Digital transformation is the way in which companies are adopting technology, specifically digital technologies, to innovate their day-to-day business activities. As one company successfully incorporates a transformative technology, it changes the business model for all companies.
“The pace of change with digital and emerging technology is incredible,” says Monique Umphrey, vice president of workforce innovation and college-wide dean of the Information Technology Center of Excellence at Cuyahoga Community College. “The changes that will take place in the next five years will eclipse the changes seen during the previous 20 years.”
She says there is a confluence of innovation taking place simultaneously: artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, bitcoin, chatbots, 3-D printing, data science, analytics, cloning, nanotech and quantum computing, to name a few.
“Any one of these would have huge impact on day-to-day business,” she says. “Now, because their cost has dropped dramatically, any company could be deploying any number of these technologies simultaneously. Those that aren’t will soon find they’ve been left behind.”
Smart Business spoke with Umphrey about emerging technologies and the evolving role IT professionals play in companies’ digital transformation.
How are businesses being impacted by digital transformation?
Market share is where companies will feel it the most. Consumers have a plethora of choices, most of which they can comparison shop on their smartphone. That’s meant that companies aren’t competing for business locally anymore.
They’re competing against global companies because they’re essentially all accessible digitally.
And it’s not just shopping. Companies are using digital advancements to gain a competitive advantage in fields such as health care, manufacturing and more.
As the digital transformation permeates every industry, businesses can’t afford to ignore the trends. Take, for instance, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. In previous years, the average lifespan of a company on this index was 65 years. Today it’s 15 years. The average company lifespan has decreased in part because of the impact of emerging technology and disruptive innovation.
What is happening to IT departments in the face of such change?
IT departments have evolved from a cost center to a strategic partner. They serve as a collaborator by sharing emerging technologies with the C-suite along with ideas about how to use it to gain a competitive advantage.
The perception of IT personnel as people relegated to some dark room writing code or fiddling with computer hardware isn’t reality. IT personnel are strategic partners in today’s companies. Executive leadership is relying on them to have not only the technical skills, but to also be knowledgeable and be strong communicators.
They need to be able to share the basic tenants of a technology and explain its potential application to the business. They also need to be able to show personnel how the technology is used to improve workflow.
Today’s IT professionals still need hard skills, but that’s just enough to get their foot in the door. Tech skills and communication skills are needed to get the job and business savvy is needed to get promoted.
How can companies stay on the leading edge of technological change?
Companies shouldn’t be afraid of or shy away from today’s technology challenges. There are free tutorials and primers to give anyone a basic understanding of the tools that exist.
Also, educators are broadening their curriculum to make sure all graduates are digitally proficient and can understand the changes that are happening. It is important for companies to invest in re-skilling their employees. It is especially important for non-tech employees to gain digital training so that they have additional tools to solve today’s business problems.
No one needs to be a tech genius to initiate a digital transformation project. Some of the best digital projects have come from people who recognized a problem and found a creative way to solve it through technology. Learning more about digital technologies expands a company’s possible solutions for existing problems. ●
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