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The three layers of a successful digital transformation project
Wed, 10th Feb 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Senior managers understand the need for change. Faced with uncertain economic conditions and ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, they realise the critical role digital technologies need to play within their operations.

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
  • 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 – Cloud platforms are now mainstream

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 pandemic's impact 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 before 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, 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 entirely without cloud-based services.

Layer 2 – IT will underpin business agility and productivity 

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 far 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 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 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 challenging for everyone, yet 2021 offers a fresh opportunity. The businesses that thrive in the next 12 months will 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 – Technology will reshape the customer experience 

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 AI to VR, 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, 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.

Meanwhile, retailers, real-estate firms, and automotive companies are exploring how VR can help customers 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 vast amounts of information far in excess of those currently allowed by classical computing. On the other hand, brain-computer interfaces will allow users to control devices with their minds, opening whole new avenues of experience, particularly for those with physical impairment.

It's clear that technology and digital transformation will underpin significant changes in the year ahead. Businesses that embrace these changes and use them to improve processes and customer experiences will be best placed for success.