Why Digital Transformation Is a Process, Not a Destination
With the end of the year approaching, predictions and forecasts abound. And there certainly is no shortage of predictions about the major trends to come to the digital workplace.
While the insights offered are wide and varied, one common theme has emerged: digital transformation will remain in focus across industries.
Digital transformation, of course, is a very general term for the integration of digital technologies into the workplace. And there are as many strategies as there are technologies. So, what's happening now — and what's coming next?
The State of Digital Transformation
Research from Newgen Software, a company that offers a low-code digital transformation platform, found in August that among the 300 senior business and IT leaders surveyed, 27% believe they have completed their digital transformation journey.
But new technologies are coming at the corporate world at rapid speed, still, and the way we work is still evolving, which means more tools will emerge as needs develop. And with the physical and virtual worlds more intertwined every day, we should expect more digitization of our work life, MuleSoft Field CTO Prashant Choudhary told Reworked.
Businesses that have recognized this are regularly shifting their goals amid the changes that come about. Adaptation is critical. And for Choudhary, so is agility and innovation.
He believes there will be three concepts that will define the future of work: composable, connected and automated — all of which he said are needed for an organization to evolve quickly.
“Systems that underpin work should be built on a scalable infrastructure to function efficiently, and not require much in the way of human involvement,” he said. “When it comes to the work that a company’s people need to get done, the digital workplace is one where all employees have the tools and processes needed to drive business initiatives forward.”
Taken together, they form a digital-first way of operating and the essential building block for making innovation a routine part of company culture.
A Forced Transformation
Most experts agree: digital transformation is an evolution, not a goal. There is no point in the process where a company can call it done.
Kevin Shuler, CEO of IT consulting firm Quandary Consulting Group, said businesses will always need some level of digital transformation. “Idealistically, it’s easy to say, ‘you should digitize processes from the start,' but that’s not how it works,” he said.
Too many businesses create workflows based on need and budget. This is why they get trapped with spreadsheets, Shuler said. It’s only when businesses reach a certain level of development that they start looking for digital solutions. They need to see a return on their investment in the automation and integrations needed to scale. Even with tools like low code/no code systems that make application development easy and affordable, it still takes time to build out these solutions.
“For businesses that have the resources and top-down support, digital workplaces will be the standard. Other organizations will have to scale toward that goal more strategically,” he said.
The pandemic has driven an urgent acceleration in digital transformation initiatives, pushing companies of all sizes to invest in advanced technologies to survive in the new digital landscape of remote and hybrid work models.
But Scott Lamont, director of consulting services at F2 Strategy, which specializes in the development of finance tech, said that many of those pandemic-driven investments were made to "catch up" to the digitalization trend by enabling tools that had been available for years. Firms that were resistant to virtual engagement models, electronic signature and other established technologies had to make changes.
In a way, the past few years have forced companies to rethink their wait-and-see approach to digital technology. Economic uncertainty, combined with changing customer needs, has led enterprises to double down on their efforts with a renewed focus on operational efficiency, productivity and resilience.
“Most companies have developed or are developing digital workplaces,” Lamont said. “Expectations have changed dramatically, and we hear from end investors that they are establishing their digital expectations for their advisory firms based not on what they see from other wealth managers but on what they experience from Amazon, Starbucks, Google and others.”
Organizations are now working in workplaces of constant evolution and innovation within digital platforms. “We are talking to firms about continuing to invest in their digital tools, enhancing the investment that they have made into digital solutions," he said. "Digital projects no longer have a beginning/middle/end – they are a journey of constant evolution.”
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The Risk of Change
Change is almost never easy, and constant change can be a big problem.
Tim Rawlins, senior adviser and director of security at NCC Group, said that by its very nature, digital transformation is neither a static phenomenon nor a one-off initiative with a tightly defined destination. Instead, the is a constant flow of new digital technologies and channels emerging, and they require regular changes in every undertaking, from the newly remote workforce and enhanced use of cloud infrastructures, to shifting methodologies of data access and evolving compliance concerns.
All these factors, he said, will continue to play into the development of digital workplace strategies even as we face a downturn in the global economy.
“It’s possible that a digital workplace will require even more ongoing transformation than the bricks-and-mortar equivalent," he said. "Remote employees feel even more free to deploy new technologies than their office-bound colleagues, and each of those new tools — whether they’re deemed to boost productivity — will require network integration, new security protocols and new levels of support among other things."
He added that the greatest strength of a digital workplace is that it is fundamentally dynamic, but that the arrangement only works if the rest of the organization can keep up with the transformation. "It’s not really a case of whether this should happen; the reality is that it will happen, and enterprises need to ensure that their operating procedures can keep pace," Rawlins said.
This is all good, but it's also where problems may arise. NCC Group’s global research across 500 cybersecurity decision-makers found that digital transformation programs are often vulnerable to cyberattacks because of increased risk tolerances and ongoing cybersecurity challenges. Some of the figures are striking:
- 76% have increased their risk tolerances to allow changes to their operating model — such as remote work — during the pandemic
- 45% said their transformation projects had inherited legacy security issues
- 30% have integrated cybersecurity into those programs
“There’s no doubt that the pressures of the pandemic forced organizations to increase their risk tolerance and temporarily cut spending on cybersecurity,” he said. “These realities can’t be disassociated from ongoing digital transformation initiatives and the economic situation.”
Related Article: Insider Risk: What Hybrid Companies Need to Know — and Do
Workers: The Next Big Wave in Digital Transformation
During the pandemic, organizations made many quick decisions to acquire and use technologies to connect remote workers. Today, many find themselves with multiple platforms that are expensive to maintain and often don't work together, thus providing a less-than-ideal employee experience.
Dan O’Brien, senior vice president of technology solutions at digital service provider Presidio, said with digital transformation strategies in place, companies are turning to solutions to either consolidate platforms or drive interoperability to support all user needs.
"There is a big shift to hybrid work solutions that bring office based and remote employees together to provide a productive experience to drive collaboration across all boundaries," he said.