Digital Transformation: Questions & Answers
Digital transformation has been a trend that has come and gone over the last decade. In the 1990s, we transformed the infrastructure from mainframes and green-screens to PCs. In the 2000s, we transformed the client and server relationship with virtualization. Most recently in the 2010s, we transformed via mobile and cloud technology to ensure full time access to our data and applications.
If your business goes back 20 years or more, you’ve probably lived through those seismic shifts in technology and have a tale or two to tell about each one. The reason that Digital Transformation is once again a buzz word is because most organizations have level-set based on those previous changes. You’re virtualized, your utilized apps are cloud based, and your workforce is mobile-ready. So what is the big deal this time? Hasn’t the transformation already taken place?
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with a veteran New Horizons technical instructor, Bill Jones, on his thoughts and observations while teaching classes about digital transformation. He spoke on the confusion around what digital transformation means, and how it can be utilized. Below is some of our conversation:
Q: What is Digital transformation?
A: “Digital transformation by itself is just such a broad term for a lot of people. It means very specific things, and for a lot of people it means almost nothing… [When] we're talking about the digital transformation, you're really simply saying that you know we are a business and we have processes that we do. Really when you talk about digital transformation, the process itself is really about an organization taking a look at what it does and saying ‘OK, how can we take what we do; all of these independent people, all of these independent departments, what sort of common threads can we find between net and completely replace? How can we modify or change our processes in a digital way to increase and provide value. Important part of that statement is the word value.”
“The whole digital transformation need is identify the opportunities, communicate that, and begin to build a bridge between the two.”
Q: Is Digital Transformation Necessary or is it Just a Trend?
A: “Unless you've been living in a cave, most people are aware that the greater technological application world is just nuclear; it's on fire every time. I genuinely feel like every day when I wake up there's a new app… We are a world that's moving so very quickly. We need to identify opportunities that will allow us to act and react more quickly. [The] digital transformation piece is a big one. Nobody is really giving any indication right now that they're going to start ripping the guts out of their technological infrastructure. Digital transformation is really more about a willingness to identify technological opportunities, and then seek a way to deliver them with the most value to us. I wouldn’t say it is or isn’t a trend but it is necessary.”
Q: Is there High Demand for Digital Transformation Skill Sets?
A: “Digital transformation is really 100% of us saying, 'what do we need?' We need mobility, for example; we need to be more mobile. [Part of communicating that is that] the business side will understand the need and be able to communicate that and deliverables obviously to the technological people. The other part of that is in communicating that means, ensuring that those deliverables are being met. The real transformation people are going to have is an enormous appreciation for both sides of that coin. So there's a big growth of the skill set there.”
Q: How can Businesses & IT Utilize Digital Transformation?
A: “So if we're going to accept the fact that a big part of digital transformation is identifying what's needed and if we're also going to identify that digital transformation is not going to be about isolating individual elements of an infrastructure, then what we need to do is identify who understands the big picture and who can help.
Two parts of the business are working here: The business side and the IT side. I can remember [in my experience] where the business was essentially the most ignorant part of the whole thing. I was calling all the shots and saying ‘Well you need data, here's how we're going to do it and you want this device.’ And we've seen a big shift now…where we get more value in listening to the other side and hearing them say OK I need these things.
The business side is working to figure out issues they have and where are the tools they need in the form of what their function may be. So they figure that out and then what they do is say okay, well who understands this? What is going to be instrumental in ensuring than an organization can participate in digital transformation and where the skills that are needed. And that’s IT.
The IT side is really good at being experts on servers and routers. But the digital transformation piece and where all the skill sets come from is that person that has the brain that understands both camps. The person that can listen to the business and translate that to IT and also do that the other direction. So what you're looking at here with the digital transformation we're seeing is founded off of skill sets that involve things like strategic planning, project management, business analysis, change management, risk management, etc. Because these are all of the people that can translate that business desire into our targets for IT.”
Some Closing Thoughts
Digital transformation has been adapting to the changes in the technology for nearly 20 years now, and the reasons for the changes are different but the need is always the same. Now it’s about altering the staid processes that have existed prior and taking advantage of the new set of tools you have at your disposal.
More so than ever, Digital Transformation is about gaining value from your investments and lessening the pain that your business has identified. With the insight given by Bill Jones, you can determine the opportunities your business has and achieve them.
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