What enterprises need to consider on the journey to digital transformation [Q&A]
Digital transformation is increasingly seen as a way for businesses to gain competitive advantage. It's often tied into the cloud and as-a-service solutions too.
But what do businesses need to take into account when starting on a transformation project? We spoke to Anthony Brooks-Williams, CEO of cloud data integration provider HVR Software to find out.
BN: There’s a lot of talk about companies enacting digital transformation strategies. How do you define that and what's driving it?
ABW: 'Digital transformation' is definitely a popular topic of conversation -- across all industries. And it's more than just another buzzword -- it's an essential component of success now. I think the best definition -- the one I work from -- is using digital technology to create or change business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. Simply put, it's the reimagining of business in the digital age.
And it's more than just optimizing current practices with technology. It's almost the reverse -- ‘how can we make the most of the available technology to change our practices and optimize our customer experience?’ The most opportunity for success comes from testing the limits of technology, rather than testing the limits of existing processes.
Companies were already enacting digital transformation strategies, but the current economic and health crisis is forcing companies to speed things up. Everyone’s trying to grow revenues and shrink losses -- just trying to keep up, stay afloat, really. 'Good enough' isn’t good enough anymore -- companies have to optimize and that requires the use of technology.
Also, the current crisis has forced companies into a distributed workforce. In order for everyone to work remotely yet stay empowered, productive, and connected, the use of technology is absolutely necessary. And adopting the cloud is a key starting point. It'll become -- in fact it already is -- table stakes for everyone.
BN: How does a company achieve success with digital transformation?
ABW: Well, since we need to speed up digital transformation projects because of the reasons I just mentioned, it's important to balance short term and long term strategies. Companies have to enact projects now, quickly, but they shouldn’t do so at the cost of the future. So, scalability is essential. Start small and address urgent needs but make sure the technology can grow with you.
Complexity is something else companies are dealing with. The best, most successful strategies stretch across multiple departments, if not the entire company. Different departments have different needs, use cases, and even customers. That requires a unified strategy that enables the use of multiple (sometimes many) technologies.
Success is driven from the top down, so to ensure buy-in from everyone, you need to start with the executive team. Cross-functionality is also important, so companies might want to start incrementally with one department. Then, through well-defined KPIs, leaders can show metrics and results so other departments will jump on board.
Also, of course innovation is a key component to digital transformation, but don't forget to look inward. What’s working already? What new technology has one department already implemented with success? A digital transformation strategy might start with the technology that one small set of users are already utilizing, and opening that up, so that many users in an organization have access to it.
Ultimately, though, talent and experience are essential ingredients. Companies need to turn to technology leaders -- and vendors -- that have been doing this for years.
BN: How do the cloud and real-time data play into this?
ABW: Data is the driving force of digital transformation. We have this data-driven business environment, so companies require constant access to up-to-the-minute business information in order to be competitive. Real-time analytics are key. And there's a plethora of technology out there to help accomplish that - not to mention the optimization of legacy and home-grown systems we’ve come to rely on.
Now, also, there's the proliferation of cloud-based technology. Adopting cloud-based solutions might have been forward-thinking even just a few years ago, but today, they’re essential components of a company’s business strategy. Cloud technology is just the way to go, simply put. It's where the functionality we all need lies, as well as the scalability that I said was so important.
Plus, as I said, the companies that are most successful in digital transformation are using many platforms and database technologies across departments within an organization. With wide cloud adoption, organizations need to deliver data from on-premise databases to the cloud as well as between clouds.
And delivering the data alone is not enough -- it must be on time, accurate, and fresh for analysis. That's where a good data integration strategy is key. A solid integration strategy will deliver the right data at the right time and help companies make informed business decisions.
BN: What's most important when choosing an integration solution?
ABW: Data is the centerpiece of digital transformation. Information is an asset. In order to improve customer -- and employee -- experience, you need to make use of all the information you can.
As I mentioned above, companies are using increasingly large and complex datasets, and that's coming from many different cloud and on-premise sources. Further, multiple departments are going to be using multiple solutions. Very few, if any, organizations will use only a single cloud provider.
So, your integration solution needs to support hybrid and multi-cloud strategies -- enabling data to move seamlessly across an organization. Also, make sure your solution has wide modern platform support. You need to avoid vendor lock-in; your integration strategy should evolve with your business as new technology comes to market. As we all know things are constantly changing and the data that you need to integrate does, too -- datasets are only getting larger and more complex.
We've also talked about scalability, as it relates to evolving data, changing business environments, and managing long term strategies. Make sure your solution is agile enough to scale with these changes.