Digital Transformation - The Road to SAPPHIRE

May 4, 2017 Rex Ahlstrom

There’s a lot of buzz lately about digital transformation — and for good reason. It’s the latest hot topic, following closely on the heels of Big Data, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, and others.  But what does it really mean, and why should you care? There are a variety of definitions, depending on who you ask, so I won’t try to boil it down to a sentence or two. Instead, let’s look at why digital transformation matters and what it may mean for your business success.

FOCUSING ON CONSUMERS

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the consumerization of IT, where consumer-based technologies have spread into the corporate world and IT landscape. Those who invest in and leverage technology on a daily basis for personal use — phones, wifi, smart home technology, wireless music and video streaming, etc. — probably feel like they’re stepping back in time when they enter most corporate environments. Worse yet, consumers who engage with businesses, whether consumer-to-business or business-to-business, quickly lose patience with poorly designed websites, lack of product or service information, and clunky buying experiences. In fact, about 70% of a buyer's research and decisions are complete before engaging with someone on the sales side. Think of your own research that goes into purchasing a new TV, refrigerator, or car.  It’s the rare consumer who walks into a store and asks someone in sales what they should buy, and it’s no different for consumers in the business world. That means the traditional view of building, marketing, and selling products has changed — with the consumer at the center of the new buying reality, and businesses forced to adapt faster than ever. 

KEEPING PACE WITH NEW DATA SOURCES

Beyond the consumerization of IT, we also see a tremendous number of new and expanding sources of data and information that complicate the traditional structured information a company manages. Smart and highly interconnected devices are dramatically expanding the sources, quantity, and types of information at a company’s disposal. Consider the impact to United Airlines’ stock following the posting of videos and tweets surrounding the recent removal of a passenger from one of their flights. Yes, it was an extreme example, but it was representative of the stream of real-time information that companies need to contend with and act upon in order to survive. Machines themselves are now much smarter than ever before, as evidenced by autonomous vehicles and equipment that can proactively predict failures before they occur. Businesses are harnessing these technologies in new and innovative ways to propel their success and outpace their competition.

In light of all of this, do you think that the majority of companies today are equipped to handle this onslaught of information? Do existing ERP, SCM, and Financial Applications implemented 10–20 years ago support these new innovations? Are reporting, BI, and customer engagement systems smart enough to inform the business and “delight the consumer,” or will consumers just abandon their old suppliers because they can’t react fast enough to their needs and the market at large? This is the new reality that businesses must deal with to grow and prosper in the 21st century and beyond — and it is what’s driving digital transformation. Technology providers that cannot help their customers adapt to this new reality and begin or accelerate their own digital transformation will be cast aside as irrelevant. “One size fits all” will no longer work when it comes to the applications and platforms that foster and support a company's digital transformation journey. The advent of rapidly deployable cloud applications for CRM, HCM, and even ERP are on the rise. In the future, application marketplaces with the ability to mix and match applications and platforms will be the norm. 

INTEGRATING DATA ACROSS PLATFORMS

I often use Apple Health, Strava, and Garmin as part of my own personal move toward digital transformation. I use Garmin devices for logging bike rides and runs, but I rely on Strava to aggregate this information in a clear and concise way afterward. I use my Apple Watch to capture cross-training data, and I use Apple Health as a digital aggregator to consolidate information from all sources. My true loyalty is not to the device manufacturers that collect localized training information, but instead to the aggregators that allow me to use it. Would I avoid purchasing a specific device or service that does not have cross compatibility with my ecosystem of providers? Absolutely.

Information, at its core, is the most critical aspect of success. There will come a day when traditional enterprise software lock-in by the big vendors will fall to the wayside. If selecting best-of-breed applications to drive agility and customer engagement becomes the norm, then the ability to deliver trusted and assured data across this heterogeneous landscape will be even more critical. Traditional master data management, integration, and enterprise information management technologies are not up to the task. They were designed for dealing with data in the old world of centralized applications, largely on-site and behind corporate firewalls.

TAKING GOVERNANCE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

The new world of Information Governance is the area of innovation on which BackOffice Associates is focused. Our view is that it’s not enough to just “govern” by capturing data policies, metadata, and system catalogs. Governance policies need to be enforced with the ability to refine and redeploy at the pace that supports a company's digital transformation initiatives. The lifeblood of this new digital reality — data — must be managed as one of the most critical corporate assets to fully take advantage of digital transformation.  

So join today’s greatest companies and be part of the digital transformation revolution. You will reap the benefits these new technologies and methods of engagement provide for delighting your customers.

About the Author

Rex Ahlstrom

Rex Ahlstrom, Chief Strategy Officer at BackOffice Associates, has over 28 years of technology industry leadership experience. He specializes in enterprise software within the data integration and information management space. Rex is responsible for BackOffice Associates’ current product strategy, marketing and technology in addition to analyst engagement and partnership development.

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