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Digital Transformation | Towards the Next Revolution

Michael Behr

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Digital Transformation

As the world shifts towards a digital future at a faster pace than many planned for, it is vital to ensure that the human experience is at the heart of the transition.

The Digital Transformation Virtual Summit 2020 brought together an exciting range of speakers from across the tech industry to share their views on how the world is adapting to digital technologies.

If there has been one lesson from this year, it is that business as usual is no longer viable. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the growing use of digital technologies meant a radical rethink of organisations and strategies was necessary, both to ensure new technology was properly utilised and that no group was left behind.

Covid-19 has forced companies to deliver digital strategies on a far shorter schedule than they planned, delegates heard, while customer bases and audiences have also evolved.

As such, organisations that understand the ever-changing needs of people and the opportunities offered by new technology will likely prove the most successful.

Crossroads

Session 1 at DT2020 looked at the latest trends brought about by the digital acceleration and how technology can help organisations adapt and recover.

Kicking off with a ministerial address from Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, we heard how Scotland’s economic recovery from the coronavirus needs to be technology-driven.

She said that the country is currently at a crossroads. With Covid-19 having accelerated the rate of the digital transformation, we need to decide whether to maintain the rate of change or take our foot off the pedal. Forbes said she was in favour of keeping digital transformation rolling.

We also heard from Accenture Interactive Head of Innovation Mark Curtis about the future of technology, and Lloyds CDO Louise Smith about accelerating organisational transformation in the face of Covid-19.

Together, they made it clear that, despite technology being a key driver of digital transformation, human beings had to be at its heart. Curtis warned that people are facing a crisis of relevance, and technology is partly to blame. With the pace of technology accelerating, employment risks from AI and alienation due to social media, it is easy for people to feel powerless in the face of change.

“We see relevance as being a guiding theme,” Curtis said. “We think that businesses that focus on helping people feel and become relevant, that’s both employees and customers, will be the businesses that gain business advantage over the next 10 years.”

Transformation

In the second session, Border Crossing UX Managing Director Esther Stringer spoke about how to evaluate and communicate a transformational vision as the world undergoes such unprecedented change.

She was joined by Lingo24 CTO David Meikle, who looked at how AI and machine learning can be used by businesses, and by CDO at the Scottish Local Government’s Digital Office Martyn Wallace, who discussed the impact of digital technology in local government.

During their talks, it became clear that the digital transformation is not simply about grafting new technologies onto existing systems. To fully leverage the potential rewards, radical rethinks and restructurings are needed.

In many ways, 2020 is the perfect time for this. As so many crises arrive at once, this is forcing organisations to adapt on a far more urgent timescale. While the temptation is to get bogged down in reactionary thinking, the speakers agreed that now is the time to proactively form and follow plans to manage the digital transformation.

Part of building an effective strategy for adopting digital technology is to focus on goals – why are we doing this and who will benefit and how?

“Users first – build the transformation around the user,” said Wallace. “The user has to be the heart of everything you do and you have to understand what is the actual problem you want to solve. You might assume a lot of things at your current roles, but do you know what the customer wants, what’s the customer experience like when they interact with your business?”

Recommended

With intelligent decision making such an important part of the digital transformation, it can be difficult for organisations to ensure that they are making the right decision. By using artificial intelligence and automation, management can move away from repetitive tasks to focus on leadership and planning.

People First

The final session of the day tackled consumer attitudes and their increased scrutiny of brand values, trust and ethical responsibility.

First to speak was Author and Sustainability Strategist Betsy Reed, who talked about some of the key environmental and social issues that companies are tackling in their sustainability strategies.

She was followed by was Head of IT at SSE Iain Dougan, who looked at the role the digital transformation has in saving the planet. Finally, Topolytics CEO Michael Groves’ talked focused on using digital technology in the waste industry.

The discussion moved towards survival – not just how companies can survive the digital transformation but many of the social and economic challenges this year has brought. As brand values become more and more of an issue for customers, ensuring sustainability is embedded in a company’s business model is vital to attracting an audience.

It is this audience involvement that is crucial to successfully implementing sustainability strategies. Transformation cannot come from the top down – it must involve everyone in an organisation, including employees and users.

With the digital transformation dovetailing into the energy transition towards zero-emission power and the circular economy, technology has the power to completely restructure society. However, it is up to the people involved to ensure the change is one for the better.

Ultimately, everyone has the power to make a difference. It is when people cooperate and coordinate that major movements coalesce to create a true social and technological revolution.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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