As a long-time Microsoft partner, it’s been interesting over the years to watch Microsoft identify, adapt, and capitalize on the various megatrends in the technology field. They’ve had some stumbles, like any large organization, but the current industry buzz and recent financial results indicate that they’re on the right track. That’s certainly our perspective at 3Cloud, where we’ve seen waves of innovation from Microsoft, and the ever-growing adoption by our clients of Microsoft’s tools and technologies for data, analytics, and insights.

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At the recent Microsoft partner conference, Inspire, CEO Satya Nadella reaffirmed Microsoft’s belief in Digital Transformation as the defining megatrend of this generation. I was intrigued and impressed by his presentation, which inspired my question “What does this mean for 3Cloud?”

This is the first in a series of blog posts on Digital Transformation. We’ll begin by offering our perspective as data and analytics consultants and practitioners, and then work into specific examples on each of the Digital Transformation pillars.

So, what is Digital Transformation? Simply stated, it is the process by which organizations leverage information (digital) technology to reimagine the way in which they serve their stakeholders and provide value in the marketplace. Digital Transformation can be evolutionary or revolutionary (disruptive), depending on the industry and the commitment level of organizations looking to embrace these innovations.

So, why is Digital Transformation a trend right now?

We’re at a unique point in time where a confluence of factors are enabling this transformation to occur. For example, increasing data volumes – as in, the amount of data being created and stored (cheaply) – provide a rich opportunity for organizations to mine that data for deeper insights about their respective markets and customers. New sources of data, such as sensor data (Internet of Things), and the ability to easily integrate data from outside one’s organization enable new types of analysis that were previously very difficult or nearly impossible to perform.

Another key factor in enabling Digital Transformation is the rapid advances in computing power which have stimulated the maturation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These advances enable forward-thinking organizations to change the way they design and build products with augmented reality, and interact with their customers through bots, just to highlight a few examples.

And last, but not least, the very real culture shift and changing demographics of the modern workforce, increasingly made up of “digital natives” who have grown up with technology and have expectations of rich digital experiences in the workplace that they’ve experienced in their personal lives. Data and technology are pervasive, and in this new world, leading organizations are taking advantage of these factors to transform their organizations.

Now that we’ve defined Digital Transformation and outlined some of the factors that enable this trend, let’s dive deeper into the pillars of Digital Transformation, which are:

These pillars provide us with a model to conceive and deliver new and/or improved business outcomes that we can measure and rally around as an organization. Let’s explore each one.

Engage Customers

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and cultivating and strengthening those relationships largely determines whether an organization will flourish and grow, or stagnate and struggle. Broadly speaking, we can think of the term “customer” as representing the external stakeholders served by your organization.

In a commercial context, customers may be individual consumers who purchase your products and services. They could also be business customers in organizations that provide goods and services within a B2B setting. And in the public sector, customers might be better termed constituents or citizens. Regardless, Digital Transformation in this context is about improving the “face” of your organization by whatever customer touchpoints you have available. If you improve customer experiences, customer satisfaction, and brand image, business results will follow.

Empower Employees

Great organizations focus on building a culture of high performance and investing in their people. Empower Employees is the pillar that looks inward at the various business units, departments, teams, and individuals, and asks, “How can we leverage digital technology to better serve our people?”

From a data and analytics perspective, we strive to provide our clients with solutions that deliver “the right information, at the right time, in the right format.” If I’m a mobile worker, that means mobile information delivery is likely a priority. What information would I like at my fingertips when I’m on the way to service equipment or visit a customer? If I’m an executive in the corner office, what information is important to me to see “at-a-glance” to help me start my day?

We also look at Empower Employees through the context of creating data and analytics assets to meet the information needs of the organization. How do we serve (often) overlapping needs of IT administrators, BI professionals, and data scientists in an organization? As Microsoft partners, we have a rich set of tools and technologies to leverage and align to these roles based on team structure and organizational goals and objectives. If we empower each of these parties, we accelerate delivery, improve quality, and drive user adoption and satisfaction – all key measures of data and analytics success.

Optimize Operations

As consultants, we often describe opportunities and initiatives through the lens of “people, process, and technology.” Optimize Operations is the pillar that brings all this together in ways that transform an organization “from the inside out.” It often starts with building a better understanding of current processes, whether they are in the areas of human resources, manufacturing, sales, marketing, finance, or otherwise. We help organizations build comprehensive data repositories that represent a “single version of the truth” and serve as the foundation to enable analytics and insights. This could take the form of a predictive model to help us understand the useful life remaining of our products, or in a retail setting to gain a better understanding of which customers are likely to churn (and when). Identifying patterns in the data allow us to act and change outcomes before it’s too late.

Transform Products

The last pillar in Digital Transformation is Transform Products. This term could be refined to include both products and services, as the key point is in how organizations are leveraging technology to innovate on their value proposition to the market and their customers. The healthcare industry is filled with examples of digital innovation – anywhere from fitness trackers/wearables, to devices designed to promote and monitor medication adherence. Not only do the physical aspects of these products and services improve in performance, but they also often create new markets that are only recently possible thanks to advances in digital technology.

In summary, Digital Transformation is a megatrend that provides all of us with a model to identify and pursue innovative solutions that make a meaningful impact for our clients. As this blog series continues, we’ll explore specific client examples that illustrate these points, and provide you with the inspiration to look for Digital Transformation opportunities within your own organization.

Can’t wait for the next post? Contact us, and we’ll be happy to continue the conversation.