Readers of Workflow magazine are ahead of the crowd when it comes to the concept of digital transformation. Most have first-hand experience at using IT-led automation to accomplish things like opening up process bottlenecks, ensuring policy adherence, and generally getting more done in less time.
Still, too much of the focus has been on using IT to solve problems. Not enough attention has been paid to the “opportunity” side of the ledger: using digital tools to envision and execute on new ways to help our businesses, and those of our customers, continuously improve our operations and results. I believe that this is where the true power of digital transformation lies.
As a starting point, to help us enable customer success, digital tools must be both accessible and easy to use. They must be available without burdensome permissions or costs, easy to grasp without extensive training, and clearly applicable to the tasks and challenges we face every day. They must be, fundamentally “human-centric” and enable interactions, not just transactions. IT “solutions” that don’t meet these tests aren’t solutions at all. They will not be used, or they will be used only grudgingly, and won’t justify their expense.
Additionally, digital tools must be intelligent – that is, they must provide visibility into a company’s own core operational processes, and those of its customers, and they must include the analytical power to understand how those processes are performing.
Intelligence, in turn, is of little value if it isn’t accompanied by adaptability. By this I mean that we can no longer settle for hard-coded, rigid processes that can’t be fine-tuned as business needs evolve. And this fine-tuning can no longer be just the province of IT. IT teams must be able to trust that key executives, managers, and end-users can use and adapt their software tools as they identify better ways to do things. Software that doesn’t support this kind of adaptation gets in the way of innovation.
Besides being accessible, intelligent, and adaptable, digital tools must enable deep “connection.” They must be able to reach across individual, business, and IT boundaries to connect people with everything they need. They must connect enterprises with their partners and customers. They must connect disparate applications, systems, and platforms. And they must do this natively, easily, across all types of structured and unstructured data, without complex integration projects. Integrations are a particular threat because they are slow, expensive, and fragile both initially and over the long term.
Developing these digital tools – tools that are easy, intelligent, adaptable, and that enable deep connection – isn’t something we undertake once, finish, and check off a list. The tools themselves can evolve with our businesses, helping us to continuously improve business operations and the customer experience. It is this ability for continuous improvement that constitutes true digital transformation.