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A time to transform through digital solutions

digital transformation

Digital transformation was already climbing on the business agenda for boards of directors worldwide, even before the global health crisis changed the face of enterprise forever. When it comes to establishing and holding a competitive edge, digital solutions are the sure-fire way to set a business apart from its competitors with improved operational efficiency and agility.

“Businesses must deploy the latest technology solutions,” Rukmini Glanard, EVP of global sales, services, and marketing at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, says. “Valuable lessons are to be learned as we look at how businesses can profit when evolving to a business model which relies on a lean approach, data, agility, and continuous improvement – also known as Industry 4.0.”

The digital factory

When undergoing a digital evolution, businesses must invest in the initial stages to ensure they have a transformation unit with dedicated teams assigned from each department who can keep the process running smoothly. This unit, or digital factory can be used to pinpoint which processes require an update and, subsequently, which tools, architectures, and frameworks are essential in streamlining these processes.

Glanard believes that utilising a digital factory can aid in the production of an essential plan of action which businesses can implement with agile working practises based on the try-fail-improve model. Through this strategy, and by adhering to a coherent plan, we are able to learn quickly from any shortcomings and make our transformation rapid, efficient, and as seamless as possible.”

The pillars of Industry 4.0 include interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data. Order management, supply chain, purchasing and industrial operations have the capacity for transformation when implementing these tools. Additionally, the data gathered throughout provides vital insight into improving efficiency across all processes, allowing businesses to further increase customer satisfaction and sales.

Digitalised logistics in action

In the face of a global components shortage, a digitalised supply chain became vital for business continuity. Valuable data gathered through IoT and AI means businesses are able to forecast more accurately, make well-informed supply chain decisions, and navigate the components shortage more easily. Of course, this situation is never truly easy. However, armed with data sourced at multiple points in the supply chain, companies can collate information to create a network of integrated planning systems with advanced analytics for smart procurement and warehousing.

“Though the situation remains challenging the sting of uncertainty has been removed, as data forms the foundation of a secure strategy which can be regularly reviewed in accordance with market fluctuation,” Glanard adds.

Elements for success

Through the process of digital transformation, we must observe that a focused and defined strategy results in the delivery of a successful digital journey. According to Glanard there are four main elements that must be considered when approaching a transformation to Industry 4.0 and she classifies these as blueprints, a hybrid environments, managing data, and company culture.

The value of a strong blueprint

A robust blueprint means that success can be replicated, and protects against repeated error, which could result in the unnecessary delay of your transformation. Through a test-and-improve framework, we can learn from mistakes and establish what works well. A blueprint can then be created and applied across different departments for a fully holistic transformation journey.

“The digital factory was integral in analysing performance and ensuring that each iteration of our transformation incorporated and built upon the previous lessons learned at ALE,” Glanard continues. “When building our blueprint, we initially targeted a specific department and transformed its processes until the outcome was successful. According to the blueprint, we then took this same approach and implemented it across another department. And so the transformation continued.”

However, it is important to note that there must also be an element of collaboration when using blueprints to ensure the process fits optimally in each given situation. For this, organisations must ensure they have skilled experts equipped with industry-specific knowledge to advise how best to adapt a blueprint. Agile decision-making and thorough outcome-checks are crucial in this stage of the digital transformation to promote success while affording attention to the intricacies and avoiding a one-size-fits-all attitude.

Mitigating risk with a hybrid environment

It is without a doubt that the most effective data processing takes place in the cloud. However, completing a shift to the cloud in one go incurs numerous risk factors and potential disruptions to operations. This can be significant for both the organisation and, more importantly, the customer.

To guard against this risk, Glanard suggests businesses opt for the creation of a hybrid landscape. By adding a layer of cloud services on top of on-premise communication systems, businesses can create a hybrid landscape which allows the flexibility to move from one model to another without any risk of losses, failed processes, or downtime. “Applying a gradual transfer to the cloud means organisations can enjoy the benefits of cloud and reduced cost, without the associated risk,” she says.

Managing data is a core requirement

Effective data management can mean the difference between data that is pivotal to operations and data that is simply stored dormant. Glanard suggests businesses implement and install reliable databases and enable automation. Through analysis and the merging of databases to allow for ongoing automation, companies can expect to see higher sales conversions powered by better knowledge of fully utilised technology. This also facilitates more accurate forecasting, completing a virtuous data-enabled circle through the increased understanding of the business’ technology base and the powerful application of data usage.

Company culture

Digital transformation is not only about changing technology, systems, processes, and operations. It is about changing mindsets. A business cannot force digital transformation and can only be truly successful when implemented in the broader context of a change in company culture. 

“Lack of adoption is the number one reason why so many digital transformations fail, and these issues occur because the change has not been adequately managed,” Glanard concludes. “Explaining the rationale for such a change is fundamental to gaining trust and engagement from your team, without which you are on shaky ground.”

Organisations can be resistant to change when previous, older methods appear to be working adequately. However, approaching the situation with sensitivity and highlighting how digital transformation will improve operations, ultimately making your team’s everyday work simpler, will set businesses off on the right foot for a successful transformation journey.

Reaping the rewards of a digital transformation

Accelerating through a digital transformation to keep pace with competitors and not fall behind in your market can be tempting. But harsh lessons have been learned from this course of action during the health crisis. Businesses are tied into solutions that do not fully meet their needs, operations that are not entirely improved, and financial burdens growing ever heavier. Only with precise planning, focus and strategy will businesses be able to truly reap the rewards of digital transformation.

CTS The industrialisation of IT
CTS - Industrialisation of IT
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