Evolution of digital man - digital transformation concept
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Why should your organization digitally transform in the first place? Businesses that are slow to digitize struggle to remain competitive, according to research this year from McKinsey & Company. The researchers found that modernizing IT is critical for digital transformation because it “enables enterprises to accelerate innovation and performance improvement.” Nearly 30 percent of McKinsey’s digital transformation survey respondents fully digitized their core business, another 32 percent developed a new business model to replace their core business and 43 percent launched a digital business.

Gartner identifies five imperatives for CIOs to drive and enable digital transformation: digital twin, privacy, culture, augmented intelligence and product management. The research firm calls this strategy for digital transformation, ContinuousNEXT.

How do technology leaders see these five imperatives impacting their organizations and industries? We caught up with some of them at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITXpo at the Walt Disney Dolphin and Swan hotels in Orlando, Fla.

Digital Twin: Take the Roof Off Your Organization

In a press release, Gartner compared the concept of digital twins to managing physical things, such as seeing jet engines and wind turbines through sensors and computer modeling. Helen Huntley, research vice president at Gartner, said technology leaders in their organizations can dynamically model their entire operating model and all their people, processes, systems and interfaces between departments to see their workflow. From there, they can create operational efficiencies and different ways of preparing for company events. 

“It’s taking the roof off your work location and visually looking inside to see how all the dynamics are working in your organization and, via dynamic software modeling, putting that together in a virtual world,” Huntley said. “... What would happen if I had a privacy breach? How can I then improve my ability to handle that? It's having all that dynamic understanding in a virtual capacity and if I need to I can implement that in the physical space. It’s really compelling from an ability to take your entire operating model and visualize it.”

Related Article: Digital Transformation Success Depends on So Much More Than Technology

Privacy: Quantum Computing on Radar

Unsuccessfully managing privacy puts an organization’s digital transformation at risk, according to Gartner. Some consumers and employees are not willing to give up security, safety and peace of mind in exchange for convenience, Gartner researchers have found.

Jean Turgeon, VP and chief technology officer for Avaya, said privacy regulations like GDPR, PCI and HIPAA must be complemented by solutions. “We’re paying a lot of attention to things like quantum computing,” Turgeon said. “Why is that important? Encryption. We’re encrypting a lot of data, and we have our own data lakes.”

The challenge for organizations: making sure that whatever it stores today is not just secure for the next two years, but for the next 20 years, Turgeon said. “So we’ve got to make sure that our data lakes are going to be quantum safe. … It doesn't matter what the deployment model is: on premise or cloud-based hybrid, we’ve got to make sure that we don't violate privacy.”

Related Article: Boring (but Important) Topics for Developers to Watch in 2018

Culture: Challenges Getting Buy-In

According to the aforementioned McKinsey & Co. research, culture is one of the main barriers that hinder organizations’ digital transformations. A third of respondents said cultural and behavioral challenges represent a significant challenge to meeting digital priorities. That beat “lack of understanding of digital trends” (25 percent) and “lack of talent for digital” (24 percent).

Gartner calls on organizations to have a dynamic culture in place to support digital transformation. But 46 percent of CIOs identify culture as the largest barrier to realizing the promise of digital business, according to Gartner's press release. Kristin Moyer, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, suggested companies “hack” their culture to change it. “By culture hacking,” she said, “we don’t mean finding a vulnerable point to break in to a system. It’s about finding vulnerable points in your culture and turning them in to real change that sticks. Hacking is about making smaller actions that usually get overlooked. Great hacks also trigger emotional responses, have immediate results, and are visible to lots of people at once.” Moyer suggested doing things like canceling status meetings and replacing them with brief, written updates.

Vince Lubsey, senior vice president and co-founder of Virtustream, said that if you don’t have people to adapt to this faster way of doing things you can’t be successful. “Many people are having challenges educating and bringing their employees along this journey and helping them understand why they need to do things in a different manner," Lubsey said, "and it makes people uncomfortable.”

Augmented Intelligence: Friend to the Worker, Not Foe

Gartner finds that augmented intelligence is not detrimental to workers. Workers interacting with advanced artificial intelligence systems, processes and robotics can make jobs better. Gartner officials called them “meaningful and rewarding” jobs. “Augmented intelligence is huge,” Lubsey said. “It’s taking all of your data and building an infrastructure [that] can make sense of [your] data [which will allow you to] make more intelligent decisions.”

Related Article: Middle Management Beware: Augmented Intelligence is Coming for Your Jobs

Digital Product Management: Knowing Your Industry

Product managers who apply design thinking and agile methodologies to shape user experiences will be winners, according to Gartner. Analytics and continuous intelligence "fuel the constant evolution of products, and continuous DevOps delivers weekly or sometimes even daily product updates."

“Digital product management supersedes IT project management,” Mark Raskino, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in the press release. Turgeon of Avaya said he finds digital product management to be critical to digital transformation. Organizations need to start aligning with the industries they serve. “Your product people have to understand industry-specific requirements, which to me is good,” Turgeon said. “Two years ago, our CEO said we need to develop industry practices. Our product management started embracing what is needed in healthcare, what are the specific requirements for hospitality.”