You’ve come across a lot of information that preaches the importance of delivering fast, such as Agile methodologies, Continuous Delivery, and so on. You’ve also heard a lot about the key business driver, digital transformation. The phrase is in vogue and there are a lot of ideas about what it entails. But amongst all the hullabaloo, what does this buzzword really mean? Do perceptions of digital transformation require reassessment?
In the 21st century, it is nothing new or radical to suggest that all companies are now software businesses in one guise or another. A company’s competitive advantage very often stems from the software it uses, or even more so, the software it develops. It is through software that a company is able to entice new customers and retain existing ones, so yours has to be better than your competitors’.
A slick UI, accessible web app, and attractive mobile application are the bare minimum of what you need to deliver to remain competitive. However, if every organization that wants to survive knows this, it poses the question: How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you take the user journey to the next stage?
The Unicorns Are Getting to Know Us
Look at some of the web-based companies who have revolutionized the way business works over the last couple of years. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like provide user journeys that are incredibly personalized and characterized by a deep understanding of the lives of their customers. These companies use algorithms that utilize online behavior to create an intimate picture of tendencies and interests, enabling them to provide an appealing user experience. The sheer volume of customers all such companies possess necessitates using smart data and sophisticated insights to shape the experience and journey of the end user. Manual intervention here is simply not a viable alternative.
If you fail to become the master of software in your domain, someone else will. It might be a competitor or someone entirely new. They will take market share away from you. Creating compelling new web apps and UIs remains essential, but alone it is not enough.
Your Future Lies in the Past
The lesson here, however, is not to rip and replace your existing databases and software, converting everything to an ultra modern technology stack. The cost of this will hinder your agility more than it will aid it. A better alternative is to make use of established back-end legacy systems and build on them. The challenge is to connect the assets of the older back-end systems to the glossy interface of the modern application. This is precisely what digital transformation means in the current climate.
The front-end will already be characterized by Agile development, DevOps, and the cutting edge of technology, so it is time to bring the older Mode 1 applications up to speed. The separation of old and new is too simplistic, and not suited to the constant pressure on modern enterprise IT to do more with less while constantly onboarding the latest technologies. It’s simply a bad strategy to throw away and retire the back-end in which invaluable data exists.
Of course, integrating the back-end needs to be smart and intuitive because changes to the modern UI will also impact upon the work done in the older systems. It's both possible and necessary to look at your existing systems and exploit them when creating new, digital functionality. What’s more important in your digital transformation is to fully understand your customer and build on what you have to create new smarter, more intuitive offers.
Digital transformation is about taking software development to the next stage, to truly understand your customers and create personalized systems tailor-made to their needs. This is the way to create a competitive advantage, and flourish, in today's ultra-competitive landscape.
New eye-catching offers used to be a selling point for companies like yours, but in the digital era, success now lies in unique specialized propositions and the ability to know what each specific customer is looking for at any given moment. Ultimately, this is the crux upon which digital transformation is built.