two hanging chrysalis and a butterfly going through a metamorphosis - digital transformation concept
PHOTO: Suzanne D. Williams/Unsplash

Digital transformation has become a popular buzzword in the business world and is regarded as necessary for companies of all sizes. In fact, four out of five respondents in a recent survey felt digital transformation was imperative to their company's survival.

While digital transformation may be essential, its meaning is not always clear for many business leaders. Every company has its own goals and challenges, and therefore, digital transformation means something vastly different for each organization. Some industry experts weigh in and offer insights into what digital transformation is, how their companies see it, and how other brands can discover what digital transformation means for them.

Defining Digital Transformation

"At its heart, digital transformation is about connecting better with digital customers," said Peggy Chen, CMO of SDL. Technology is enabling businesses across all industries to provide more value to customers, but those businesses that don't adapt will be left behind.

Paige O’Neill, CMO of Sitecore said it's important to keep in mind that digital transformation, “is not a single project or change, but an organization-wide restructure that extends to the people, the operations and the technology.” She sees this cultural change as the key to addressing the shift in consumer expectations.

All our experts agree that digital transformation is about offering a better experience for customers through the use of innovative technology. "But in the end," adds Andres Angelani, Global CEO of Cognizant Softvision, "the right definition likely rests within the organization itself, the mindset of its management team and the objectives and outcomes it expects when embarking on its digital transformation."

Related Article: Change Management: The Key to Successful Digital Transformations

Digital Transformation Across Different Industries

While digital transformation is using technology to create a better customer experience in a broader sense, the specifics can look vastly different for a variety of companies in different industries. At Sitecore, O’Neill says, “digital transformation empowers our customers’ existing and new digital channels to move the needle and drive results” As a seller of digital transformation technology, the company has recently experienced the process from its customers’ perspective through an internal digital transformation initiative. The journey has seen an uptick in positive customer responses.

The CTO of Advanced Energy, Isabel Yang believes for digital transformation to be successful, "[the company] must enable [its] partners and customers to accomplish near zero downtime and increased supply-chain efficiency." She further explains that the company's focus should be on optimizing its factories with self-diagnosis and troubleshooting capabilities that enable preventative maintenance and continuous operations.

For Cognizant Softvision, Angelani says it’s “not just about the end business result, but about the journey, ensuring that our partners and respective digital staff evolve and benefit from the experience and the process.” While digital transformation can lead to achieving business goals, he says there’s tremendous value in the process itself. He further explains for Cognizant Softvision it comes down to building a “curious culture that encourages continuous and sustainable innovation.”

For SDL, a company focused on optimizing content management, "There's not a single area that digital transformation hasn't touched when it comes to content production and management," said Chen. Everyone is a content creator, and this has led to content everywhere within countless silos. That's why SDL's digital transformation concentrates on breaking down these content silos with web content management systems and other automated processes.

A common thread across these companies regarding digital transformation strategies is the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate processes. Angelani said, “For many C-suite executives, digital transformation is all about process — a new type of formula for using digital technologies to create new business models, revenue streams and a method to address the changing business environment and market dynamics.” For this reason, Chen added, "you need a partnership between humans and machines," and through this collaboration comes greater business efficiency.

Related Article: How to Structure Your Digital Team: 16 Critical Roles

How Your Brand Can Discover its Own Digital Transformation Definition

It’s challenging for business leaders to put together a digital transformation plan. That’s why Yang said, "The first step is to recognize that big technology shifts are happening in the world, and not be afraid to admit that we need to transform how we innovate so we won't be left behind."

O’Neill agrees on the importance of digital transformation and added, it “will look different from company to company, so when building out a roadmap for your organization do a thorough audit of where the organization is” in its current journey. Some organization fail to begin their own digital transformation journeys because they don’t look within, discover where they’re at and then determine where they need to go.

After looking within the organization, Yang advises companies to not let the fear of making mistakes hold them back from getting started with digital transformation. Angelani agrees companies should just get started and said they "should take a 'transform while they perform' mentality, and continue to keep business moving while they embark on their transformation journey." He says that digital transformation for the future doesn't mean you need to bring business to a halt today.

"In order to better serve your clients and not be left behind by the competition," Yang said, "it's time to embrace digital transformation."