It’s time to move on from Digital Transformation and embrace a whole new business life with Digital Evolution, says Colin Thornton, CFO at Turrito Networks
Digital transformation was, up until the end of 2020, the ultimate buzzword goal for the business. It topped at $6.8 trillion in investment, globally. Around 70% of organisations opted to either maintain or increase spending towards digital transformation during 2020. And 91% of businesses have made it a priority. But, as McKinsey points out, digital has to undergo an evolution as the world moves out of 2021 and into a digitally-defined future – organisations need to build new digital businesses to remain economically viable. Now, it’s time for the business to move on from digital transformation and look ahead instead to how existing digital investment can be translated into a digital evolution.
This doesn’t mean divorcing the business from the entire legacy and concept of digital transformation. It does mean that the business has to pay attention to how digital gives it more scope to evolve, more room to manoeuvre and to fundamentally change core business processes. These are important abilities in a world defined by uncertainty and complexity. The impact of the unexpected has never been more vivid, more telling, than over the past year. Traditional telephone systems were suddenly facing significantly reduced volumes and unexpected redundancy in the face of digital. Investments made by the organisation into on-premise solutions such as PABX or LANs or servers were suddenly inaccessible or irrelevant as people became digital nomads and wandering office minstrels, working from anywhere, connecting on anything. Connectivity at the office or more complex MPLS and SD-WAN solutions were suddenly under the spotlight. Companies faced difficult decisions around infrastructure, spending, data and security.
Some companies are still undergoing digitisation initiatives and exploring new ways of translating legacy systems into a digitally competent future, and few can dispute how invaluable it was during the pandemic. Organisations were shoved, some kicking and screaming, online. Teambuilding became online poker nights, documents were signed digitally or not at all, and meetings were all on video chat platforms. McKinsey has highlighted how the pandemic shoved digital forward by at least 10 years – a fast-forward button into a more evolved and digitally capable future even for those stuck in the mud companies that were only just beginning to move. While some companies are still on the digital fence, they’re rare and likely to fail. Because digital has become essential as wave after wave of the pandemic continues to impact business operations through lockdowns and illness, even the most digitally conservative decision-maker has to, well, make a decision.
Why? Because digital transformation was just the beginning. The proverbial tip of the iceberg that is now the bare minimum required to do business today. Digital and business are undergoing deeper iterations and alterations, refined and shaped by regulations and compliance, by data security and privacy. If the organisation has already made the first steps into digital, the next ones will likely be easier. They should be asking themselves what happens next, what they should be updating, what business practices need refining, and how to change technology gears from ‘cope’ to ‘thrive’.
Many platforms that were rapidly adopted over the past year have not been fully explored and features are not being properly used. Businesses will find that they can save money and become more efficient and resilient if they unpack the full potential of their digital investments. This can be further driven by compliance with acts like POPIA or GDPR and the need for building more robust cybersecurity systems. As the organisation unpacks its compliance and regulatory frameworks, it can refine its technology policies and use cases to create a digitally evolved business.
This is also the right time to look at the organisation’s data and where it’s stored. There are numerous applications, platforms, tools and systems that can add immense value, but if they’re not implemented intelligently without considering the data, then the business could end up with a multitude of systems that don’t talk to each other and minimise reporting, visibility and insights significantly. This is one of the reasons why business intelligence hasn’t quite met expectations, and why this is the perfect time for the business to evolve its architecture and infrastructure.
The future is still uncertain. The world is still teetering on the edge of a future that’s being reshaped by technology, pandemic and regulations. It is a map that says, ‘Here there be dragons’. But it is also an opportunity for the business to take what it has, what it has learned, and evolve its systems and approaches to become digitally savant and ready for whatever lies ahead.