What is Digital Transformation Anyway?

October 30, 2018

3 minute read

As far as buzzwords go, few can match the term “digital transformation” in terms of both its proliferation and its promise. Digital transformation has been touted as not just a game-changer, but a world changer. And in the business realm, failing – or even just waiting – to get on board, is often presented as a ruinous prospect.

But is digital transformation really make or break? And how can an organization get started with an undertaking as vast-seeming as a complete “transformation”? Perhaps the first question that needs to be answered is, what does digital transformation actually mean for an organization?

Transformation doesn’t mean reinvention

One of the key factors that makes “digital transformation” seem like such a vast and rather mysterious task is the word “transformation” itself, which implies the magical conversion of your business into something entirely new. But in fact, the word actually refers to transforming the underlying processes and workflows that support your business – not necessarily your core business itself.

Rather, the transformation that occurs is based upon the power of digital technologies to help you operate more efficiently and effectively. Whether it’s automating customer service functions, being able to seamlessly cordon off certain types of data for special handling in order to meet compliance requirements, or the improved utilization of data to help you make better business decisions, there are countless ways digital technologies can improve business operations and outcomes.

While such improvements can indeed be transformative, a perhaps more easily-digestible way to look at it would be to call this sort of effort “digital optimization”, where you are using digital technologies to improve many of the things you are already doing, as opposed to creating something entirely new.

Digital transformation is a journey

Another thing that is commonly misunderstood about digital transformation is that it’s not a single action that you undertake at one point in time. Digital transformation is an ongoing journey of optimization based upon business needs and emerging technology. The ultimate result of this journey is what is called digital maturity. By achieving digital maturity, your organization will be increasingly able to effectively utilize available technologies to improve its business functions and will also become well positioned to act swiftly when new innovations emerge.

Instead of thinking of digital transformation as the end goal, think of it as a series of steps that will help you to meet your objectives. The routes and means you use to get there may vary, but whatever your digital transformation path, data is your driver.

Getting on the road to digital transformation

So how do you start your journey? At its core, digital transformation is about using the one-two punch of data and technological innovations together to help you do things faster and more accurately or to improve other business metrics. As such, it’s impossible to even get started if you don’t know what data you possess.

The steps to digital maturity follow a common roadmap: first you must discover and assess what data you have, identifying both useful data and ROT (redundant, obsolete and trivial data, which can skew insights and cause inaccuracies). Next, data must be standardized and analyzed, yielding a sophisticated, holistic and organized view of what you’ve got to work with. Only then can you begin to effectively transform your data into actionable business insights.

A key challenge is that the vast majority of enterprise data is unstructured or “dark” – meaning no one knows what it actually contains. Unstructured files can hold duplicate documents, personal information that must be handled carefully, untapped insights and a whole host of information, including both valuable assets and potential landmines. Getting started on your digital transformation journey means undertaking a series of steps designed to illuminate this dark data, weeding out documents that aren’t useful, developing a sophisticated analysis of the data that is useful, and ensuring your data is in a format ready for machine interpretation.

Wrap up

Digital transformation is an ongoing process of optimizing business operations and results by leveraging new technologies. The prospect may seem daunting, but not if you consider that these improvements are an ongoing process that will continually be refined. The first step is simply getting on the road to digital transformation by developing a detailed picture of what data you have and ensuring it can be effectively leveraged.

If your organization is ready to get started on the journey to digital transformation, find out how Adlib helps enterprises in the Banking & Financial Services, Insurance, Energy, and Life Sciences industries accelerate their progress.

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