Decoding digital transformation - 4: Tech's role in transformation

The first part of this series on digital transformation journey of Indian companies focused on the imperatives; the second part highlighted the outcomes that they are working towards through digital; the third part pointed out the approaches and models of the transformation journey. In this fourth part, we present the role of tech in the transformation journey

Decoding digital transformation - 4: Tech's role in transformation - CIO&Leader

Read the first part of the story: Decoding Digital Transformation: The Imperatives here.

Read the second part of the story: Decoding Digital Transformation: The Outcomes here.

Read the third part of the story: Decoding Digital Transformation: Choosing The Right Model here

Tech is to digital transformation what the mantras are to a Hindu puja. Without it, the rest of the components are not possible; that explains why digital always precedes transformation, notwithstanding how much pains people take to explain that it is less about digital and more about transformation.

In short, these two mantras together sum up the role of tech in the digital transformation journey.

Mantra 1: Do not underestimate the value of tech

Mantra 2: Do not overestimate the value of tech

You cannot start with tech; tech cannot be your ultimate outcome. But it is the most crucial thing in between.

Let us put it this way. This is not the first-time businesses are going through a change. It has happened in the past, many times. But this time’s change is not just powered, but to a great extent, initiated by tech.

When Klaus Schwab talks about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he defines it as the fusion of physical, digital and biological. So, tech is fundamental to this round of changes.

The only thing that some experts—like Sudhir Singh Dungarpur of PwC—worry about is that much of the talk in many enterprises are still focused around tech. That is going to take you nowhere.

Nischal Gupta, Chief Transformation Officer at Sterlite Tech, while putting tech as a major factor, however, clarifies that it is probably the easiest part of the entire set of things that you need to do—starting with culture.

What gives a clue to the importance of tech is how the lingo has changed. Earlier tech was being ‘applied’ to solve business problems, implying you had a business requirement which tech helped fulfil. Today’s common phrase is ‘use case’. That implies that you need to continuously watch technology landscape to scan for new technologies that can ‘potentially’ impact the business and find use cases for them. This means technology first. To be sure, this must be part of a broader transformation journey.

Call it the outside-in regime, as opposed to the inside-out approach that we have traditionally seen.

So, what are the specific technologies? Well, depending on where you are, it could be any information technology, starting with basic process automation but newer technologies that are specifically referred to in the context of digital transformation are the usual suspects: Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Analytics, IoT, Blockchain…and they are not always independent of each other. You never know where your IoT ends and analytics begins or machine learning takes over.

Sarajit Jha, Chief Digital Value Acceleration at Tata Steel simplifies it. “You need a very strong sensing layer; you need a data platform on top of that; you need analytics and then the decision on which products you want to change which is the business layer.”

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