‘Digital technologies are still evolving and the learning curve is steep ’
Published on : Friday 02-07-2021
Rajabahadur V Arcot, Independent Industry Analyst/Columnist and Business Consultant
How can companies ensure their digital transformation succeeds? What measures do they need to put in place?
Companies that want to take the digital transformation (DX) initiative must understand that digital transformation is about leveraging the power of emerging technologies to improve performance and adapt to the market dynamics. DX is not just investment in technology but applying digital technologies to derive business results. Therefore, it is necessary for a company that wants to invest in digital transformation initiatives to constitute the DX implementation team that understands the primary purpose of investment – make use of the most appropriate digital technologies to achieve specific business goals. The team must be adept at handling both the technology and business related issues. The members of the constituted team must be achievement oriented and committed to work cohesively; the corporate must ensure that the team is well supported in terms of skilled- and competent-human resources and financial resources. The team must upfront identify the main business objectives to be achieved, prioritise them, and develop the implementation plan to be pursued. It must adopt the agile methodology. The agile methodology involves managing the project by segmenting it into a series of steps. It involves constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at every step. The focus is on the ultimate objective and cross-functional team collaboration – always prioritising test-and-learn methods over rigid adherence to the laid-out plan. Continuous collaboration is vital among all stakeholders.
What are the common mistakes companies make while embracing digital transformation and how can these be avoided?
Digital transformation involves analysis of masses of data from different sources with the aid of technologies to glean insights that can help in decision making and automate the processes. In numerous instances the primary data and the contextualised data may not be available in the digital format. Making sure that this requirement is met upfront will help the smooth launch and progress of the DX initiative. Many companies may not have people with the necessary technical and project management skills. Often companies launch the DX program without addressing such issues and that invariably results in stalled project progress. Digital transformation requires clear and realistic goals to be set and pursued with a sense of dedication and commitment. Failing to appreciate this, companies often set goals based on inflated expectations and this once again results in dashed hopes.
The world is now well into the second year of Covid disruption. How has digital transformation helped the industry during this period?
The pandemic has changed our lives in many ways and probably forever. The work-from-home has almost become the norm and is not likely to change in the future. There is also a push for companies to automate their processes and many have implemented robotic and such other automation solutions. These developments have resulted in cost savings for companies and have also reinforced in their minds about the benefits of digital technologies. As a consequence, there is a greater impetus for investing more in digital technologies. However, there are also downsides to these developments. Greater automation may not be good for the job market, at least in the near term. There is also blurring of lines between personal and professional lives, which has long term implications for the people and society at large. Sudden spurt in demand for mobile and other computing devices has distorted the semiconductor chips market. Their prices have gone up and the demand for them outstrips the supply, a situation which, according to many sources, is not going to change in the near future. That apart, digital technologies are still evolving and the learning curve is steep. Software professionals are therefore under constant pressure to learn these new technologies and keep upgrading their skills accordingly.
Why are companies investing in the digital transformation of their plants?
There is almost a continuous buzz in the media about digital transformation, Industry 4.0, dawn of the fourth era of industrialisation, and such others. Numerous survey reports regularly appear that speak about the large number of companies undertaking digital transformation initiatives and massive amounts of money being spent on them. This is a classic case of the hype cycle. To start with, there was the technology trigger that highlighted the power of emerging digital technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and others. These technologies, we are told, have cognitive capabilities that one day may even surpass that of humans and thus the expectations were pushed. Added to that hype and heightened expectations, the constant reminder that we are entering the fourth phase of industrialisation and that companies which do not leverage these technologies will be left behind has introduced a certain degree of compulsion to pursue DX objectives. Manufacturing companies, under the influence of these pull and push forces, are looking at digital transformation that, on one hand, will help them improve their performance in many ways, and on the other, will make them future ready.
Rajabahadur V Arcot, an Independent Industry Analyst/Columnist and Business Consultant, is Life Member of ISA and Member of ISA Smart Manufacturing & IIoT Division, an ISA accredited mentor and trainer. He writes industry and technology trend articles, market research reports, case studies, white papers, and automation & operational technology insights. He may be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org