Every generation says its world is changing rapidly. Technology is particularly prone to rapid evolution. Simply consider the pace of change from the 1940s (jet-engine planes and digital computers) to the 1960s (the first game console and television remote) to the present day (AR/VR, IoT, and blockchain). With each disruptive age, companies have been forced to innovate quickly or risk becoming obsolete. But it can be difficult to both invest in the future while achieving short-term goals.
Companies across sectors face this challenge, with competition coming from every direction. In the automotive industry, a traditional manufacturer such as BMW has succeeded for decades by its laser-like focus on the driver experience. Yet here comes Google, with a driver-less car initiative; Uber, which is trying to eliminate the need to own a car; and Tesla, whose very business model relies on consumers embracing new engine technology. In another example, General Electric (GE) has invested in new technologies ranging from home appliances to commercial jet engines to lithium batteries, only to be undone by short-term misses that resulted in its removal from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
As we are on a cusp of Industry 4.0, the promise of more-productive and continuous systems compel companies to expand their horizon of digitization across sectors. Taking interconnected and smart products that leverage IoT and AI can create value in manufacturing. Using cyber-physical robots can optimize supply chains. Introducing digital traceability in the production value chain can improve operations and management.
To succeed in the current environment while preparing for the future, companies must establish the right digital infrastructure. In some cases, this means adapting their existing IT infrastructure. In others, businesses will need to introduce new exponential technologies and establish entirely new infrastructure, including robots in both white-collar and blue-collar roles, to fully leverage the opportunities presented by digitalization. The IT sector can assist, helping to optimize processes, harmonize systems and networks, and teach them to communicate with each other to fulfill their tasks rapidly and with the necessary analytical capabilities from the factory to the back office.
In many cases, analyzing current processes and systems reveals that it may be better to develop new smart solutions than tinkering with existing systems. As an example, consider the mining industry, which is traditionally conservative in its approach to new technologies. Working with Wipro, one industry leader learned to leverage a digital-mining program encompassing real-time communications infrastructure, control systems, data collection and integration. By integrating its ERP systems with its mining execution systems, the company achieved sustainable improvements in its operations and efficiency.
In another case, Wipro helped a leading communication infrastructure provider migrate all back-office processes into robotic systems to substantially reduce processing times and eliminate unnecessary wait times. This brought the client complete control over loss due to delays while enhancing its reputation.
To ride the current wave of digital transformation and remain agile and competitive in the future, companies must continuously monitor their environment for change. Enterprises should also test existing business practices, assumptions and other cognitive distortions to identify where digitalization can help fuel growth by adapting to customers’ needs and the changing economics of production and distribution.
Digital transformation can be a complicated and risky endeavor, both from a technological and business perspective. Organizations may have a twin strategy of developing their physical business in tandem with their digital business, but it’s critical to keep the two connected. Creating a close relationship between digital transformation and business goals can also ensure that companies make responsible investments in their future without sacrificing short-term revenues.