It is important for all companies to take stock of their progress in the field of digitization at regular intervals.
The Digital Economy and Society Index recently published by the European Commission provides further evidence of the advancement of cloud computing in the first year of the pandemic, with large enterprises seeing an increase in the implementation of digital projects. But the picture is different when it comes to the pure and hard digitization of the company. Advanced digital technologies – in addition to using cloud-based applications for office automation, ERP or human resources – are not high on the agenda.
The ambitious target of 75% digital use by 2030 is far from being achieved. Let’s be clear: One of the four key areas of the Digital Economy and Society Index indicates significant progress has been made in expanding broadband connectivity infrastructure, but the overall results show that there is now a gap between the capabilities that digitization already offers and the way companies use them as part of their strategy.
Now is not the time to slow down the pace of digitization
For leaders, reviewing and implementing their digitization strategy should be a top priority. The targets need to be adjusted to keep pace with market conditions and new technological opportunities. The need to stay competitive in a world with a growing army of digital entrants should be enough to motivate companies to accelerate their own digital agenda. The cloud is more than just a springboard for start-ups to deliver their digital offerings – it also enables incumbent companies to optimize traditional manufacturing processes and services.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge computing and the 5G wireless standard also open up a whole host of new possibilities. These technological developments are often not fully appreciated by IT departments – and in many companies they have yet to attract the attention of management to inspire the implementation of a new digitization strategy.
Here’s our five-point plan to accelerate your digital transformation:
- Complete a business valuation to develop your own digital story
The first step is to identify the digital opportunities your business can seize. Increased pressure on margins – caused in part by the pandemic – is fueling change. Ask yourself how you can increase agility or automate processes to eliminate the cost of the product or service.
The goal is to develop your own digital story based on a general business assessment. The digitization of end-to-end processes should be the main goal. Automating processes and setting up digital interfaces with customers is the first step towards process optimization and increased productivity.
- Make IT a business enabler
The IT department faces the challenge of transforming itself and must move from an internal administrative function to a high-value business function – and it is important that it is recognized as such so that the goal of the CIO is to join the board of directors’ management. Digitization must make IT central. IT departments that don’t take this turn usually work with a second IT team led by a CTO or CDO. This organizational model may work for a while, but in practice it has proved inefficient and often a source of tension.
The goal of the IT department is to have a facilitating role, enabling optimization, automation and innovation.
- Link business objectives to digitization strategy
To earn extra budget, CIOs must have the courage to define clear KPIs that demonstrate how their digitization strategy measurably supports management’s business goals. A clear link between digitization strategy, IT strategy and business goals is the foundation for success. Migration to the cloud is not the goal in itself; it is simply one of the vehicles used to optimize the company’s business model.
So how else can IT support the achievement of business goals using modern technologies such as 5G and edge computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality? The data a company collects should be intelligently analyzed and used as a starting point for process optimization. Companies are sitting on a huge treasure trove of data that they have yet to tap into. This data is as precious as gold – so it is essential that these nuggets are dug up, polished and processed.
The 5G wireless standard and edge computing are just two examples of how to bring applications closer to the user, be it in logistics, automotive or manufacturing. With these technological innovations, completely new business models can be developed that must be anchored in the business strategy.
- Make management the agent of change
Management support is crucial when implementing a digitization strategy. Leaders must communicate the vision behind the transformation to all employees. By involving all employees in the change process from the beginning, you can reduce resistance and counter the fear of potential job loss inherent in any change process.
Through targeted communication – which starts at the top of the company and works consistently at all levels – you can implement and manage change at all stages of implementation. Communication is a catalyst for digitization and prevents the process from stalling due to misunderstanding.
- Protecting digital assets is a management responsibility
Traditional IT security infrastructure based on networks and perimeter security does not provide adequate levels of protection for distributed digital business processes. Today, the problem is much more important than just preventing access to servers and applications from the Internet. With hybrid models moving employees away from the corporate site and applications moving to the cloud, a hub-and-spoke network architecture no longer makes sense. In contrast, the Zero Trust approach, this holistic rules-based security solution for business processes and digitized data flows, appears to be the one to secure the entire business, regardless of organization and nature. in the field of digitization.
The executive committee and the IT department should therefore set themselves the twofold objective of improving communication within the teams themselves in order to reduce resistance to change and enable digitization projects. On the other hand, they must ensure that the communication possibilities of all digital resources are reduced and that they are exploited invisibly as much as possible. After all, you can’t attack what you can’t see. As the name suggests, a Zero Trust approach means that no user, device, or application — including your own employees, applications, and IoT devices, as well as other components or people on internal or external networks — is automatically considered secure.
By Christoph Heidler, CIO Zscaler