Digital transformation is key to any business’ success

By Tjaard du Plessis, Head of Digital and Emerging Technology at Synthesis

As the world adapts to the realities of COVID-19, industries and businesses need to have a firm grasp on digital transformation to compete. Not only does it exist to solve business problems, eliminating complexity through technology, but it also reduces unnecessary manual work, saving time and money.

The term “digital transformation” is often misused. In a nutshell, it is an organisation’s capacity to embrace emerging technology. It is not only about new tech such as transforming existing infrastructure and software. Digital transformation also encompasses customer experiences, products and even company culture. Additionally, it is not something that is done all at once. Rather, it is how a business is transformed into a digital one and continuously evolves.

Digital transformation is a crucial requirement for any organisation to remain competitive. Technology, adopted in the right way, will improve any business. But whether you embrace it or not, it will affect your company. As we have seen many times in the past, technology enables a garage startup to disrupt your business.

What is required to truly transform

The first step is to map out where you are and where you want to go. Scrutiny is key and organisations need to examine their company culture, incentives and processes to position it for change. Employees are crucial to the transformation journey. Without bringing them along, you are setting them up to remain stagnant and resistant to what you are planning to do.

Unpacking the challenges faced by companies

Change and disruption, while necessary, are not always easy. Employees fear change, and bureaucracy and governance are frequently set up in ways that block this change. This needs to be addressed as these challenges are not conducive to the rapid evolution that is required.

Skills, training, along with acquiring and retaining talent with relevant experience is another common obstacle. Add to that, the budget required for true digital transformation. The capital outlay is often misunderstood by shareholders making it a tough line item to properly budget for and get buy-in from the board.

In my role, which is focused on helping large companies navigate their transformation journey, I have found that those that succeed, keep it simple and find creative ways to navigate bureaucracy from the outset.

Where tech meets creativity

My technical background and experience in delivering software for large enterprises have led me to believe that technology is not engineering – it is creative. Therefore, you need to manage it like you would a creative process, not an engineering one. Creativity and vision for reinventing the old is key to my role and this ensures that I design experiments and manage them in a way to find novel solutions. Innovation is like growing a tree, you cannot predict what it would look like, but you can nurture it to blossom.

Without emerging technology, organisations will simply not survive. Technology will disrupt every business – none will escape it. Mostly, it will appear from left field and without warning. Be part of the wave or be swept aside by it – there is no middle ground.