What We've Learned From the Past Decade of Digital Transformation
Digital transformation and enterprise modernization initiatives advanced by leaps and bounds in the last decade and especially so in the last five years. Economic sectors across the board have adopted these innovations and financial agencies in general have been leaders in infrastructure modernization.
Business sectors have increasingly integrated digital technologies into their operations over the last five years. They have not only changed their mode of operations but improved the delivery of value to customers through a transformation of their business processes. During this period, social media, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other technologies have all had an impact on diverse facets of business operations, ranging from business culture, business structure, market, people and finance amongst others. The changes in the way businesses operate have led to the rise of new markets, the collapse of other industries, and an increasingly competitive corporate environment.
Throughout this time, digital transformation has taught us a few lessons:
1. Desktop Automation Is Not Equal to Digital Transformation
Businesses started embracing desktop automation in their day-to-day operations starting in the early 2000s. Through this automation, organizations eliminated the old paper filing methods and recorded and stored most business information in computers and shared it through emails.
However, the last decade has seem massive advances in digital technologies, where these legacy technologies have created technical debt. The resources required to maintain legacy systems has grown exponentially as a result. More technological innovations such as social media, cloud computing, AI, and the rise of low-code, no-code technologies have led businesses to rethink their strategies to remain relevant and embrace the pace of change. Digital transformation initiatives have been rendered holistic through these innovations, spanning diverse workflows and interconnected systems to integrate across different organizations. Every organization has been forced to move fast in adopting these changes to fit in the market.
We learned therefore that desktop automation is only the first step to digital transformation. Agility in adapting to an ever-changing world is what digital transformation is all about and it provides higher value use cases that benefit organizations.
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2. AI Has Created New Possibilities for Process Discovery and Data Mining
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence into human-like thinking machines that mimic human actions (pdf). A decade ago, most organizations still depended on manual analysis of information and process flows, from one-on-one interviews and first-hand observation. There was minimal workflow automation through customized coding. Manual analysis was slow in helping leaders map out the process and identify inefficiencies.
However, the advent of machine learning and predictive analytics has helped provide more accurate information insights. In the past five years, many organizations have embraced this technology in helping optimize their process flows, identify potential markets, and deliver the best to their customers. Therefore, over the past five years artificial intelligence technologies have enhanced the possibilities for data mining and process discovery. According to Marlene Wolfgruber's article linked below, 28% of organizations have identified the opportunity provided by AI and are planning to expand their process mining and intelligence technologies.
3. Business Users Play a Significant Role in Digital Transformation
A significant change is the evolving role of business users and developers in digital transformation. Unlike in the late '90s and early 2000, when only technology professionals were involved in large-scale technological changes, today everyday business users play a significant role in transformation initiatives. Without technical experience or coding knowledge, a business user can use low-code solutions to access and set up, implement and optimize projects. There is less dependency on the IT department, and focus has been shifted to empower business users to leverage these technologies and transform their organizations. As digital transformations evolve to a more sustainable digital leadership model, we will see a need for a more evolved, technologically savvy business user empowered with the ability to lead and conduct business process and technological evolutions.
Related Article: The Risks and Rewards of the Citizen Developer Approach
4. Data Analysis Is Key to Extracting True Value From Digital Transformation
Following the realization that desktop automation wasn't equal to digital transformation, organizations grew to recognize that to generate value from digitized processes and documents, they must turn unstructured data into actionable insights to help guide decision making. Organizations have now learned to classify, extract and optimize their digital data through technologies based on business intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics. The integration of insights gathered from these analytics is then used in business-critical workflows to generate process optimization and operational efficiency.
One Final Takeaway
Above all, the past five years of digital transformation has taught us the importance of agility as businesses have struggled to keep pace with change: changes in environment, changes in policy and technological disruptions. Organizations need to keep pace with changes in technologies to actively embrace digital transformation — meaning this is an ongoing effort. Digital transformation not only provides payback in terms of resiliency, simplified integration of new technology, efficient business processes and reduced costs but also helps keep pace within a changing political and social climate.
About the Author
Geetika Tandon is a senior director at Booz Allen Hamilton, a management and technology consulting firm. She was born in Delhi, India, holds a Bachelors in architecture from Delhi University, a Masters in architecture from the University of Southern California and a Masters in computer science from the University of California Santa Barbara.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of her employer.