Hot Digital Transformation Trends in 2021

Disruption was the hallmark of 2020.

COVID-19 impacted the world in ways no one could have predicted.

Some companies have been pioneers/thought leaders with their digital transformation while many companies pre-covid-19 were being cautious with their digital transformation waiting to learn from the success and failures of other organisation.

Post-COVID, several organisations had to pivot and strategise, adapt and change in new ways to survive. Even now, they continue to respond to the crisis and explore new ways to operate and drive growth.

Though several countries are rolling our vaccinations at unprecedented levels, it is apparent that the uncertainty of the pandemic will be staying with us into 2021. It will take us some time to get back to the new normal and if that is any indication, digital transformation is accelerating.

Organisations that are prepared to pivot and adapt to the new trends of transformation will weather all types of disruptions.

In my opinion, these will be the hot trends shaping digital transformation in 2021:

Automation/ Self Service capabilities

For a number of years, organisations have been using automation to drive operational efficiency and improve business processes. Digital transformation has fuelled self-service capabilities, examples are getting a replacement keyboard for your PC from a locker using a security code sent to your mobile phone or use of your retina at the airport as your passport (implemented by Emirates to minimise contact during Covid-19) to whizz through the security and boarding gates. Organisations will continue to identify automation/self-service capabilities as part of their digital transformation agenda and be more people-centric.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a complex topic but to simplify it, for now, numerous technical developments, data processing, and face & speech recognition have become conceivable because of AI. One of the areas where there was a huge surge in the use of AI and ML as a result of the covid-19 pandemic was chatbots to provide customer service as UK banks were busy dealing with the bounce back loan applications. Companies such as your utility service providers, insurance companies, etc had to all embrace some form of AI and ML into their organisations and now having seen the benefits it brings, organisations will continue to invest and embrace AI/ML capabilities where possible.

Information / Cyber Security

With the move to digital, organisations are increasingly handling and processing confidential data. Several instances of data breaches in the past have demonstrated how damaging it could be for your company’s reputation if any confidential data is compromised. No wonder, customers rely more on the companies that enable strong and secure systems for them. Loss of trust or confidence in handling sensitive data can significantly impact your revenue. Therefore, information and cybersecurity will continue to be an important element of any digital transformation initiative and the role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) would significantly critical.

Innovation labs or digital center of excellence

Innovation is not a one-time or periodic activity but a mindset of continuous improvement by pushing your boundaries beyond the ordinary. Manufacturers like Intel, Tesla, or Apple are good case studies for inspiration. Organisations who are really serious about digital transformation will invest in setting up innovation labs or centers of excellence. These will act as incubation hubs for new revenue models and enhanced customer engagement.

Enhance data analytics capabilities

We have all heard and read about “data is the new oil” but remember crude oil is of no use until it goes through a refinery. Similarly, analytics is the refinery for data and unless you extract meaningful insights using an analytical engine, raw data is of no use. Businesses will have to enhance their data analytics capabilities and subsequently use this data to drive commercial benefits. As per Gartner, 48% of product managers at growth companies, or companies that have seen positive revenue growth, are using analytics to collect and analyse customer perception and sentiment data.

As stated in my previous article “Discovering Topline Growth through Digital Transformation”, digital transformation is guided by the broader business strategy.

Strategy, not technology, is the main driver for digital transformation and the main goal is to drive revenue growth by ensuring a more customer-centric approach. Organisations will need to break the silos and enable innovation beyond their departments, functions, or business units. The success of your digital transformation agenda will be driven by moving away from a “project-based approach” to a “product-based approach”. As a result, Product Owners have a vital role to play and this enables a major cultural and competence shift.

Final Thoughts

We all appreciate that 2020 has been a challenging year with many people losing their jobs, loved ones and several businesses going bust. Though 2020 was quite challenging, we have experienced a big jump in the drive towards digital transformation. Organisations that were either slow or had resisted the adoption of a digital-first model faced the consequences of falling behind their competitors and customers’ requirements.

Before it is too late, it is now the time to explore your company’s digital transformation strategy including its impact on your topline, customer engagement including customer experience. Consider digital transformation as a global revolution for your sustainability. To be successful in the digital economy, you must keep all your senses active and ensure alignment to the ever-evolving global market and consumer dynamics.

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