Technology certainly has its fair share of buzzwords. If you have had your ears open over the past couple of years, you have undoubtedly heard the phrase “digital transformation.” If your experience is similar to mine, you have not only heard about it but also read about it and seen ads for webinars about it. Vendors often use the phrase to get their products in front of you with lines like “this technology will help you in your digital transformation strategy.” Like most buzzwords, however, many of us don’t know what they actually mean and what the real impact is on the work we do.
According to George Westerman, MIT principal research scientist and author of “Leading Digital: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation,” “Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance.”
Some salient words in this definition really help us frame what digital transformation will look like. The first one that draws my attention is the “radical rethinking.” We have all used technology in our businesses that changed some of what we do. Often, however, it is a minor change. Moving from typewriters to computers made all work easier and eliminated the need for the traditional typing pool. However, it did not radically change the work we do or the way the business operates. That is typically because we would put technology in place, but not improve the work or skills of people and also never change the process. Often we would use technology to mimic the previous methods — again, not a radical and fundamental change to the business.
As integrators (external or in-house) try to make their value known to stakeholders, we have to be able to demonstrate to our clients how AV can support a digital transformation plan. I believe that some of our roles will actually start to be consultants with businesses on how technology can advance their digital transformation.
A significant factor in digital transformation is data and analytics. With digital transformation, business leaders are going to be asking “why” and “how.” Why should we spend the money on this and how is it going to transform our business? We will have to be able to provide them with tools to answer those questions. In particular, we are going to have to offer them services that collect and analyze data. We will be offering them live dashboards with the data they need. This may mean integration firms will need to learn some of the analytical tools like Power BI and Tableau, and design systems that provide data to these tools. In the past, the data collected would have been about the ROI of the technology — i.e., did the technology get used? — now we should expect firms to be asking for data on things such as efficiency and effectiveness of videoconferencing. Are we hitting, or improving, our sales targets when using the tech? What type of environmental impact are we having by using these technologies? The data will be used not to assess the value of the technology as we did in the past, but the value-added to the business and the ROI on the rethinking that’s been done.
Digital transformation will allow companies to grow territory that used to be out of the question. This will happen with explosive growth in telecommuting and remote work. We think we understand this now, but even today, we see a small number of professionals who work remotely. As firms start to think about efficiency and cost, we will see them begin to consider shrinking offices and permanently putting people into home offices. This will change, from allowing a few salespeople or an employee with family needs to work from home, to doing this with the entire company. To be relevant in this new market, we will also need to be very fluent in IT. If you are discussing unified collaboration with your customer, how can you do that without understanding and being ready to discuss Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom? Being consultants on using various technologies to keep the feel of a local office in place, after moving to a virtual one, will be a critical piece of what we do.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality offer real potential for digital transformation. They allow our customers to change relationships with their customers, and this will continue to evolve as businesses can save money and create better experiences with customers. Imagine home builders, renovators or designers that can allow their customers to tour a new house in virtual reality, picking out furniture and placement and making changes to the design. This will eliminate unexpected results, expensive and time-consuming fixes and unhappy customers. AV firms should become very familiar not only with the hardware associated with AV and VR but also the software. Being able to provide a complete solution, including the content, will be a valuable offering for integration companies.
The biggest lesson to be learned from the buzz around digital transformation is that for most of our customers, business as usual will no longer be acceptable. Our customers will be looking to use technology to change their business in revolutionary ways, and we will need to be prepared to help them with that.