What is Digital?

What is Digital?

The recent, exponential growth in technology has prompted businesses to shift towards a more digital approach. According to IDC Futurescape, by the end of 2017, two-thirds of the CEOs of Global 2000 companies will have Digital Transformation at the center of their corporate strategy. However, many of my clients still ask me, what exactly does it mean to "go digital"?

The term digital can be applied to a broad spectrum ranging from physical devices to business and operations processes. There is no single definition that fully encompasses all that the digital field has to offer. McKinsey & Company describes digital as less of a thing and more of a way of doing things. At a high-level, it is the electronic form of what used to be done via manual processes. Think digital self-service and giving customers and employees the choice to interact with your business on their terms, with their devices, at the time and method they choose.

Examples of digital technology can be seen everywhere: texting is replacing talking, online ordering is replacing shopping in shopping malls, mobile apps are replacing websites for richer digital experiences, 3D printing is replacing manufacturing, auto-driving cars will replace drivers, digital marketing is replacing traditional marketing, and Cloud services are replacing data center management as the new digital infrastructure. Additionally, Big Data is being used to drive digital personalized marketing in order to maximize the lifetime value of a customer.

Another example of digital technology can be seen in the healthcare industry. It is estimated that by the end of 2017, virtual doctor visits via video chat will exceed in-person visits. This technology will allow doctors to see more patients a day in a more efficient manner, and will allow patients to be examined from virtually anywhere without having to drive to the doctor's office. The global telemedicine business is projected to almost triple to $27.3 billion in 2016, according to a recent report by BBC Research, a Wellesley, Mass. research firm.

What types of companies are affected by digital trends?

Just about all businesses should pay attention to digital changes that could have an impact on their business in the long term. Digital transformation is not limited to a specific type of business or company; it can be applied across various fields.

Take a look at the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR's) and how digital is changing that landscape. Today many of the largest QSR's have implemented remote online ordering, while others have added a mobile app as a way to order ahead. Also, due to many economic factors such as rising costs of labor, in-store Kiosk ordering systems are being implemented to reduce order and cashier needs and to eliminate lines during peak periods. These new digital trends are allowing the QSR's to focus on delivering quality, customized food, while reducing customer wait time and improving the overall customer experience.

Recently, I watched a panel discussion on digital transformation, and one of the companies represented was Alcoa - a metal manufacturer. When their CEO was asked how digital can possibly be affecting metal manufacturing - his answer was eye opening. He said they are leading the way to become in pioneering the manufacturing of 3D printing metal materials - a very new market that will put Alcoa at the center of the digital transformation. Because of the recent advances and decreasing cost of 3D printing, this transformation will have a drastic impact on the manufacturing industry in the future.

Regardless of what field you are in, Digital Transformation affects all parts of business today: Business Transformation, Experience Transformation, and Operations Transformation. By staying ahead of the digital curve, your company can maximize process efficiency while simultaneously enhancing your customer experience.

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