley for this). The computers we use have long been manufactured using transistors and all software development takes place using modern computers.
This sudden buzz of “digital” in the last few years pertains to a deeper shift in focus - on business, technical and cultural levels - from previous patterns of IT application and usage, both for consumers and enterprises, and the way business focus is shifting within and outside enterprises.
The core of digital transformation, before we get into the technology or business part, is the general philosophy of truly making the user (or customer) the center of your business and technology and aligning your business strategy to users instead of companies expecting users to align to their offerings.
Enterprise IT in businesses and technology companies has traditionally focused on solving the problems of business keeping business goals at the center. Efficiency, automation, productivity and profitability have been the key drivers. Users and customers have aligned with the technologies as they were deployed by enterprises.
Three roadmaps are associated with managing this technology – an enterprise IT trajectory with mainframes, midrange, databases and IT spends. We had two different trajectories for consumers – one related to personal computing devices (PCs, laptops, devices, tablets with applications designed for these devices) and another for mobility with related software and applications.
These three roadmaps and trajectories have started intersecting only in the last few years with the advent of new technologies. Technologies like cloud, analytics, APIs and microservices have allowed enterprises to truly place the user at the centre of their strategies.
New age players like Uber and Airbnb, and fintech companies used these technologies in a disruptive combination to keep the user at the centre and meet user expectations in a way traditional business models could not.
True digital transformation essentially means a business giving the user what is needed, in the time, scale, and speed of the user’s choice.
It is a fundamental shift in the way an enterprise approaches business, customers and its technology strategy.
The goal of this shift is to have a step change, a quantum impact in six key dimensions – in orders of magnitude (10X and beyond), and not incremental change.
These dimensions are – Accuracy, Scale, Productivity, Experience, Cost, and Time (ASPECT).
Let us take an example of customer onboarding in a global bank. In the institutional banking space, full scale onboarding for all the products of a typical global bank takes between 120-140 days.
The time taken can be reduced from 120 days to 2 days (Time), in a easy to use manner for the customer without having multiple iterations (Experience), reducing the per customer cost by 80% (Cost). This can lead to a multifold jump in the number of new customers on boarded in the same time (Productivity), and allow the bank to improve reach across the globe for its services, addressing millions of customers (Scale). While the bank increases the impact on scale and reduces cost, it can still achieve the task while reducing the number of errors (increasing Accuracy), using the power of Big Data and Analytics.
Enterprise digital transformation is internalizing this shift in every aspect of business and technology, embracing change and enabling business to accelerate it.
In my next post, I will cover what is under the hood of Digital Transformation, what causes this shift and what makes it all possible.