Change is a constant in business, and the companies that have outperformed their competitors over the years have steadily kept pace with changes in the economic landscape, technology innovation, and the latest business practices. And now that the global economy has stormed into the digital era with gusto, companies are on the cusp of reaping tremendous new benefits—thanks to their adoption of digital transformation. Digital transformation isn’t just creating one-off efficiencies in various departments. It is disrupting entire business operations that span across back-office, front-office and customer-facing processes. A full 87 percent of companies believe that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity.

What’s driving digital transformation as the guiding light in corporate strategy? And how does it impact people, processes, technologies and the future of our businesses? Here are four tenets that make digital transformation a disruptive force that every business team should embrace.

1. Digital Transformation Creates Value

Digital tools and processes create a new foundation on which businesses can operate. They connect companies to customers, internal business units with each other, and employees with new opportunities to meet their career objectives. Digital supply networks are being built and rebuilt to improve efficiencies and create value for every business. We can already see companies benefiting from the digital transformation in multiple ways. According to the State of Digital Transformation Report from the Altimeter Group, 41 percent of companies that digitally transform customer experience increased market share, 37 percent see increased customer engagement on digital channels, 37 percent have more positive employee morale, 32 percent have greater web and mobile engagement, and 30 percent experience increased revenue. And since digital transformation touches so many areas of the business, benefits begin to snowball as the entire organization comes on board.

2. Customers Love It

Digital transformation impacts the customer experience in a big way. Today’s demanding consumers can easily access product and services data online, see how others are singing your praises on social media, identify solutions tailored for their business needs, and purchase and service products easily and in an affordable manner.  Improving the customer experience is one of the top three digital transformation drivers for mature businesses (along with increasing the speed of innovation and improving time to market), compared to less mature businesses being focused on cost reduction and profitability improvements. It’s all about the customer journey, and digital transformation makes it a more enjoyable ride.

Companies can use multiple digital tools and techniques to improve customer satisfaction. Big data and analytics make it easier to understand consumer behavior and target solutions accordingly, and digital marketing and digital selling teams are both keenly aware of how consumers respond to personalized content and social media-enabled customer service. Digital transformation revolutionizes the way customers interact with business and keeps them coming back for the experience.

3. Embrace the Edge of Technology Innovation

A new generation of smart technologies is having a tremendous influence on how companies adopt digital transformation, and they are preparing for it financially. The budget for digital transformation related technologies at the average company is expected to grow to 28 percent by 2018, up from 18 percent today. And the types of technologies involved are not only intriguing in what the do, but they are also geared to provide tangible benefits. One of Gartner’s predictions for 2018, for example, is that companies investing in the Internet of Things (IoT)-based operational sensing and cognitive-based situational awareness will see 30 percent improvements in the cycle times. With IoT, everything is connected, from consumer devices to data networks that evaluate dynamic data from the consumer edge to provide the best analysis and service in real-time.

Smart machines, artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent automation are also making a big splash as companies digitally transform. Analytics are routinely built into machines and devices to gauge and adapt to varying consumer needs and requests (think Echo and Siri), and intelligent automation (one that combines AI analytics with automated systems) is becoming the norm as companies seek greater efficiencies and cost-reduction tactics. In fact, according to Accenture, 92 percent of businesses say that intelligent automation will be put to wider use within their company during the next 12 months.

4. Digital Transformation Is Ultimately Driven by People

A properly trained workforce is ultimately responsible for making digital transformation work. Employees across different business units must be “digitally enabled“ to transform each business process and reap the benefits. According to a Gartner study, technology talent is currently the biggest impediment to digital transformation, and existing older skillsets are insufficient for working with real-time data from IoT sensors, social media, and mobile computing. Other key areas that are critical for digital transformation are DevOps and the Cloud, which enable companies to break down the walls between development and operations, enable shorter development cycles and faster deployments.

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As the key to digital transformation, skills training should take place across the organization, in every department, and at every level. Line managers and subject matter experts can thrive with better processes by honing their skills in agile development, Lean Six Sigma and project management. Even senior management and the C-suite can benefit from specially-designed courses that give them the fundamentals in various fields so they can lead their organizations using a better knowledge of transformational technologies and processes.

Disruption in your business is a good thing, as long as you’re prepared. Digital transformation is today’s key business disruptor, making it imperative that you address the technologies, processes and work skills that will keep you competitive in the digital age.

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