Digital transformation is at the top of most corporate strategies these days.

The full court press is on to deliver a digital business strategy that drives customer experience, streamlines operations and reduces costs — and do it in a way that can impact the business immediately, not several years from now.

The next couple years will be crucial in determining laggards and visionaries.

Digital Transformation Is Essential

In the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry Predictions 2016, analysts stated, "Within the next two years, two-thirds of Global 2000 enterprise CEOs will have digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategy; over the next three to five years, the percentage of enterprises with advanced digital transformation strategies and implementations will more than double. This scale-up of digital business strategies will drive everything that matters in enterprises' IT investments.”

The use of the term “digital transformation” certainly induces some anxiety in corporate leaders where the stakes are high for companies to evolve or become irrelevant.

New technologies and business models have the potential to upend entire industries, threatening well-established companies in verticals like banking, insurance, retail, government and more. Corporate leaders know they need to raise the bar and deliver on promises around digital transformation, but many are struggling.

The key is a balancing act between short-term success and longer-term project initiatives that may take many months or even years to deploy.

Where Does Digital Transformation Start?

Digital transformation should be viewed from two perspectives within the enterprise.

Corporate business leaders must consider where a digital transformation initiative will have the greatest impact, how it will affect core business operations and how it opens up new business opportunities.

IT leaders need to understand the technology foundation required, and how undergoing a digital transformation affects a legacy IT architecture. IT leaders should be asking, “Is our approach to solving business problems moving at a snail’s pace or at warp speed?”

Digital Transformation’s Secret Weapon

One technology fueling short-term gains with significant ROI results is robotic process automation (RPA).

The Institute for Robotic Process Automation defines RPA as, “the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a ‘robot’ to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”

Unlike physical robots found in logistics and manufacturing, RPA employs software robots that mimic specific actions people take when interacting with applications, web sites, portals, really any source of information.

How RPA Supports DX

Software robots are intelligent and, considering the ease of their design and deployment, they don’t require complex coding like integration platforms do. When considering a company’s digital transformation strategy, we quickly see that RPA supports it by:

1. Moving at the speed of business

With a no-coding approach, RPA tackles build and deploy challenges more quickly than traditional solutions can — in days and weeks instead of months. Consider a logistics company that regularly registers new customers and partners. The complex nature and time to implement EDI to transact business has not always fit well. RPA offers a unique approach by providing quick integration and turnaround for customers and partners, driving faster results.

2. Complementing your current environment

With the ability to access data from multiple, disparate sources such as legacy, ERP and external systems, robotic process automation doesn’t require re-engineering of old processes, or ripping out platforms that are core to your operations. Organizations like manufacturing companies can utilize RPA to fill gaps in their supply chain processes where business activities like non-standard quoting and invoicing for certain suppliers may not fit into existing B2B processes.

3. Adapting to the organization

RPA allows companies to adjust processes as requirements change or new ones emerge. For example, one bank had automation gaps in its mortgage lending center when reconciling data between its loan origination system (LOS) and enterprise content management (ECM) system. Rather than perpetuating manual reconciliation or taking months to build a custom, complex integration, RPA quickly solved the problem with no negative impact to the business.

4. Reallocating time to a busy workforce

While cost reduction is a key benefit of RPA, companies also gain more time for a workforce to focus on customer-related issues that require a human touch, instead of the mundane repetitive work that consumes hours of their day.

5. Keeping business moving 24/7

Imagine a workday that never ends, like individuals in an accounts receivable department. They consistently work long hours to manually submit invoices into dozens of non-standard supplier portals, then track payment, and manually handle exceptions when the company does not get paid. With robotic process automation, all that manual work and cost disappears since software robots run 24/7 and never take breaks. It maximizes time and efficiency unlike any human could.

6. Eliminating human errors

A key advantage to digital transformation is the elimination of error-prone human work. RPA technology eliminates human error and completes processes the same way, every time – resulting in more accurate, reliable outcomes, and ultimately a better customer experience.

Evolving your organization into a digital enterprise requires not only fundamentally changing the way you run your business, but also how you approach and tackle the challenges ahead.

Consider RPA as a way to break through the inevitable technical barriers and business hurdles, solving business operational challenges quickly and increasing your company’s odds of achieving a successful digital transformation.