The need for doing digital
The need for digital can hardly be overstated. India is particularly poised to take advantage of digital technologies as they have the potential to add economic value of $550 billion to $1 trillion per year by 2025, and create millions of well-paying, productive jobs. The critical need of the hour is to stop thinking and start doing digital.
It is, however, important to recognize that digital leadership is effective for companies only when it creates value—for their customers, partners and employees. The traditional view of ‘going digital’ was to first impact operations and then evolving up the technology pyramid to arrive at a design change of processes. The primary aim was efficiency and reduction in costs. The business process improvement strategy was often overlooked as the technology teams typically jumped into operations deploying a set of digital tools. This mindset is precisely what led to failed implementation and reduced business value in the past. Organisations, in their attempt to jump onto the digital bandwagon, have rushed to adopt various siloed technology components before defining the problem they were trying to solve.
Today, the entire thought process has been inverted on its head. Addressing design is now the first port of call in the new-age digital businesses that intelligently connect people, things and business, to create a wow experience for their customers. The result is simultaneous growth in revenue and reduction in costs.
The proof is out there. A well-known retail chain experienced the impact first-hand when it turned its online sales platform into a unique mobile experience—and moved its infrastructure to the cloud, leveraging a digital platform that combined several digital tools, including the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, blockchain and big data analytics to create a better experience for its users as well as optimise the supply chain. The result was a significant increase in revenue while reducing operating costs to a third of what they were before.
This business value is not trivial. There is potential for disrupting business-as-usual on a large scale.
In the public domain, digital services can blend seamlessly with the physical reality of urban spaces, optimising energy, vehicles and assets across the urban footprint to improve the liveability of public spaces. Likewise, production at an agriculture farm can be monitored digitally, thereby allowing informed, intelligent decisions that can prevent crop spoilage, increase efficiency and drive sustainability. For large manufacturing companies, cognitive processing of data—without having to wait for the data to be pulled out and processed offline—can empower the workforce to fix critical problems in real time.
How digital leaders can accomplish this
It is true that digital technologies, especially IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and big data analytics, are reaching maturity. They are no longer the stuff of science fiction and have become very real in our lives. Individually, all these technologies provide tremendous value. However, when combined under one unified orchestrated platform, the business value that can be derived is pushing the envelope of possibilities.
It is possible today to track and report on every detail of vehicle fleet operations covering thousands of vehicles to establish safety and 100% transparency with customers. This requires collection and processing of millions of data points through IoT, telematics and predictive analytics.
Digital leaders are seeing possibilities and realizing them across diverse aspects of our lives, such as prior warning of an impending earthquake to the phones of citizens, personalization of sales experience across millions of customers, improvement in the last-mile water supply through proactive management with predictive analytics and machine learning, and so on.
What sets digital leaders apart
While technology is core to digital transformation, it is the mindset that sets digital leaders apart. This mindset involves focussing on design thinking and business outcomes and bringing about a paradigm shift from merely looking at individual transactions. This is made possible today by the availability of technology platforms that extend the organisations’ digital core with adaptive applications, big data management and connectivity. Digital leaders understand how these digital platforms can connect their people, processes and things to deliver ‘experience’ to their customers and ‘efficiency’ in their processes. Digital leaders realise that digital transformation needs to be viewed in a holistic manner that impacts end-to-end business processes, creating delight at every user interface, and delivering real business value.
Deb Deep Sengupta is president and managing director of SAP, Indian subcontinent.