Everybody knows someone who has a stack of 3½-inch floppies in a desk drawer “just in case we may need them someday.” While that might be amusing, the truth is that relatively few people are confident that they’re making satisfactory progress on their digital journey. The boundaries between the digital and physical worlds continue to blur — with profound implications for the way we do business. Virtually every industry and every enterprise feels the effects of this ongoing digital transformation, whether from its own initiative or due to pressure from competitors.
What is digital transformation? It’s the wholesale reimagining and reinvention of how businesses operate, enabled by today’s advanced technology. Businesses have always changed with the times, but the confluence of technologies such as mobile, cloud, social, and Big Data analytics has accelerated the pace at which today’s businesses are evolving — and the degree to which they transform the way they innovate, operate, and serve customers.
The process of digital transformation began decades ago. Think back to how word processing fundamentally changed the way we write, or how email transformed the way we communicate. However, the scale of transformation currently underway is drastically more significant, with dramatically higher stakes. For some businesses, digital transformation is a disruptive force that leaves them playing catch-up. For others, it opens to door to unparalleled opportunities.
Upending traditional business models
To understand how the businesses that embrace digital transformation can ultimately benefit, it helps to look at the changes in business models currently in process.
Some of the more prominent examples include:
- A focus on outcome-based models — Open the door to business value to customers as determined by the outcome or impact on the customer’s business.
- Expansion into new industries and markets — Extend the business’ reach virtually anywhere — beyond strictly defined customer demographics, physical locations, and traditional market segments.
- Pervasive digitization of products and services — Accelerate the way products and services are conceived, designed, and delivered with no barriers between customers and the businesses that serve them.
- Ecosystem competition — Create a more compelling value proposition in new markets through connections with other companies to enhance the value available to the customer.
- Access a shared economy — Realize more value from underutilized sources by extending access to other business entities and customers — with the ability to access the resources of others.
- Realize value from digital platforms — Monetize the inherent, previously untapped value of customer relationships to improve customer experiences, collaborate more effectively with partners, and drive ongoing innovation in products and services,
In other words, the time-tested assumptions about how to identify customers, develop and market products and services, and manage organizations may no longer apply. Every aspect of business operations — from forecasting demand to sourcing materials to recruiting and training staff to balancing the books — is subject to this wave of reinvention.
To seize the opportunities ahead, businesses must go beyond sensors, Big Data, analytics, and social media. More important, they need to reinvent themselves in a manner that is compatible with an increasingly digital world and its inhabitants (a.k.a. your consumers).
Here are a few companies that understand the importance of digital transformation – and are reaping the rewards:
- Under Armour: No longer is this widely popular athletic brand just selling shoes and apparel. They are connecting 38 million people on a digital platform. By focusing on this services side of the business, Under Armour is poised to become a lifestyle advisor and health consultant, using his product side as the enabler.
- Port of Hamburg: Europe’s second-largest port is keeping carrier trucks and ships productive around the clock. By fusing facility, weather, and traffic conditions with vehicle availability and shipment schedules, the Port increased container handling capacity by 178% without expanding its physical space.
- Haier Asia: This top-ranking multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company decided to disrupt itself before someone else did. The company used a two-prong approach to digital transformation to create a service-based model to seize the potential of changing consumer behaviors and accelerate product development.
- Uber: This startup darling is more than just a taxi service. It is transforming how urban logistics operates through a technology trifecta: Big Data, cloud, and mobile.
- American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO): Even nonprofits can benefit from digital transformation. ASCO is transforming care for cancer patients worldwide by consolidating patient information with its CancerLinQ. By unlocking knowledge and value from the 97% of cancer patients who are not involved in clinical trials, healthcare providers can drive better, more data-driven decision making and outcomes.