No longer is digital strategy in the hands and minds of CIOs alone. A recent CEO study from Price Waterhouse Cooper indicates that 86 percent of CEOs consider digital transformation their number one priority. 

Digital transformation is, in essence, about enabling your business to develop new models to create disruption by quickly transforming products and services, empowering employees and optimizing operations to compete, lead and grow in your market. It’s not just a trend but rather a reality business leaders need to know, understand and harness.

Business leaders are looking for ways to improve customer engagement and connection through investing in emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), self-service analytics, smart machines and sensors, virtual reality, digital agents, bots, and language and speech recognition. These, and many other technologies, are blurring the lines between physical products and virtual experiences, which is creating intense pressure on IT organizations to accelerate bringing these technologies and solutions to market.

IT teams hear they must be more nimble, innovative, collaborative, iterative, cloud and mobile-ready. There’s a push for higher business-value emphasis and quicker impact. Reducing costs and resources on legacy applications or platforms is critical to allow for more time and investment dollars to focus on newer business solutions that will deliver higher impact and ROI.

The 4th Industrial Revolution

The vast increase in newer emerging technologies is creating an unprecedented volume of opportunities for business innovation, generating a significant inflection point, perhaps even the next industrial revolution.

Consider how a world-renowned soccer team with 500 million global fans bridges the gap between the fans at a stadium watching a game versus the fans watching the game on TV via an innovative mobile app. Or, how a top tier manufacturer reduces cost by adding sensors to every one of their thousands of engines to blend data sets and predict engine performance at any time anywhere in the world. How do they do it? It’s about data, knowing the customer and enabling the employee with technology.

Disruption has become the new normal as companies are becoming market leaders by developing new mobile offerings and implementing digital business models that transform a given industry.

It All Starts with Data

Access to information is becoming a commodity. A recent International Data Corporation (IDC) study indicated that in 2015 the world created 10 zettabytes of data and projected in 2025 that number will be 180 zettabytes. Enabling the right information at the right time to the right people via the right device is the real challenge. To solve this, companies must determine how to assemble, organize, structure, analyze and compute available data while identifying the right end-user audiences, such as customers, employees, consumers, dealers and suppliers. Gartner calls this data challenge the 3 Vs: Volume, Velocity and Variety.

Going beyond IT, enabling business users, leaders, senior executives, CEOs, COOs, and other audiences with business essential content will be the strategic differentiator. Designing such a predictable analytics environment for these types of audiences is vastly different than designing one just for IT or a subset of business users. Without question, this is a complex path to navigate and companies that can find their way will surface at their top of their industry.

Becoming Customer-Centric is Key

The digital transformation challenge means establishing a far deeper understanding of customers. This isn’t a quick project but rather a lifecycle that starts with establishing a 360-degree view of each customer. By leveraging data, a stronger picture of a customer’s buying behavior and preferences comes to light. This data can lead to the delivery of personalized experiences that customers have come to demand. Incorporating best-in-class CRM tools means sales and marketing teams can perform at the highest level. Approaching all brand interactions via your web site, app and other mobile tools with the customer experience in mind begins to elevate customer engagement.

Agile Means Speed to Market

Digital transformation can become a competitive advantage and market differentiator, but time is of the essence. Businesses are racing to be first to market to introduce disruptive solutions.

According to an HP survey, agile work styles are trending toward the norm. The 2015-16 survey of over 600 professionals states that some 90 percent report working in some form of an agile environment to release products into the market at a much faster pace.

By leveraging an agile-based approach to development of new technology solutions, businesses can become more nimble and push iterative versions of solutions into the market faster.

Empower Employees

Without question, today’s workforce is more mobile than ever. Enabling employees to do more is often a forgotten competitive advantage. 

From cloud technology that enables mobile workers to access the tools they need to collaboration platforms for global teams, businesses must equip teams with the ability to work from anywhere on any device. Consider this, a study by Statista states that by 2017, the total number of mobile phone users will rise to 4.77 billion.

According to The McKinsey Global Institute, eighty percent of organizations see a big gap between current workforce capabilities and future business requirements. Add to this there will be a shortage of 40 million skilled workers globally by 2020. Organizations need to reimagine human resources by leveraging newer technologies that enable better access to company information and collaboration tools to dramatically increase intra-organization learning. Centralizing, consolidating and simplifying the most frequently used content will accelerate actions and decisions, anywhere, on any device.

Begin the Transformation Today

How does your business take the reins of this digital transformation? It all starts with a digital strategy that factors in key ingredients including data, customer engagement initiatives, operational efficiencies and employee enablement. By partnering with a firm that offers a holistic end-to-end view of the modern digital landscape, your business can jump into this next digital revolution with both feet headed in the right direction.

Robert Lescano is vice president of solutions for Allegient.

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