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By Tim Lawes
“Tidy on the outside, tidy on the inside” is a childhood saying that applies, funnily enough, to companies seeking to implement digital transformations.
That’s because, to get digital transformation right, managers have to look inward at how they use applications and information technology (IT) tools in their internal operations as much as they focus on deploying new technology and enhancements to their customers. In other words, companies should treat their employees like customers if they want IT that exceeds their expectations.
Once leaders see the scope of the transformation necessary, they still need help. IT service management practices and solutions that are flexible enough to serve both employees and customers simultaneously, while learning lessons from both sides and applying insights companywide, requires the latest innovations in artificial intelligence.
Companies have been undergoing digital transformation for more than a decade. Defined as replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital technologies to transform services and businesses, the trend has been compared to the fourth industrial revolution.
It shows no signs of abating, either. In a McKinsey survey last July, two-thirds of senior executives said they were increasing investment in automation and AI either somewhat or significantly. At the same time, digital transformation grew almost 18 percent last year, according to Acorio. Businesses surveyed said it was their top concern.
But another McKinsey study of companies found that, while more than 80 percent were implementing some kind of digital transformations, less than 30 percent reported success defined by improved, sustainable performance.
The research suggested paths forward, however.
Companies that reported success had five broad elements in common, all of which involved looking inward while transforming themselves. It also noted that these successful companies deployed more technologies than those who didn’t look inward and used more advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the latest in machine learning.
Employees Are Customers
AI is poised to bring IT transformation to the next level, widening success rates by enhancing both internal processes and external services.
For example, at a time when companies have teams and assets around the world that often use different cloud-based applications, they need a single system that captures knowledge and tracks inventory in a central repository while providing a seamless IT support experience for employees. AI can now help in delivering those tools and scalable solutions at a lower total cost of ownership compared to the clunky systems of the past that many companies still cling to today.
Moreover, guess who else is also spread around the world but needs quick and easy ways to collaborate with your company in an easy-to-use unified platform? Your customers.
Different iterations of the same AI tools that your employees utilize greatly improve customer service and experience and, therefore, sales. That’s why Gartner recently posited that, by 2025, those employing AI in customer service will increase operational efficiencies by 25 percent.
Using AI to improve workflows that boost productivity while magnifying customer engagement and satisfaction are at the heart of digital transformations that put companies at the vanguard of their sectors.
New Normal = Normal
The global coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated digital transformation but expanded it because such a large portion of the population moved to remote work and many companies were forced to rethink their business strategies.
While businesses and employees rose to meet the challenge of doing daily business in a new way, it’s also not going to be easy to get folks back to the office when the pandemic is over. For example, other research estimated that up to a quarter of the workforce in advanced economies could work from home post-pandemic, or four to five times as many as before February 2020.
To stay competitive and grow to meet or prevent the challenges of tomorrow, getting the right digital tools and implementing them across an organization – not just the IT department – is critical. That might sound disruptive. After all, many executives view IT solutions as technology that should be solely owned by IT departments alone. But such a view often creates barriers in companies, leading to unsuccessful attempts at creating digital transformation.
Their mistake? They look for incremental efficiencies for the purpose of short-term cost-cutting instead of enterprise-wide solutions for the future. Instead, successful enterprises deploy service and asset management solutions that leverage the latest advances in AI, machine reasoning, analytics and automation to unleash greater productivity within their IT service – and across the organization – to improve efficiency, productivity, predictability, and control.
That means leadership across the organization working with and across all departments. It means the entire organization, including the IT department, thinking about business goals. It means thinking of IT as a true partner in the business. Most of all, it means thinking big.
The digital transformation of enterprise is the disruption of our age. The pandemic ensured it won’t stop anytime soon. To ride this wave without burning out, companies have to be nimble, adaptive and quick, possess the right techniques and tools and, lastly but not least, look inward. Companies are used to disrupting competitors. But to transform and get ahead of the curve through a digital transformation, they will have to disrupt themselves.
Tim Lawes is senior manager for solutions consulting at Symphony SummitAI. He has more than 10 years in the software industry, helping both the private and public sectors achieve their goals through public speaking, training and consulting work.