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Revisiting Digital Transformation: Where Do Businesses Stand on Innovation?

Appian Contributor
September 8, 2017

Digital transformation has become a hot topic in the enterprise world. With organizations in sectors ranging from financial services and retail to government and healthcare, the move to modernize IT systems and adjust operations around digital tools is gaining momentum. However, building practices, processes, and cultural expectations to align with digital technologies can be a complex tactic. Because of this, many organizations are in very different places when it comes to executing their digital transformation strategies.

As companies consider how they can turn digital transformation into a competitive advantage, they must carefully evaluate where the market stands and work to get ahead of the curve. With this in mind, let's explore where companies stand on digital transformation and how their projects are progressing.

Taking the Digital Transformation Pulse

At this stage, organizations are in an extremely varied place when it comes to digital transformation. A study from Dell Technologies explored how businesses are progressing as they move to invest in new technologies, and identified the following major distinctions among companies going digital:

    • Digital Laggards: These organizations lack a clear plan for how they want to go digital and have not put significant investments in place. They also have not launched many technology innovation initiatives to push digital agendas forward. Dell found that 15 percent of organizations fell into this category

    • Digital Followers: Dell identified this group as having begun to plan for their digital future, but not made significant progress along the way. Approximately 32 percent of businesses are at this stage

    • Digital Evaluators: These businesses have set digital transformation into motion and begun changing their organizational expectations around digital. This includes beginning to strategically plan for future investments as opposed to continually playing catch-up within the marketplace. This set makes up 34 percent of organizations, Dell found

    • Digital Adopters: With 14 percent of organizations in this category, Digital Adopters are much further along than most businesses in the transformation process. Dell identified these organizations as entities that have a clear and refined digital plan that is supported by strategic technology investments and innovative projects

    • Digital Leaders: This elite group made up of 5 percent of businesses have built digital tools into the foundations of their operations and completely transformed around technology

Research from Fujitsu echoed the general sentiment of the Dell study. On the whole, Dell found that a fairly small percent of organizations have made minimal progress on digital transformation, but many are stuck in the early phases.

The race toward digital maturity is on.

Similarly, Fujitsu discovered that 11 percent of companies have not begun to transform around digital, with 89 percent of businesses in some form of planning, testing or implementation phase. Just 34 percent of those polled by Fujitsu said they have reached a point where outcomes within their digital transformation strategy have been achieved.

With businesses in such varied places on their digital transformation journeys, organizations that have begun to fall behind have an opportunity to catch up quickly. Similarly, organizations mired somewhere in the middle can accelerate their plans and quickly leap ahead. Strategic investments can smooth and streamline this process, making it easier for organizations to sustain innovation.

Accelerating the Digital Transformation Maturation Cycle

Picking up the pace on digital transformation doesn't just mean getting serious about innovation or finally achieving executive support. Those factors are important, but they are the kinds of cultural change that every business needs to make. Organizations that want to get serious about digital transformation must meet cultural change with strategic technological innovation that helps workers respond to the new pace set by digital technologies. Three solutions that are particularly valuable in this situation are:

1. App Development Platforms

Applications are proving central to operations in today's digital world. Organizations need apps that can connect disparate stakeholders and easily move data between teams. Furthermore, they need to get these solutions out into production environments quickly to maximize value potential within the organization.

For the most part, enterprise IT teams lack the resources necessary to keep up with these sorts of development demands, a problem that can quickly stifle digital transformation efforts.

App platforms create a stable backend to house applications. The cloud platform establishes a framework for rapid development by streamlining data workflows and allowing businesses to align process management capabilities and app functionality. With the backend taken care of in a cloud platform, organizations can quickly ramp up their deployment capabilities as they transform around digital.

"Low-code app platforms can take rapid deployment to another level."

2. Low-Code App Platforms

Low-code app platforms can take rapid deployment to another level. Low-code systems offer a visual development interface that allows even non-tech users to easily create an app interface and establish a working solution. Furthermore, leading low-code solutions aren't just for creating quick and simple apps.

When aligned with a backend platform, they can be used to create app interfaces that fit naturally with core processes and data workflows, making it easier to develop robust, enterprise-class apps without the custom coding and technical challenges that come in a typical development project.

Establishing powerful apps and services doesn't need to demand complex programming or time-consuming projects. Instead, low-code allows organizations to establish citizen developers who create apps with minimal oversight from the IT department. IT teams simply set internal regulations and requirements and users build apps around those parameters. These tools empower companies to establish proprietary digital systems to keep up with the pace required within transformation efforts.

3. Process Management Tools

In many cases, process management systems serve as the behind-the-scenes enabler for app platforms and low-code tools. Modern business process management systems can help organizations standardize their operations and gain a clear understanding of how different users depend on each other to meet customer demands. These processes can then be embedded into the backend systems behind custom apps and services, making it much easier to create apps that align with organizational demands.

Digital transformation is fueling major changes in the enterprise technology landscape. Businesses that have fallen behind or are caught in the middle of the digital transformation pack can jumpstart their plans through strategic investments. Solutions focused on simplifying and streamlining technology systems can set a strong foundation for sustained innovation.