The Future of Digital Transformation

I used to like the term “workflow automation.” It almost paints a picture in your mind of industrial-era machines cranking out widgets off the assembly line without a human in sight. Of course, for today’s economy and business processes, this would never do — we needed something sexier. Enter DX. What we once described as the automation of business processes we now generically refer to as digital transformation. Now that’s steamy.

Digital transformation is now the catchall term to refer to virtually any business process that in some way is to be further digitized and, as a result, transformed. The transformation can take many forms — maybe the process becomes less paper-intensive, faster, more cost-efficient, secure, analytic. You get the point.

Unfortunately, DX is not so descriptive anymore, almost like the word “solution.” Yet, despite its migration to the land of undefinable terms, DX is all the rage – and rightly so. It truly represents the next great leap in business operations, and by leveraging new and emerging technologies, it will likely have a larger impact on business than the typewriter, the calculator, the computer, and yes, the copier/printer.

While prior to 2019, DX was primarily reserved for ERP-oriented business processes and most widely seen in the finance and accounting functions of large enterprises, today, DX is pervasive. It’s in HR. It’s in sales. It’s in service and support. It’s in marketing. There are virtually no functional areas in a company that are not in some way being impacted (directly or indirectly) by digital transformation. Some examples paint this picture quite well.

  • Finance: Accounts payable automation – DX is being used to eliminate or automatically capture paper documents, provide secure end-to-end transactions, and eliminate human input other than for exception processing, permitting better cash management, fraud prevention and qualification for early pay discounts
  • HR: Automated applicant screening – DX is being used to automatically match internal and external candidates for job openings and serve up viable candidates, thereby lessening hiring times and work effort for HR personnel while making more qualified candidates visible to hiring managers
  • Marketing: Marketing automation – DX is helping to build automated marketing campaigns to actively track prospects/customers. When paired with content repositories, these systems can serve up appropriate content at the right time in the buying cycle, helping to more effectively convert prospects to customers
  • Sales: Marketing automation/reporting – DX, when deployed as part of a marketing automation platform, can automatically feed sales management systems with prospect data, including complete histories of marketing interaction. These systems are also capable of streamlining dreaded sales reporting, ensuring sales personnel can spend more time in front of customers
  • Support: DX has become ubiquitous in the support arena, particularly through the introduction of bots with direct links to support data repositories and communities. If you’ve noticed you are receiving better self-help support from companies you do business with, it’s largely due to DX’s impact on customer support operations
  • Legal – Automatic document classification systems – Believe it or not, even legal departments are benefiting from digital transformation. Through automated classification engines, many built on machine learning, legal documents can be automatically classified, eliminating the manual effort associated with this task. The ultimate benefit, however, is derived when these systems are then used to assign matters based on classification and attorney expertise.

These are just a few examples of the transformation activities that have been undertaken over the last several years and which, for many businesses, are ongoing. The direction here is quite clear. While businesses have recognized that investment in digital transformation activities can have a major impact on the bottom line (the primary reason for traditional ERP apps leading the way), there is now an equal recognition that these initiatives can impact the top line as well. Hence the continued interest in workplace transformation.

Like many new and emerging initiatives, the DX movement was largely begun by large enterprises. In fact, a quick review of past surveys by the likes of IDC and Gartner will show how DX initiatives and spending were gaining momentum even prior to the pandemic. In fact, although many IT initiatives were put on hold as organizations dealt with worker dislocation and ensuring remote and secure access to corporate systems, DX initiatives continued. As a result, many of these initiatives are moving into secondary or tertiary phases where various types of artificial intelligence are being introduced into the transformed workflows. Of these, the most popular include the use of machine learning for functions such as automatic document classification as well as RPA (robotic process automation) for streamlining repetitive process functions.

Although large organizations have made such investments, small to mid-sized companies are still lagging far behind. My experiences consulting with small organizations leave me scratching my head as to how they can operate, let alone succeed. To say there is opportunity here is like saying LeBron James is a future Hall of Famer.

The question is, how prepared are industry OEMs and dealers to offer the services necessary for these businesses to join their larger counterparts?  Do they have the products?  Do they have the services?  Do they have the skills?  In my humble opinion, I think dealers may actually be closer than their OEM partners in delivering such capabilities and exploiting this opportunity. However, the skills here go well beyond basic software implementation, and OEMs and dealers alike will need to make significant investments in this area if they want to reach the payday at the end of this rainbow.

Dennis Amorosano is the president and founder of Dendog Strategy Insights LLC, a management consulting firm focused on strategic planning, new business development and go to market execution. Providing services in the areas of strategic business planning/execution, new business development, content creation/marketing automation and technology sourcing support, Dendog Strategy Insights brings 30 years of technology marketing, sales, product planning, software engineering, and professional service experience to help clients implement strategies that yield success.