Digital transformation is simply the integration of digital technology into every area of a business. This is a process that uses various digital technologies to create or modify processes, the customer experience and the culture of any business. Some people describe this as the reimagining of a business.
Such has been the pace of change, there have been greater advances made in digital transformation and the adoption of new technologies in the past 12 months than in the previous 12 years combined. That may seem a bold statement but we’ve all got used to describing the experiences of the coronavirus pandemic as ‘unprecedented’. And in terms of digital technology, its increasing role in our every day existence is changing the way we do life and business forever.
Digital Transformation Examples
Many technical advances were made in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic, such as the roll out of contact tracing apps in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, each compatible with the other in what was the first solution of its kind worldwide. Other advances were in response to the changing way in which people were working and living.
1. Microsoft Teams and Zoom
Take for example some of the communication platforms barely even heard of by the masses at the outbreak of COVID-19, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams that are now commonplace. No longer a niche and certainly not just for the technically minded either with everyone, young and old, quickly getting to grips with this new way of talking to each other.
Businesses meanwhile responded to the challenge of a changing marketplace by finding answers to technological and IT problems that didn’t previously exist.
2. Virtual Appointments
The emergence of ‘virtual appointments’ for a consultation with your doctor, to view a house, or even take a test drive simply would not have happened had it not been for the pandemic, while it is now normal to take part in a gym session or art class online. Consumers had long been used to shopping online, but now expect to use their mobile devices to book a restaurant, a hair appointment, or even a space in a pub.
What is most remarkable about this is that it isn’t just the major players, but all the way down to the smallest of businesses, the nail technician or the piano teacher, that have introduced digital platforms for their customers. A year ago, this would have been considered a luxurious add-on.
As the economy starts to reopen, and consumers return to high street in greater numbers, they may find it has changed forever.
3. Contactless Payments
Contactless payments have increased exponentially (account for almost 90 per cent of all eligible transactions last year according to Barclaycard) while Amazon opened the UK’s first contactless store earlier this year.
Over the coming months, the shape of the future workplace will also become clearer although it seems likely ‘working from home’ will remain in some form, requiring ongoing investment and innovations to minimise disruption to productivity and business continuity.
As ‘digital transformation’ continues apace, the challenge for businesses will be to stay ahead of the game. Those that continue to invest in new digital and IT technologies and keep up with developments in cybersecurity will be best placed to prosper in the long run.
The Future of Digital Transformation
The journey of digital transformation is always going to be a challenge. The key to success is to have a strategy in place, and then businesses will benefit from it by being able to streamline their internal operations and automate labour intensive tasks that would otherwise use up a lot of employee time. This strategy should be built around:
Here are the transformation areas of growth that we predict.
- Migration to the Cloud – more and more businesses in Northern Ireland are moving their services to the cloud and this includes their phone systems and communications, which allows working from home
- AI and Machine Learning – these can help a business to better understand their customers by providing information such as demographics, customer behaviour and better insights. AI will bring more intelligent search and better results
- Automation – this includes business process solutions, internal and external processes and reducing labour costs
- Business Collaboration – more regular use of Zoom and Microsoft teams and other similar services
- Customer data platforms – More businesses in N.Ireland are using these to manage customer information, develop marketing strategies and be able to keep data accurate and up to date
- Everything as a Service – this term has been around for a long time and essentially means providing software on demand. There are many services available