Digital transformation is in full swing. The cloud, social media, mobile phones and big data are the great drivers of our era, in which the digital and physical worlds are merging. Consumers are already living in a digital world. How do you ensure that your organization remains in touch with their wishes?
Most people no longer even think twice about the fact that they are almost constantly on line. All day and night we check our smartphones for work, to buy products and share experiences. We are already living in a digital era in which we are connected to everything and everyone. Questions are answered with lightning speed, and the products we order are sometimes delivered on the very same day. When the Internet is briefly unavailable, many people feel as if there is no water coming out of the tap. Consumers want personalized products and service, fast. For businesses, it is more important than ever to know what their customers want. If they don’t, they may be facing the same fate as companies like Kodak.
Digital transformation is about the changes and impact made by technologies on business processes, business life, on people and on society. A digital business uses digital networks to support relationships with its employees, customers, suppliers and other parties. In an advanced stage of digital transformation, smart machines and sophisticated analytics are linked in order to optimize the entire supply chain. In the digital world, everything is measured and the resulting data is used to make automated decisions.
Most companies are not at this stage yet. To make strides towards the future, new opportunities for mobile applications, social media and big data have to be employed. This is easy for start-ups to realize, but it is more difficult for companies who will have to modify their way of doing business. They will need to replace or expand their traditional pathways for production, sales and marketing to provide customers with faster digital service.
In all industrial revolutions, pioneering technologies are the drivers of change. However, in the end it is people who have to work with these new technologies and the collaborative processes that these entail. A new culture of business must include people like millennials who know how your customers think. Organizations with an open culture and an entrepreneurial mentality can respond more quickly to market developments. In a culture like this, management and employees keep each other abreast of significant developments.
Information is power. A great deal of information is present inside and outside companies. Consequently, it is vital to stay attuned to clients at all times. The technological possibilities and conduits have to be in place as well. The data generated by this interaction, possibly combined with other data, can yield valuable insights. This involves a whole range of techniques, from the analysis of click data in a web shop all the way to measuring consumers’ product preferences on social media.
New technology can be of assistance here, not only in communication between businesses, customers and consumers, but also in facilitating coordination between employees and among machines. Businesses produce a constant stream of data, from purchase orders and payment records to data on oil pressure in engines and vibration levels in machines. Because sensors have become so much more affordable, a wealth of data can now be harvested with a minimal investment. By using big data, visual analytics and business intelligence, data from various sources can be analyzed and used to help make the right decisions.
One excellent practical example is the large Australian cattle and beef producer AACo. The company employs big data, sensors and mobile applications to manage its assets when monitoring cows and water pumps. This makes real-time decisions possible. Thanks to JD Edwards and tools like smart watches, employees can locate the cattle and check the status of the water pumps. This gives the company a much better hold on its assets. Additionally, AACo is no longer the sum of many separate businesses; all of its components are now fully integrated.
Decision-making can also be fully automated, as with stock management. Trek Bicycle has performed an interesting concept implementation test. They have placed a sensor at a supply location that communicates the stock level at the location in centimeters via the Internet. If the current stock level is lower than or identical to the quantity ordered, the sensor ID is translated into an item number. A check for outstanding purchase orders is immediately made. If there are none, a web service prepares a new purchase order, and the buyer is notified by email at the same time.
It may seem like science fiction, but there are plenty of opportunities for digital transformation. The only thing holding your company back is its current success. The better things are, the less impulse there is to get started with a new way of working and thinking. The world has already changed. Now it’s your company’s turn.