Home / Opinion / No shortcuts in digital transformation

Digital is for everyone—government agencies, large multinationals, small entrepreneurial ventures, consumers, students, farmers. Digital technologies enable us to reach a larger audience, interact with that audience in ways we couldn’t earlier, understand our stakeholders better, improve customer service, fuel innovation, and access information and insights that help us lead better lives and produce better results at work. The possibilities are immense and the low barrier to entry has made it easy for anybody to ‘go digital’.

A true digital enterprise takes a strategic and not a piecemeal approach to digitalization. It cannot be about implementing digital technologies as an extension of an existing process without transforming the process end-to-end.

A company may have adopted cloud technologies to break down silos in the supply chain and provide its executives better visibility into inventory and track shipments. But without integrating data analytics of actual buying patterns into forecasting, the company will not be able to predict demand accurately. A company may have an active Twitter handle to take customer queries or complaints. But has it empowered its customer service teams to take quick decisions and avert potential crises?

Without the right strategy and the right culture, adoption of digital technologies will stay half-baked, and hence either be of limited value or a complete waste of effort.

An organization’s move towards digitalization must be rooted in a digital transformation strategy that allows it to re-imagine its business and be better prepared for change. A pro-active digital transformation strategy, rather than a reactive or incremental change helps businesses acquire digital maturity—choosing the right technologies for its unique needs, changing its business models to today’s market needs and building a talent pool with the right skills.

Digital leaders across industries are those that have a firm digital transformation strategy—one that is driven by the top management—to guide their digitization efforts and a culture that accepts change. With better visibility of market trends and the ability to adapt to changes faster, these companies are better prepared for market disruptions.

Even the most successful businesses are at risk of losing their relevance in the absence of a digital transformation programme. In 2016, 29 companies fell off the Fortune 500 list due to market volatilities. A digital transformation programme can be a security blanket around a company as it battles uncertainties.

The success of a digital enterprise also relies on how well it utilizes the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These technologies allow businesses to significantly speed up service delivery, improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance customer service.

There are a lot of misconceptions around these technologies that we can address only by demonstrating the benefits they provide corporations, customers and nations. Take the example of a bank’s credit approval process. By deploying robotics to process loan or credit card applications, the bank can not only hasten the process but also make it error-free and hence risk-free. The end result is higher customer satisfaction, better control over the bank’s revenue and lower incidence of bad debts in the economy.

We are using artificial intelligence and robotics to automate processes that are repetitive, error-prone and rule-based. The outcome of these low-skill jobs improve dramatically when they are done by machines. However, since these technologies are impacting jobs, we need to create conversations around them and help clear misunderstandings. Digital transformation will be effective only if you have the right talent to complement these latest technologies. Learnability is a critical success driver in enterprises today.

They can achieve it only by creating a culture of learning, in which employees are encouraged and rewarded for acquiring new skills.

Organizations recognize industry domain knowledge and data analytics as critical areas for talent development. The business process management (BPM) industry is headed vertical-specific, which means companies prefer BPM partners who offer industry-specific services rather than services that are common to all. Looking at the huge demand for data analytics, specialized MBA programmes in analytics would address the burgeoning demand.

Each industry must identify skills that are going to be in demand and step up their skilling programmes to match it. Formulating a strong digital transformation strategy that allows a company to transform its business, implement the right technologies and build the right talent is a herculean task. Rather than going solo, companies must join hands with a strategic partner for better results.

Keshav Murgesh is group CEO of WNS Global Services and an executive member of Nasscom.

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