10 Ways to Leverage Digital Transformation in 2021

2020 has been transformative to say the least, and that cuts much deeper than a new generation of people discovering Fleetwood Mac.

In our daily discourse, we have conveniently coined anything change-related as digital transformation. As we happily turn the page on 2020, companies are thinking about how to leverage digital transformation in 2021 and beyond. 

Digital transformation has been described as the conversion from everything that was analog to digital. Thought of more broadly, digital transformation is the accelerated adoption of an ecosystem of technologies that connect the human race.

Shifting technology investment 

Digital transformation has been the impetus to shift spending priorities for many companies. According to Statista, spending will decline by 8-9% in devices, PCs/tablets and peripherals this year, at a time when software spending is up 9%.

Johnson & Johnson CIO Jim Swanson notes that “analytics, technologies and software are enablers to such transformation.” The configuration of IT departments will be vastly different in the future, as companies tool up their capabilities for building custom applications that will directly impact client experience. 

Create customer connectedness

The customer journey has become very complex. Current technology allows marketers to track the movements of a prospect through a website, and arm salespeople with rich information about interests and preferences. 

Shrewd marketers are creating “connected offers” that tie together the prospect’s entire experience. Every company should reimagine their customer journey process, and ensure sales and marketing have an integrated approach to addressing every customer touchpoint.  

Ensure integration of cloud solutions 

The recent announcement that Salesforce will acquire Slack is just the latest domino in a number of acquisitions in the rapidly consolidating cloud software application market. In another shot over the bow to Microsoft, Salesforce is combining a set of applications to position as an end-to-end solution. 

Every team should re-evaluate its cloud suite to ensure a high level of integration between all software applications such as collaboration, CRM, project management and other utilities. 

Optimize automation

We are at a unique intersection in our economy. According to a recent McKinsey survey, 67% of companies have accelerated their use of automation and artificial intelligence this year. Before the outset of the pandemic, labor costs such as wages and healthcare were increasing. Today, the cost of capital is near record lows–you can get a government subsidized EIDL loan at 3.75% interest. Companies are using low-cost debt to automate their operations and replace labor with machines.  

Leverage big data

In our strategy practice, we observed firsthand that smaller private companies quickly adopted evolving analytics tools. The promise of big data is to aggregate information from multiple sources. Many of our clients have incorporated Power BI, which is easy to implement as part of their Microsoft bundle.

The implications for marketing are endless. Marketers can take data captured from websites, customer portals, vendor portals and public databases to assess market needs, find new clients or customize targeted drip campaigns based on client preferences.

New cultural practices

The rate at which digital transformation has sped up decision making is truly staggering. Entire cultures are shifting to be more nimble and agile. But that requires a different way of working, in which groups meet often to solve specific problems outside the confines of their functional areas (such as operations or sales). Management is empowering people to make quicker decisions. 

Radical new products

Google offshoot DeepMind utilized AI to outperform 100 other product teams in the development of science that determined a protein’s 3D shape. AI’s potential for understanding the genome and bringing products to market faster (such as pharmaceuticals) is just now becoming understood. AI had the potential to decide which products to take to market, how to design them and how to optimize their supply chains. 

Offer self-serve

Amid layoffs, companies have had to do more with less. This has fostered new thinking about how to staff an office, and shifted business models to promote self-serve. Customers actually prefer to have less contact with humans and expect to serve themselves. For example, the banking industry is almost entirely self-serve today.

More effective recruiting

Companies are outsourcing their recruiting function to machines.  AI searches in databases such as LinkedIn provide more accurate search results. They recognize patterns of terms used in video interviews by matching candidates to employers, often in new cities where they are migrating to. AI can track supply and demand, automate scheduling and set compensation.

Make your office safer

Companies are installing body temperature sensors and apps that will track social distancing and contact in office environments. New software will allow companies to design staff schedules based on social distancing protocols.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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