by Thor Olavsrud

Why digital transformation is a make-or-break proposition

Apr 17, 20154 mins
Business IT AlignmentIT LeadershipIT Skills

These five business attributes will govern your ability to meet the demands of the Information Generation.

digital transformation
Credit: Thinkstock

There is a growing global community of digital citizens — individuals who are always connected. These individuals are placing new and greater demands on the businesses with which they interact and keeping pace with those demands may well be a “make-or-break” situation, according to research conducted by Institute for the Future and Vanson Bourne on behalf of EMC.

“Twelve months ago, maybe 15 months ago at the earliest, we started to see different kinds of people come through our briefing center,” says Jeremy Burton, president, Products and Marketing, at EMC.

All of these people came with various questions revolving around the same fundamental theme, Burton says: the need to become a digital company.

“Often it was not the IT guys that would come, certainly not the infrastructure guy,” Burton says. “Often it was a business guy with a new head of R&D in tow, which was a new one on us. And that’s gone from being a trickle to pretty much a weekly occurrence.”

That was the impetus for the new study, The Information Generation: Transforming the Future, Today, Burton says. Institute for the Future and Vanson Bourne surveyed 3,600 business leaders across 18 countries from mid-size to large enterprises in nine industries to help EMC get a handle on the top business imperatives required for success today and over the next decade.

The game has changed

The researchers found that 96 percent of business leaders believe new technologies have forever changed the rules of business by democratizing information and rewiring customer expectations. The top-reported customer expectations include faster access to services, 24/7 and “everywhere” access and connectivity, access on more devices and a more unique, personalized experience.

Business leaders agree that transformation is critical to meeting the demands of these digital citizens, dubbed the “Information Generation” by EMC. Burton notes they identified five make-or-break business attributes that businesses must gain through this transformation:

  1. The capability to predictively spot new opportunities in markets
  2. The capability to demonstrate transparency and trust
  3. The capability to innovate in agile ways
  4. The capability to deliver unique and personalized experiences
  5. The capability to operate in real time

“You’ve got to figure out agile innovation,” Burton says. “You’ve got to figure out predictive analytics. You’ve got to make sure you can process streams of data in real-time.”

While business leaders agree that these attributes are critical, few of them believe they’re doing well in those areas to date. When the researchers asked them whether they address these attributes very well and company-wide, only 12 percent said they could predictively spot new opportunities, 9 percent said they could innovate in agile ways, 14 percent said they could demonstrate transparency and trust, 11 percent said they could deliver a personalized experience and 12 percent said they could operate in real-time.

Are you ready for 44 zettabytes of data?

By 2020, more than 7 billion people on at least 30 billion devices will have created 44 zettabytes of data (44 trillion gigabytes), according to Gartner and IDC, respectively. Businesses understand they can get value from this data, but 49 percent of business leaders admitted they don’t know how to turn all of their data into actionable information. Seventy percent say they can gain insights from data, but only 30 percent say they are able to act upon their information in real-time. Also, 52 percent admit they don’t use their data effectively and only 24 percent consider themselves “very good” at turning data into useful insights.

That means there’s opportunity for forward-thinking organizations to seize the initiative, Burton says. He points to DISH Network as an example. It has introduced Sling TV as a way to stream live content to users’ devices without the need for a satellite dish or a contract. Even insurance companies are getting into the act. It won’t be long, Burton says, before your car will be able to detect you’ve had a fender-bender, triggering your insurance company to send a drone to take pictures, call you a tow truck and send an Uber car to take you home.

You’ve got to get moving if you’re going to take advantage, Burton says, and once you start, you can’t stop.

“Today you’ve got to figure out how to innovate,” he says. “But tomorrow you’re going to see networked ecosystems. The ball is not going to stand still; it’s going to continue to move.”

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