Digital transformation – What’s next for business’ biggest buzzword?

With so much hype around digital change, it’s surprising that a recent global survey of IT professionals revealed only 8% of enterprises consider themselves truly digitally transformed and 23% are still in the early stages of their ‘digital transformation’.

There is no mistaking it: businesses have to change to survive. But the slow uptake means that 2018 will be another year of digital transformation as more businesses execute technology shifts and better understand how to use innovative technologies to complement their current operations.

Here are 3 predictions for digital transformation over the next year from Rob Ferris, director of Document Solutions at Canon UK .

1. Blockchain will push digital transformation to new levels

Originally designed to enable cryptocurrency, blockchain has had a major impact on the financial services industry in recent years. But a decade on, it has set its sights on everything from space travel to how people vote.

>See also: Digital strategy to digital transformation

Essentially acting as a transactional database shared across a global network, its affiliation with Bitcoin means blockchain is still misunderstood by many. 2018 will see huge strides in its accessibility for both businesses and for consumers.

For businesses, applications such as smart contracts, digital payment systems and improvements in cloud storage are just the start of what this technology could offer.

Blockchain can be used to offer peer-to-peer insurance – this means there is no central recording system; rather each participant keeps a record of all transactions ever made.

This is the same system which allows Bitcoin to operate with no central body, which drives down the cost of premiums, verifies and processes claims faster, and can allow businesses to create more specific insurance products based on consumer needs.

In industries where security is one of the biggest challenges holding back the process of digital transformation, blockchain offers a most promising solution. In healthcare for example, blockchain can help provide secure patient records and boost the process of moving to fully electronic records.

The manufacturing industry can also be brought into faster transformation with blockchain technology, which can drive greater transparency at every level within the supply chain. Each transaction can be recorded in a blockchain, reducing the possibility of human error or fraud and offering complete traceability across any supply chain.

>See also: From buzzword to boardroom – what’s next for machine learning?

Even the office of the future stands to benefit hugely from blockchain. The rise of IoT already means that more office equipment will be connected to platforms that instantly recognise the features of the device, the cost of services and its health and status. As this continues, blockchain’s embedded smart contracts and decentralised network will act as significant solutions for IoT’s security concerns, spreading the risk of centralised breaches across hundreds of servers located around the world.

Moreover, this same feature ensures continual connectivity because an outage in one area does not impact another. The blockchain can ensure that IoT devices – whether in the office or out of it – maintain the connectivity that they need to provide the services that they offer.

2. Digital business strategy will reach the heart of business

The maturation of technologies such as blockchain, AI and big data infrastructures will force enterprises to forge new partnerships and ways of working, create new customer experiences and transform jobs. As technology continues to disrupt business, digital transformation will disrupt IT roles, at all levels.

This year will see many more businesses embracing a digital-first mindset as they fight to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With that in mind, it’s the companies that navigate under a clear digital strategy that will succeed, especially as innovations in technology are enabling flourishing start-ups to offer traditional services at a lower cost and in a way that is more appealing to modern consumers.

>See also: 7 technology flashpoints to look out for in 2018

This can only be a good thing. Companies that work to digitise their business are more likely to have the flexibility they need to thrive. According to a recent CEO survey by Gartner, 56% of business decision-makers say that their digital improvements and taking a digital-first attitude, has already increased profits.

3. Data will become the main strategic pillar of transformation

Data-driven strategies in general still have a lot of untapped potential to impact businesses. The 2018 ‘State of the CIO’ survey found that less than 30% of organisations are capturing quantifiable, data-driven benefits in areas such as identifying new market opportunities (28%), optimising the supply chain and distribution channels (26%), and enabling a multi- or omni-channel experience for customers (24%).

This year, business leaders will try harder to understand that desired outcomes for digital transformation may depend upon changes across the entire organisation-not just within a functional area. This means having a better handle on data and understanding why quality data is the crucial differentiator in any digital transformation journey.

>See also: Digitally transforming with the right cloud strategy

Successful data-driven digital transformation requires equal parts strategy and execution. Both require a lot of heavy lifting, but with emerging technologies like AI and the right mix of cultural change, CIOs can lead their organisations on a successful journey.

The road towards digital transformation may not be easy, but it’s essential for organisations who want to compete in a rapidly evolving business space. While there will always be some resistance to change, legacy is no longer a reason to be left behind as digital technologies enable businesses to compete with younger, more agile companies. When done successfully this ‘transformation’ can offer unparalleled advantages – not least a boost to productivity levels, increased revenue streams and a competitive edge.

Sourced by Rob Ferris, director of Document Solutions at Canon UK

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