Digital transformation is about replacing conjecture, an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information, with more complete information. A more complete picture is achieved by networking systems and applications together, deploying sensors, connecting fleets with telematics, mobilizing workforces, collecting online data in real-time, employing omnichannel strategies and analyzing and managing it all with an OILS (optimized information logistics systems) in real-time.
In the past most enterprises operated on a conjecture or estimate basis for much of their work, but today reducing the amount of conjecture is one of the top goals of digital transformation. With the availability of massive volumes of new data many missing pieces of the picture puzzle can now be found or replaced. Digital transformation is about recognizing pieces of the puzzle are missing, and finding ways of innovating with digital technologies to fill them in.
Digital transformation also requires that all of these networked systems, equipment and peoples be connected securely and data protected. In fact, in a recent survey we conducted of 2,000 executives across 18 countries, digital leaders reported cybersecurity was the digital technology having the biggest impact on their businesses today. Digital transformation initiatives are guaranteed to attract hackers and those with nefarious intentions. Professor Paul Virilio, a famous French cultural theorist, posited all innovations include guaranteed negative consequences. I agree. All digital transformation initiatives introduce new problems, software bugs, guaranteed network vulnerabilities, new competitors; new business challenges and new stresses. The elimination of all negative consequences and vulnerabilities are impossible, so our focus should be on limiting and containing it, not eliminating it.
Today, the retail giant Target, is recognized as an innovative digital transformation leader, but just a couple of years ago they were suffering the negative consequences of a massive customer data breach. Leadership is often synonymous with trailblazing, and trailblazing is guaranteed to have challenges. But like Target, the rewards of overcoming those challenges can be tremendous.
Digital transformation leaders should avoid the use of the word risk, as risk means a chance of something going wrong. In digital transformation there is no risk, there is a guarantee of things going wrong. The goal is to ensure that the potential benefits of digital transformation are recognized, and that the benefits outweigh the guaranteed negative consequences.
Our most recent research at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work reveals digital leaders, those already involved in digital transformation initiatives, report far more challenges and obstacles related to digital transformation than digital laggards, those not yet involved in digital transformation. For digital laggards, digital transformation and associated problems remain a theoretical discussion not a reality. Although theoretical, there are no excuses today for not understanding and planning for the guaranteed negative consequences, limiting them and recognizing the importance of cybersecurity.