Digital Transformation: Definition, Trends, and Everything in BetweenCarl Johanson
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”, stated eminent scientist Stephen Hawking.
As we embrace a century where Silicon Valley no more possesses a monopoly over innovation, new technologies springing up from different corners of the planet are either knowingly or unknowingly transforming every aspect of human life. Interestingly, these diverse and sophisticated technologies are often united by a common aspect: the integration of digital technology into their functionality. Whether it is hailing a cab or performing surgery, digital technologies have invaded and disrupted every legacy industry that was previously assumed to be “uniquely human”. This broad trend of digital technology being integrated into everything is what Digital Transformation is all about.
Digital Transformation, put simply, can best be defined as “The application of digital technologies to enhance & manage efficiency, value, and risks associated with a product, service, or practice”, where “Digital Technology” refers to any technology that operates electronically and possesses capabilities of measurement, computation, and/or automation.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: WHY THE BATED BREATH?
The inability to adapt to modern digital technology has already put massive industries such as Taxi and Retail into deep water thanks to Uber and Amazon. Clay can be molded into anything but a pot cannot. Waiting to integrate digital technology until after our products and practices are already cast in stone can result in a taxing scenario that may or may not unfold desirably.
This, however, brings out a new question: How do we know if a particular aspect of our business is ripe for digital transformation? The key lies in watching out for the latest trends and identifying if our work fits them or vice versa.
TRENDS IN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Digital Transformation is being spearheaded through a combination of software and hardware advancements. While the list of advancements is endless, the most promising technologies fall under one of the four umbrella terms described below briefly.
1. The Data Science Trio
The Data Science trio refers to three advancements related to data science that are arguably causing the greatest disruptions across various industries at present. These three technologies are:
A. Data Analytics and Big Data
Data Analytics refers to a set of qualitative and quantitative methodologies used to study and extract knowledge from raw data and use it to guide business decisions. Big Data refers to gargantuan data sets that contain important information and patterns hidden among large heaps of supplemental data. Both finite data analytics and big data analytics are applicable in virtually any scenario involving a database and sufficiently large amounts of data. Scores of companies are currently hiring armies of Data Analysts to crunch through their datasets and help them improve/organize their practices and services.
B. Machine Learning
Machine Learning refers to the concept of giving computers the ability to learn on their own without human intervention. The primary usage of machine learning is to teach computers to recognize patterns on their own in cases where human analysis is too slow, expensive, or even impossible. Machine learning has thus seen itself being employed in recommendation engines, market analyses, spam filters, network security solutions, and more. Any organization that has data-based assignments which are large & repetitive (or) involve some form of identification tasks (or) a combination of both the above, should consider exploring machine learning solutions.
C. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence refers to a computer possessing the ability to perform a task or tasks in a manner that is just as effective or even more effective than a human being doing the same. While machine learning deals with a computer studying data and merely outputting what it has learned, Artificial Intelligence deals with a computer studying data and taking decisions/executing tasks based on certain pre-programmed instructions. A.I is best implemented in any scenario requiring high speed and high precision decision making and task execution.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
“Internet of Things” or IoT refers to a network of interconnected physical devices and sensors that collect data and exchange it with one another using the internet as a communication platform. IoT networks allow for low cost embedded systems to be deployed into physical environments where they can continuously collect information, relay it, interpret it, and act on it accordingly. IoT helps in achieving a scenario where all variables of a physical environment can be mapped and each constituent device’s functioning can be made to depend on said variables or outputs from other device(s). For this reason, IoT has found immense value in health-care, smart cities, and smart homes.
3. Remote Work Environments
High skilled employees are very often not available at the desired location of a firm or may sometimes prefer to work from home. In the digital age, it makes no sense to compromise on talent by restricting hiring & work to a single physical location. Whether it is employees situated halfway across the world in a satellite office, or an employee situated half way across town in their own house, technological advancements such as video calls and internet-connected project management software allow us to send work to employees themselves when the reverse is not possible.
4. Block Chain Technology
The finance industry is currently undergoing one of its largest transformations in history – thanks to blockchain. Blockchain refers to a distributed global database spanning across millions of computers all over the globe. It is not controlled by any central authority and uses state of the art cryptography to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information such as transaction history. Blockchains have already been implemented to create cryptocurrencies (e.g. Bitcoin) which are unregulated digital currencies that offer alternatives to traditional currencies. Cryptocurrencies are used widely due to the unmatched security and freedom they offer in trading any amount of money, big or small, without having to face any bureaucratic trouble.
5. Other Promising Trends
Beyond the technologies discussed above, there are several other technologies promising digital disruption of legacy industries. Some of the most promising trends are:
A) Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
VR works by simulating entirely new environments digitally while AR works by imposing simulated elements onto real environments. Both VR and AR find already finding application in the fields of gaming, health-care, and warfare.
B) Internet-Based Media & Advertising
Although internet-based media & advertising is already mainstream, most companies still prefer to spend more on print and TV platforms. As the world continues its tectonic shift to Internet-based consumption, firms such as Netflix and InMobi are already capitalizing lucratively on internet revenues for media and advertising content respectively.
The essence of Digital Transformation can be encapsulated into “adapt or die”. While the 19th and 20th centuries saw unprecedented developments in mechanical and electrical technologies, the 21st century belongs to digital and electronic innovations.
Transforming your organization to a much more digitized environment is not only recommended, it is essential if you do not want to be left behind.