Ask ten people what digital transformation is and you’ll get seventeen different answers.
Another exchange might go something like this: “Wait, what do you mean by digital transformation?”
Digital Transformation as a concept dates back to the late ’90s and has been a popular buzzword for so long that it borders on cliché.
At its core, digital transformation covers so many different topics across so many generations of technology that it’s nearly impossible to define.
In this post, we’ll talk about how digital transformation has changed, the current drivers and benefits of digital transformation, and six trends that you should keep an eye on as we move deeper into 2022.
Before we go any further, let’s try to get a baseline definition.
Salesforce describes digital transformation as “the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”
That’s a good starting point but still doesn’t really get us much closer to answering the question holistically.
It does, however, answer why digital transformation is so hard to define.
Digital technologies have changed immensely over the course of 30 years, as have market requirements, customer experiences, and everything else in Salesforce’s definition.
For instance: 30 years ago, it would be perfectly normal to expect a package to take anywhere from two weeks to forever to arrive—what’s more, you’d take it on a matter of faith that it would arrive with absolutely no insight into the process.
Now, the moment you order something, you expect to be able to track it from the second the order is placed until the moment it is sitting on the table in your kitchen.
Tom Seibel, CEO of C3.ai, observes that it’s easier to describe digital transformation through examples as “the scope of digital transformation and its implications are still evolving, and its impacts are still being understood.”
Thus, defining digital transformation today is easier accomplished by describing the various trends that make it up.
Much like the movie Jaws will always make a “best movie of all time” list, the same holds true for artificial intelligence. As long as there are lists of technology trends like this one and true AI isn’t fully baked, it will continue to make the list.
AI has been in the conversation with technology-enabled information management for well over a decade now. Nothing much has changed since we reported back in 2020 after ARMA, that getting AI right still a ways off. Former ARMA President Jason Stearns observed during an episode of Out of the Box Live that “AI is a tool and it is getting us closer to where we want to be but we’re not there yet.”
But that doesn’t mean it won’t be important. Look for AI to make the list now and again in 2023!
Another entry on this list that’s not likely to surprise many readers – expanding the distributed enterprise.
Real estate will likely be driving many digital transformations this year as investments and divestments are made in technology and talent. Supporting a reduced or distributed workforce will, in large part, inform an enterprise’s digital strategy.
Chief Digital Evangelist for Salesforce, Vala Afshar, said that because “the workplace has rapidly evolved, and with it, employee expectations — organizations [are forced] to deliver digital‑first and connected experiences to drive productivity and retain talent.”
If your information management program is held back by physical files, check out our remote learning resources to start transforming your program into one that works wherever your employees are.
While many enterprises moved to the Cloud for certain functions, this is likely to become an enterprise-wide initiative in 2022.
“Augmenting the abilities of remote and hybridized workforces will remain a key trend,” writes Bernard Marr, “but we will see ongoing innovation in cloud and data center infrastructure too.” More specifically where data is kept will be a big part of the conversation, as regulators and government officials in the United States and China suss out where data is allowed to be kept, by whom, and for how long – raising huge privacy concerns.
Conversation around cloud investment isn’t going to peak next year though. International Data Corporation noted in their IT industry predictions for this year, “By 2023…Managing, optimizing, and securing diverse cloud resources and data sets will pose the most critical IT operational challenges for IT organizations.”
In 2020, a lot of digital transformation of physical interactions happened rapidly, without a lot of forethought or planning.
This year will see a continuation along that journey to bridge the gap between the physical and digital customer experience.
“Frequently, the digital journey is designed in isolation from the physical,” writes Chris Gianutsos for Ad Age, “it includes post-sales usage, service and support journeys as well. While it is obvious that a great purchase experience that is broken when someone needs help can lead to retention issues, organizations often don’t think and execute against those end-to-end journeys.”
Those that can do this successfully will be the ones to succeed as IDC’s Rick Villars observed that “organizations that deliver digitally optimized experiences for work, play, and health spaces will establish a long-term advantage in capturing and retaining customer loyalty.”
Robotic Process Automation or RPA are used to quickly automate UI-driven manual tasks.
In the short-term, this can provide a lot of quick wins for organizations looking to free up resources. Over-reliance on RPA in any digital transformation strategy can result in technical debt and end up backpedaling an organization on their digital transformation journey.
“Organizations will have difficulty expanding RPA within their company in order to move from pilot projects to a large, digital workforce,” writes Amelia Scott of TheNextTech, “due in part to the heavy maintenance and RPA support loads required to service large numbers of automation in production.”
Those organizations that implemented RPA over the last few years will be spending the next few figuring out how to orchestrate them at scale.
Gartner noted in its 2020 technology trends that no one of these trends or technologies will replace humans. Hyper Automation, instead ”involves a combination of tools, including robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent business management software (iBPMS) and AI, with a goal of increasingly AI-driven decision making.”
These processes can’t be those isolated ones to small, one-off areas of an organization, though.
From an information management perspective, this means automating. Building a modern records and information management program requires process automation, such as automatically indexing documents by metadata. Likewise, the system should automate repetitive workflows as well as provide self-service as much as possible to free employees’ time for more strategic work.
These six trends are only some of those that make up the overall world of digital transformation this year.
Understanding which trend to capitalize on will be as unique as the challenges enterprises will have to tackle.
One thing’s for certain though… digital transformation is no longer an option, it’s an imperative.
For additional guidance on digital transformation: