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What Is Digital Transformation And Do We Need It?

01 September 2020, 06:48 pm


Today we hear the phrase ‘digital transformation’ quite a lot. There seems to be an urge to get digital transformation going without realising what it actually means. We start this series of blog posts on with what digital transformation is, what it is not, the groundwork you need to do, how to benefit from this, and then we bring everything together. Our focus is specifically on the engineering and manufacturing sector, but this can be applied to non-manufacturing sectors such as services also.

Digital transformation usually refers to the use of automation and computing power to perform routine, dangerous (to humans), and handle-turning tasks where the repetitive nature of the job and threats to humans, combined with the speed of delivery take precedence. Simple things like programming a 5-axis machine to perform a particular task is an example of digital transformation. Using remote controlled robots in a highly radioactive nuclear environment is another.

There are a number of reasons a company may choose to implement digital transformation. Some of them include:

  1. Let’s follow the trend
  2. Technology is available and we must have it
  3. Everyone else is doing it and so should we
  4. It could be the silver bullet to deeper problems we have
  5. Let’s make our company even more effective and efficient
  6. Let’s enable and empower our people
  7. There are a number of redundant processes that we can automate and let people focus on where their strengths are
  8. There will be better transparency and visibility of our performance across all levels of the hierarchy

Here’s a question for you. What do you think are the right and wrong reasons from the above list for doing digital transformation? Feel free to leave your response in the comments section below.

If you’re familiar with drag racing, you will know what nitrous-oxide boost means. In simple terms it enables fuel to be burnt at a higher rate than normal, therefore providing an extra boost providing a higher than normal acceleration. This only works if the vehicle itself is aligned in the right direction. If the vehicle itself is facing the wrong way, no amount of nitrous-oxide boost will help the cause. Digital transformation is a bit like this, a nitrous-oxide boost for your company. It provides that vital acceleration, but works only when the rest of your organisation is aligned in the correct direction. What does alignment mean? There are three things that need to be in harmony. People, culture and processes. We shall look at these three independently in the next three posts and then bring it all together in the final post.

To summarise, three questions you need to answer before embarking on digital transformation:

  1. What is the purpose of implementing digital transformation in our company?
  2. Are the people, culture and processes in our company aligned and in harmony?
  3. Are we ready to lead from the top, but empower from the bottom up?

Next week we focus on people.

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