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Mark Ackerman, Area Vice President, Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow.
News & Events

Digital transformation is not exclusive domain of IT

There is nothing like a global tragedy to inspire action. The Covid-19 pandemic has been an extraordinary accelerant for digitisation. According to data from AppDynamics’ May 2020 the Agents of Transformation Report, 78% of technologists across the United Arab Emirates reported that digital transformation projects in their organisations had been implemented within weeks rather than the months or years it would have taken prior to the pandemic.

Now, as we emerge from the Covid tunnel, the regional mood seems buoyant. A McKinsey study showed a greater level of confidence regarding post-Covid economic recovery among people in the Middle East and Africa region than in other parts of the world. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Nigeria were far more certain that within a matter of months their economies would start growing at pre-Covid rates. People in the US and Europe had more dismal outlooks.

Digital transformation still has more to offer. And as we enter the next phase of innovation, we should take a breath and ask, are we doing it correctly? Digital workflows are part of most enterprises now; they underpin most business models. So, it can be alarming when senior management teams talk of technology as a fix-all without regard to customer and employee experiences.

They might mistakenly think of digital transformation as a technology in and of itself, or they might be taking a more is better approach to digital programs without considering business needs. They may even be making the terrible mistake of assuming that digital transformation is the exclusive domain of IT staff.

Such oversimplifications have led to disaster for some companies, so let’s take a look at the scope and nature of digital transformation. First, businesses should take a long, hard look at what they do. Because, whether you plan to do something different or improve on what you currently do, you need a coherent roadmap that takes you from one operational model to another.

Digital transformation is not a shopping list of technologies. The technologies emerge from a journey designed to overcome challenges or realise ambitions for a business. A true digital enterprise is not run by software and hardware. It is agile, human-centric, and creative.

Its employees are more efficient and engaged. Its customers feel understood and never face the frustration of non-functioning or slow-running digital platforms. In such a business, technology is a means to an end. A servant, rather than a master. Such businesses are the future.?

One practice that has captured the imagination of digital innovators is low-code development. In essence, this approach puts all the technology building blocks of the day into the hands of non-coders. The power of low code cannot be underestimated.

Employees who understand their own problems better than any requirements analyst or software engineer ever could can use low-code tools to drag and drop their way to powerful solutions.

From simple databases to automated digital workflows that supercharge the employee or customer experience, low-code development has become an indispensable element of successful digitisation programs. This is because it allows every employee to contribute and frees up IT staff to concentrate on the more complex solutions that cannot avoid the use of code.

Process optimisation will also play a huge role in the success of the transformation journey. It makes no sense to define new workflows without a means to assess their impact positive or negative on the business. Constant feedback and monitoring are vital to grease the wheels of innovation.

Data management also requires a firm hand and a clear eye. For one, given the sheer volume of generation and storage, smart searching becomes an integral part of many a digitisation project. AI powered search, for example, allows flexible searching, by phrases, words, and familiar terms.

Quick access via conversational interaction, through browsers, mobile apps, chatbots, and others, allows the employee or customer to personalize their own experience in real time.

And of course, employees must be connected to the resources they need to help them become innovators. Information resources that are conveniently curated into a single portal will help employees learn and improve outside of any training that has been provided. Requests for further assistance, along with updates to their status, should be generated and viewable from the same portal.

Digital transformation needs to think of the operations and process outcomes of the optimisation journey. Assessment of success should look at business outcomes as a whole, not obsess over the ROI of a specific piece of hardware or software. Move thoughtfully, not radically, and your organisation will find its way to prosperity.

Mark Ackerman, Area Vice President, Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow.
Mark Ackerman, Area Vice President, Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow.

Key takeaways

  • Technologies emerge from a journey designed to overcome challenges or realise ambitions for a business
  • A true digital enterprise is not run by software and hardware, it is agile, human-centric, and creative.
  • Digital workflows are part of most enterprises now and underpin most business models.
  • It can be alarming when management teams talk of technology as a fix-all without regard to customer and employee experiences.
  • They might mistakenly think of digital transformation as a technology in and of itself.
  • They may even be making the terrible mistake of assuming digital transformation is the exclusive domain of IT staff.
  • Businesses should take a long, hard look at what they do.
  • Whether you plan to do something different or improve you need a coherent roadmap.

Digital transformation is not a shopping list of technologies but emerges from a journey designed to overcome challenges says Mark Ackerman at ServiceNow.