Baking success into digital transformation
Tue 19 Jan 2021 | Ezat Dayeh
Cohesity’s Ezat Dayeh outlines his recipe for a successful digital strategy in 2021
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of directors want their organisations to accelerate digital business initiatives, according to analyst Gartner. But CIOs looking to turn this desire for digitisation into a reality must prepare the right mix of ingredients.
These preparations for successful and long-term digital transformation involve three layers: learning lessons from 2020; building on the business requirements for further data-led change; and delivering better customer experiences through emerging technology.
2021 brings hope of new opportunities for C-suite executives. CIOs and their IT teams who get the right mix now can bake success into their digital business strategy. Let’s look at those layers in detail.
Layer 1 – What happened during 2020: Cloud as the new normal
It’s fair to say that the IT department and the business have sometimes had an uneasy relationship. While certain functional lines, like finance and marketing, can be sure of their seat at the top table, IT has often been viewed as the poor relation to some of its business peers. Rather than being a core function, technology is seen as more of a service to the organisation.
All that changed this year. When the impact of the coronavirus pandemic became clear, IT stepped up to the plate – and hit great shots time and again. From establishing remote-working capabilities, to helping the business move to online collaboration and onto creating new electronic channels of delivery, CIOs turned a crisis into a defining moment for digital teams.
Now everyone at all levels of the business understands the value of technology. While some executives prior to COVID-19 might have recognised the potential of technological disruption, the rapid pace of transformation through 2020 has given all board members a first-hand appreciation of a well thought-out digital strategy.
Executives that might previously have seen digital technologies as hype, bluster and a drain on resources have been brought onside. After all, just think of what might have happened if the power of the cloud hadn’t been available. Business operations changed irrevocably during 2020, but they would have ground to a halt completely without cloud-based services.
Layer 2 – What will happen during 2021: Building on the demands for further transformation
This new-found recognition of all-things-digital is great for CIOs and their IT teams. They’ve finally been accepted as a business essential. However, the battle is from won. Technology has proven its value at a time of crisis – now it needs to prove its value time and again in a new normal, where a combination of digital, data and the cloud are the building blocks for agile business models.
In many ways, this is the stage when digital transformation gets really serious. 2020 proved the cloud and a whole range of digital services could be relied on to keep the organisation running and its data moving. The board will now be looking to CIOs to use digital technology to take business transformation in all kinds of exciting directions.
That might mean creating the workplace of the future, where employees work in a hybrid way with time split between home and office. It might mean using data analytics to explore new customer delivery channels and to develop new ways to delight clients. Or it might mean moving into new areas of operation altogether, using digital and data to generate innovative business models.
2020 has been tough for everyone, yet 2021 offers a fresh opportunity. The businesses that thrive in the next 12 months will be those that use technology to undergo not just a digital transformation but a continual digital evolution. The board has seen the game-changing power of tech. Now it is time for CIOs and their teams to help create a brighter future.
Layer 3 – What will happen in the future: Using technology to deliver great experiences
The final layer is where CIOs use digital technology to power a permanent transformation in the way customers experience the world. A whole host of emerging technologies – from artificial intelligence (AI) to virtual reality (VR) and from quantum computing to brain-computer interfaces – will help to change the way we use and experience technology forever.
Some of those advances might seem a long way off right now, but tell-tale signs of the potential for these advances can already be seen. Consumer-facing companies use data-powered AI bots to interact with clients on web channels. These information-intensive services make it easier for companies to automate basic requests and to pass more complicated interactions to human specialists.
Retailers, real-estate firms and automotive companies, meanwhile, are exploring how VR can help customers to try products and services before they buy. Want to check how a new sofa might look in your lounge, or maybe picture yourself in a new car? VR can help with that – and we can expect more data-led advances in this area, too.
Even further into the future, an innovation like quantum computing will allow businesses to process huge amounts of information that are far in excess of those currently allowed by classical computing. Brain-computer interfaces, on other hand, will allow users to control devices with their minds, opening whole new avenues of experience, particularly for those with physical impairment.
There’s much for CIOs and their teams to look forward to. The successes they’ve had this year will set them up for new opportunities next year. For those that grasp the mettle, success could be baked in.