This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Record.
Arguably, businesses today have never had access to more impressive resources to help them meet 21st-century demands. From the IoT to big data processes and the cloud, the possibilities are compelling, promising enhanced business visibility, efficiency and control.
James Phillips, corporate vice president, Microsoft Business Applications Group, told Microsoft’s Business Forward event in Amsterdam in April 2018 that digital transformation was occurring “across every single industry”, leading to significant changes regarding how businesses engage customers going forward.
“Future growth across all industries, and the organisation and business models of entire industries themselves, will be driven in large part by applying digital technologies to more intelligently engage customers, reimagine products and services, transform operations and empower employees,” said Phillips on his blog during the Business Forward event. He described Microsoft’s response to the digital transformation megatrend as “a wave of innovation across the entire product line with hundreds of new capabilities and features in three core areas: new business applications; new intelligent capabilities infused throughout; and transformational new application platform capabilities.”
The potential benefits of the digital revolution are significant – but as organisations seek to integrate new digital solutions, many are finding that adoption is not without its challenges. Digital transformation requires a commitment to change management, which in itself is a significant issue for businesses, says Mike Rogers, Formpipe Lasernet’s chief commercial officer. “There is often a reluctance to change because the way that systems work now is how businesses expect it to work in the future.” He also cites the speed of change as an important factor. “Taking time to implement digital change will see the technology change again before it is finished being implemented.”
There are several things organisations should do before embarking on digital transformation of their operations, says Melissa Topp, senior director of Global Marketing at ICONICS. “One of them is to understand the underlying intent and expected end results before starting any projects.” For Topp, this involves decisions on factors such as whether the company strictly wants to modernise equipment and/or software, or whether it needs to improve global networking or reduce its own in-house IT spending.
Only once these decisions have been made can organisations address the next level of challenges, says Topp, such as what the organisation hopes to do with its new digital-based operations. “The resulting valuable data can be put to immediate use, via modern automation software solutions, in applications such as visualisation (for process monitoring/control), trending, alarm management, advanced analytics, energy management, predictive maintenance, big data storage, and connected field service.”
It’s crucial to be clear on what it is you actually want to achieve, says Rogers. “Moving to the cloud does remove some initial costs but could be seen as more costly in the long run, with subscriptions often increased when moving.” He points out that it does not make good business sense simply to store a lot of data without using it for knowledge on behaviour and trends. “PowerBI and many other BI products make this process simple but it is now essential to find the differentiator to set your company and product apart. This often comes from big data analysis for trends.”
When it comes to helping businesses integrate new solutions into their existing operations, “the advantage with Microsoft is that they have the whole platform,” says Rogers. “It’s all pre-integrated and from the same organisation. No other ERP vendor can offer this.”