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January 15, 2020

From Hype to Reality: Are We on the Cusp of a Digital Transformation ‘Golden Age’?

We may be on the brink of widespread digital transformation success...

By CBR Staff Writer

Throughout the years, we’ve seen a history of cultural ‘golden ages’ that have transformed the way we live, think and work. From the innovations in Ancient Egypt that revolutionised architecture, agriculture and scripture, to the Renaissance that changed European art, science and education for the better, history is scattered with instances of incredible transformations, writes Huw Owen, Head of EMEA & APJ, Couchbase.

Cusp of a Digital Transformation

Huw Owen

Recent years have seen this extend to technology. Take high-speed communications: from the development of the World Wide Web in 1989 to the shift to Wi-Fi, then 4G and now 5G, we’re seeing a wealth of technology approaches coming of age and bringing us well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The massive growth in communications’ speed and capability in particular remains something that not just our parents, but we ourselves couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. Such advancements raise the question: are we making similar evolutionary leaps when it comes to digitisation?

Some would say so. For one, digital transformation isn’t a mystery to businesses anymore. IDC estimates that by 2022, enterprises will spend almost $2 trillion on digital transformation. However, just because businesses are spending the money, it doesn’t mean they’re getting it right. Our recent survey of digital leaders found a staggering 81 percent of businesses have had digital projects either fail, suffer significant delays or be scaled back in the last year.

With this in mind, here are three key tips to help push digital projects over the line and move from hype to reality: 

Get the Whole Business Involved

As the IDC spending report demonstrates, businesses clearly realise they need to be digitally transforming, but delivering it in practice is another matter. There’s long been a cultural understanding within organisations that it’s solely the IT team’s responsibility to implement digital projects. The same Couchbase report found that over half of organisations leave digital transformation strategy to the IT team alone.

This is where a wider involvement of the business can pay off. While digital projects naturally require the IT team’s guidance, planning and implementing them should be a cross-organisational process. Digitising doesn’t just mean IT anymore, as after all, digital transformation will impact operations across the entire business. If projects are led collaboratively by the C-suite, IT team and other business departments, they’ll be implemented using a wider range of talent, insight and data, and will be much more likely to succeed in the long run.

Prioritise Data

Having established who should be responsible for digital transformation, it’s important businesses think about the ‘what’: what do they need to undergo digital projects? What’s the most important foundation for successful digital transformation? Surprisingly, many overlook the importance of a solid data strategy – 80 percent of IT decision makers Couchbase surveyed have had to scale back new IoT or mobile applications due to data issues. Such setbacks can be caused by a variety of problems, whether that’s reliance on legacy technology, applications not being scalable enough, or being unable to store and sync data at the edge or move it freely between cloud providers.

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While these issues may seem insurmountable, addressing your underlying data architecture can make a huge difference. For instance, Ryanair changed the data foundation underpinning its mobile app, after the original foundation struggled to meet the demands that come with 3 million users. After moving to a new architecture that stores semi-static data locally on the device, Ryanair can now analyse that data without constantly needing to synchronise it back and forth between its central datacentre.

BT TV also underwent successful digital transformation by overhauling its data foundation. Because of the huge volume of interactions that take place behind-the-scenes when customers choose what to watch, BT TV ran the risk of not meeting performance demands, potentially resulting in a poor viewing experience – not to mention the risk of customers jumping ship to competitors. By upgrading to a flexible, scalable NoSQL database, BT TV can now provide a consistent, personalised experience for customers across all their devices. Unless more businesses follow suit and make evaluating their underlying data architecture a priority, they could struggle to push digital projects over the line.

Plan Carefully

When it comes to putting digital transformation into practice, businesses will soon realise it’s not just the technology that matters, but the organisation’s wider strategy. Many hastily implement digital projects without properly thinking them through – the aforementioned Couchbase study found a whopping 71 percent of digital leaders believe businesses are so fixated on digital transformation, they risk rushing into projects that won’t deliver results.

This is partly caused by doing it for the wrong reasons. Many organisations blindly pump money into digital projects simply to keep up with competitors or market pressure. Some also feel compelled to digitise to meet the demands of their customers, as well as expectations of the C-suite.

Digitally transforming solely for these reasons won’t bring results; rather than being reactive, the most successful digital projects are born from organic ideas from within the company. If you plan digital transformation carefully based on your organisation’s needs and set realistic expectations, clearing the hurdles will be a far easier process.

Gold or Cold?

Serious thought is required in all areas of digital transformation, whether that’s the approach and strategy, data and technology or who in the business should get involved. Historic golden ages have taught us that transformation can have far-reaching benefits, which is why businesses should be looking at how they can achieve their full potential when digitising.

We may be on the brink of widespread digital transformation success, with organisations ready to spend more and adopt a range of technologies in the future. To make this a reality, however, businesses should ensure these technologies are implemented wisely and with cross-organisational support.

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