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What Exactly is Behind a Digital Transformation?

You may have had technology providers offering or promising your company “digital transformation.” This sounds great: your organization will undergo a modern renewal of cyber integrity, emerging more technologically fit than ever before. But what does this actually mean? It’s often used as a catch-all / solve-all term without much substance behind it. Perhaps this is why 70% of digital transformation projects don’t actually reach their goals. So when you undergo a digital transformation—which is indeed an important process for today’s businesses—you want to have a clear guide on what’s driving the decisions you make. Here’s a breakdown of what you should actually expect from digital transformation, and how we approach all of our digital transformation work with customers.

The Successful Digital Transformation Equation: Business Strategy + Technology Strategy + Risk Assessment

“Digital transformation” sounds broad because it is: it’s a holistic approach toward changing the way business is done—through workflow automation, customer engagement platforms, utilization of cloud resources, and other innovative technologies. In order for it to be successfully carried out, it’s helpful to think of its process as an equation: Business Strategy + Technology Strategy + Risk Assessment. The result is a transformation not only from legacy methods to modern ones, but a comprehensive rethinking of your company’s business strategy (inclusive of markets-served, customer interaction methods, and data asset realization), technology (inclusive of devices, platforms, and delivery), and security methodologies. Let’s take a closer look at each of these components and what makes them important.

Business Strategy

Man in striped dress shirt and striped socks views data and analytics on a tablet to inform business decisions.

This part of the equation answers questions like What market am I serving?, Who am I to my customers?, How do I engage with customers, and what is their experience? What data assets do I have, and how do I measure success or failure? and What should our next three years look like? It’s about digitizing workflows and processes, and switching to automation wherever applicable—with business interest as the central concern. The changes you make should enhance your business and be embedded within a clear strategy for growth and improvement. This also means looking at customer experience: How will an increasingly digital audience respond to our changes? Data and analytics are a important part of business as well. Many digital transformation strategies don’t even address this area which can be very helpful to a company—though Gartner predicts that they will soon catch on and make data and analytics a central priority. All of these business elements can be greatly improved with new digital technologies and should be fundamental questions in any transformation efforts.

Technology Strategy

Woman reviews technology strategy for her company's digital transformation.

In order to make those business strategies manifest, you need the technology to do it well—and a strategy for how to move forward with this technology. Building this strategy means asking the questions What tools are required to meet the desired business direction? Which are the best ecosystem and platform decisions? What is our delivery model? And Which technology partnerships and vendors will be most helpful? When making these decisions, it’s wise to keep in mind what our CEO Jeff Wilhelm likes to call “the three open elements”: open data interfaces, open authentication, and open APIs.

Why is this important? A lot of consulting companies will try to push every technology decision into a single ecosystem. There are benefits to this; however, we try to ensure that every technology decision is open enough to integrate with any other technology chosen.

  • Selecting technology products or platforms with open authentication aims to ensure a seamless single-sign-on experience…no silos of credentials between different applications, easier onboard and offboarding of users and management of entitlements, and the ability to enforce conditional access methods and ensure strong identity around authentication.
  • When open data interfaces exist, you are enabling your organization to gather and centralize data about usage, success and failure criteria, create dashboards and reports, have a single pane of glass for the organization, and integrate data into decision criteria in other workflows or processes.
  • Open APIs, when available, allows programmatic integrations between products or platforms. It can also ensure a standardized communication method between different applications, something that is important if you want to expose elements of a product, or interact with products outside of the way they might have been originally designed.

Risk Assessment

A chart on a monitor helps assess risk.

As digital transformation grows, so does cyber risk. Sometimes the changes made as part of a digital transformation process expose a company’s data to new vulnerabilities. So both of the above elements need to be approached with risk assessment woven throughout. In addition to your other considerations, you should be asking: What are the risks of all the business and technology decisions we’re looking at? What are the costs and benefits of various security choices, regulatory and compliance decisions, etc.? Another helpful tip is to centralize security and communications surrounding it. Just as you can benefit from a 360-degree view of your customers, such a comprehensive view is also a good idea for security and risk assessment. Again, this involves automation in carrying out these assessments and maintaining compliance, which will prove to be a life-saver as security risks increase.

Put Your Digital Transformation to This Challenge

Digital transformation has been described as a journey, not a destination. It’s much more complex than simply installing a couple of new apps, adding some AI and ML, maybe sprinkling in some security, and magically becoming transformed into a more profitable company. The entire process must look at everything through the above three prisms and be able to answer the questions that each of them presents. It’s really a transformation of the mindset that continues to expand with new technologies in ways that improve your organization. When business and technology strategies are combined with risk assessment, the shift to a new approach strengthens the company and really does transform it.

If you think digital transformation is a big buzzword, take a look at tech intensity.

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