This post originally appeared as “Digital Transformation Isn’t Only About Technology” on our COO Carlos Melendez Under Development blog at Infoworld.com and reprinted with permission from IDG.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an article I read a while ago in Forbes where the writer shared top trends for digital transformation, commenting that “APIs are the secret weapon for embracing true digital transformation.” They truly open up a huge landscape for companies to integrate best-of-breed solutions into whichever fast and flexible system they desire.
But aside from the freedom that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) afford, what does digital transformation really mean for business? When you think about it, digital transformation is really a state of mind, which doesn’t just involve technology, but also embraces complete transformation of how a company does business.
While technology is the lever, the true digital transformation is when companies – from the CEO on down — openly embrace technology changes to profoundly accelerate the business and improve its service offerings or customer experience.
Taking a Cue from Apple
So, it’s much more than adding a specific technology, or modernizing legacy systems – it’s about rethinking the business with all the new technology that is available. An excellent example is the original iPhone. The technology used in the smart phone was already available to everyone, but the innovation came from having the vision to rethink the phone interaction with that technology to meet a need that consumers didn’t even realize they had.
Today’s companies might want to steal a page from Apple’s playbook. In order to truly embrace digital transformation, they need to look at the big picture and ask – what will bring us business success and how can technology and new business processes help us get there?
APIs: The Tying Thread to the Digital Transformation Toolbox
As the Forbes article indicated, APIs do play the lead role in digital transformation because they are the threads weaving different innovative technologies together. These technologies connected by APIs become a toolbox companies can use to reach their goals.
The role of APIs is elevated by the fact that today’s most innovative technologies were meant to be a part of a bigger picture. Solutions, such as machine learning, analytics, customer experience, and the Internet of things (IoT), are meant to work together to not only provide access to data and insights, but also to help you do something with that information. For example, an organization may use IoT to gauge the temperature, sound system and other factors in a store and gather analytics to understand the flow of customers based on that sensor data, and based on that information, automatically control the store temperature, music, etc. to improve the customer experience.
Creating the Environment for Digital Transformation
So, what should companies be thinking about on the road to digital transformation?
- Think big picture – Companies need to visualize the final outcome they want to achieve and work toward that goal. Key technology stepping stones that will help them get there can happen later
- Ditch the legacy – For digital transformation to happen, companies must let go of their old inflexible IT environment, which is not able to support rapid change and often can’t easily work with advanced IT tools such as AI, Analytics, IoT, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Process Management Systems (BPMS).
- Unite IT with line of business – To truly undertake digital transformation, IT must have a closer relationship with business managers. The CIO needs to acutely understand the needs of specific business functions and work together to address business challenges. The key is enterprise-wide consensus, which is holistic and involves communication, staff capabilities and an understanding of all affected areas.
- Leverage industry partners – Companies on the road to digital transformation can’t do it alone and sometimes need outside perspective to meet their goals. Software development partners who understand their business, and have expertise in the new technologies and APIs, can help them get there most efficiently and cost-effectively.
While APIs and many innovative technologies are key components in the toolbox to digital transformation, they’re all just that – tools that can help you reach your goals. True digital transformation comes from a new way of thinking that fully embraces technology – not for technology’s sake – but rather as drivers to improved customer experience and business growth.