Welcome to Part two of our four-part series on the topic of Digital Transformation or DT. The complete series should provide a robust look at this subject in companies across the globe and its urgent significance during and after COVID-19.
In part one of our article series on Digital Transformation or DT, we explored the definition and its place in an organization. Why would this be especially important to understand now when millions of workers are home-based due to the Coronavirus? It is because Digital Transformation seeks to empower people as much as it streamlines the process. And if done incrementally can bring radical positive change as everyone buys into change.
But when the Corona Virus spread out and forced everyone in, and suddenly that morning meeting with colleagues moved to a screen with the kids and dogs in the background, it seemed like DT could easily be confused for PTSD.
Should it be that way given the tech and mobile infused nature of our daily lives?
Equinix CEO Milind Wagle found a way to reassure staff. In an interview with cioc.om, he says that COVID-19 “facilitated the creation of a ‘virtual tech-bar’ – a Zoom-enabled tech help desk that is available worldwide, 24-7. He also created productivity monitoring dashboards that track everything — from how many messages employees send, to how many meetings they set up, to the number of code check-ins they commit. Equinix also began using Zoom to host daily ‘gupshups’ or virtual water coolers where employees can check-in for casual conversations.”
While we can look at this as an ‘easing-in’ of using online tools to connect, how deep is DT in driving a company post-COVID-19?
According to research in Harvard Business Review, an estimated $900 billion was wasted of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018; this when initiatives didn’t meet their goals. Nobody wants this to be their company in the new normal.
So what do you do? How do you start or reframe your digital transformation effort? Let’s start with the methodology.
The method behind the madness
Traditional business design and process endorsed siloed departmental operations, locked departmental data, and a simplified ‘sell’ approach to customers through marketing, communications and internal customer service.
Let’s look at the example of social media. It was an external disruptive change to traditional customer service. Formalising from 2010 onwards, social media sites like Twitter became customer service channels. This forced companies to delve deeper into really understanding customers by pursuing social listening as a way to help, reassure and sell customers on an impeccable understanding of their needs.
While companies have mostly embraced social media as an external disruptive element using external resources or free online tools, digital transformation looks to incorporate a range of specialised enterprise tools to be accessed and used by employees across an organisation. This is done in a business resilient environment of supportive buy-in from executives who actively encourage real-time data decision making.
A business resilient environment is a new methodology in which to start or re-develop a DT programme. If anything COVID-19 has demonstrated to executives and workers across the world is that technology, now more than ever, carry businesses on a far deeper capacity than accepted before. Working in the cloud with simple tools to talk online, to custom-built solutions to manage customers and delivery, investments into these areas need to begin with a focus on the following:
- Scale cloud and Xaas (everything as a service) – C-suite executives and leaders move from fixed capacity to correctly embrace a targeted basket of cloud and Xaas offerings suited to their customer and organisation needs
- Boost process automation – Amidst the ongoing debate about automation killing jobs, the reality is heightened productivity for employees and executives using newly acquired time from inane tasks to use new data to make better decisions
- Improving data analytics – Real-time data analytics can be seen as ‘power carabiners’ steadily helping the company climb to new heights, spotting sharp opportunities and having a clear shot at them
It is critical to note that a DT programme or plan should be about actual transformation and not just optimisation. When embarking on a DT programme or refining existing efforts, it is worth getting the company’s leaders together to re-examine their understanding of DT and measure the organisation’s attitude to cultural aptitude for change.
The sharpest tool in the shed?
Zoom in on life today.
No that’s not online conferencing tool Zoom’s new tagline but should very well be considering its overnight exponential growth since the Coronavirus global lockdowns took the workforce home. In 2019 the company went public and was valued at $19 billion. The newstatesman.com reported late in March that, “this growth has now been far exceeded: COVID-19 meant Zoom’s daily active user base grew by 67 per cent in the first three months of this year, and the company now has a market value of $42bn. In recent weeks, its app has been downloaded more than 50 million times from the Google store alone.”
Why has this non-brand app gained immense popularity against obvious choices like Facetime or Skype?
While there have been multiple security concerns thrown into the open about Zoom’s management of customer data, its ease of use by joining with a simple click to allowing multiple users in the free version trumps the security concern.
When South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently called a meeting of the Coronavirus National Command Council, the executive team used Zoom. Executive Heads of the World Economic Forum and the UN have been providing updates on social media via Zoom. Is Zoom part of their mandated set of tools to go live? Most likely not. And the scenario could be one of the following:
- Enterprise software like Microsoft deployed throughout the organisation which provides team tools like Teams, Skype and online document collaboration – the problem: not everyone is clued up on how to use these tools or even know they are part of the package
- Every department within an organization uses its own set of tools. There is no cohesion of shared data, conventions for internal and external stakeholder management, or security protocols
- The organization has deployed enterprise software but the CTO and CEO want to use this new tool because their counterparts are using it. Security protocol? Just do it.
While we have Zoom as a contextual current example, this phenomenon can be applied to other tools and instances when using digital for transformation.
Global Leader for KPMG’s Centre for CIO Excellence Steve Bates says that COVID-19 emphasises once clear point: “All roads lead back to the IT Operating model. There is going to be pent-up demand when this period ends.”
But will companies know why they want what they want and how it will work for everything from customer service to fraud detection? A mix of trust and ethics will need to lead the way.
What do trust and ethics have to do with Digital Transformation? Find out in Part three of our four-part series when we explore the subject.
The Nihka Technology Group is a South African technology company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Group is focused on bringing the digital future to both the private and public sectors, locally and globally by delivering innovative, integrated technologies and intelligent solutions. Nihka offers end-to-end multi-dimensional consulting with an emphasis on integrating the human potential. Bringing EQ into AI. www.nihka.co.za