‘Digital transformation’ is a broad term used to describe a revolution taking place within IT departments all over the world that want to replace their non-digital or manual processes with digital ones to become a more optimized and customer-friendly operation. This transformation replaces older digital technology with newer digital technology like AI in Operations (AIOps), contactless, cloud technology, AI and Machine Learning (MLM), serverless computing, as well as digital marketing suites. “You can’t succeed in the digital era with industrial-age technology,” says Adobe, the digital marketing leader, and the quote perfectly encapsulates the idea behind why companies want to go digital, the least of which is customers today demand it.
If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transformation to digital as businesses that had been flirting with the idea of going digital instantly saw not only how important it was but also how useful it was. Early digital adopters saw how the technology was useful for crafting new customer experiences. The addition of real-time streams to CRM and Multichannel Marketing software allows brands to personalize their marketing as well as make it more experiential. In today’s highly competitive marketing landscape. The concept of “Personalization” has become such a prevalent idea in today’s marketing landscape that it is common to see companies utilizing geolocation, mobile, social, context, and even behavioral data to personalize their marketing messages, which should all be in real-time because customers demand it.
‘Experience’ is a term being bandied about by many software companies these days. Without a digital transformation, businesses will be hard-pressed to create the coveted- single customer view. Without capturing the granular about a customer, his or her spending habits, all brand interactions, even website browsing, it will be impossible to deliver personalized experiences that matter. Personalized experiences at scale are a whole other matter and the cloud is a necessity for this.
Data is the centerpiece of any digital transformation. Every customer touchpoint, every browser clickstream, and every customer interaction provides a digital footprint rich in customer data. This data allows businesses to create important baselines and benchmarks as well as provide a roadmap that will provide a good indicator of progress for a company on its digital journey.
Today, customers expect a lot of from the companies they patronize. Customers want content delivered in real-time so they can make quick decisions on purchases or services. Brands should be able to generate quick intelligence from predictive and/or prescriptive models. Data should also be available for self-service inquiry, with tight security built-in. This requires the careful orchestration of a comprehensive data strategy that allows for data discovery and analysis. Powerful machine learning and AI can generate models to assist with this process.
Companies should develop a holistic data strategy that helps unify data processing with ML frameworks that facilitating data science and engineering collaboration across the ML lifecycle. Unified analytics makes AI much more achievable. Data engineers can build data pipelines across siloed systems as well as prepare cleansed datasets that can be used in model building. This will allow transparency into the model building process. A unified analytics platform consolidates data science and engineering across an entire ML lifecycle — allowing companies to accelerate AI innovation.
Amazon Machine Learning, Azure ML Studio, Caffe, Massive Online Analysis (MOA), MLlib (Spark), Scikit-Learn, TensorFlow, Theano, and Torch are machine learning frameworks that simplify the deep learning model development cycle. Many of these are open source and most include models that can help with classification, regression, clustering, outlier detection, concept drift detection, and recommender systems. They are easy to download and set up. Analysts and programmers are still needed to run these programs but large communities are growing up around these technologies and is becoming easier for non-programmers to implement.
Serverless computing eliminates the need for developers to set-up a complicated application stack so they develop applications without worrying about hardware, software, CPUs, memory, and hard disk requirements. Serverless computing is usually offered as a pay-as-you-go service. Utilizing microservices and nano-services, serverless computing can cut down standard release cycles by about 75%. ELT, ETL, and cron-type jobs are simplified and coders are given the freedom to do what they do best – code.
Serverless computing also helps promote a healthy employee mindset. When complex technical issues are taken care of by cloud providers, organizations have the freedom to concentrate on their core business offerings, which always helps companies remain competitive.
Ultimately, going serverless means going green and helping the environment because an optimized server is a server using less energy than a typical on-property one. Serverless also allows instant scale-up, helping to ensure a company’s IT resources won’t be overly taxed with the minutia of setting up server instances. Instances can also be scaled-down and shut off, which reduces energy consumption on unnecessary equipment.
One study found that on average physical banknotes change hands at least 55 times a year and banknotes can carry viruses for up to 72 hours. Contactless technology has been around for quite a while, but it received new impetus when the true seriousness of COVID became apparent for all to see. Today, consumers are rapidly adopting contactless payments for everyday purchases, while customer-facing businesses, like hotels, restaurants, and theaters, are rolling out all kinds of contactless services that limit human interaction.
Many smartphone apps allow contactless payments via QR code technology, which is widely used in Asia, and it allows a customer to scan a merchant’s code from several feet away, making social distancing easier. Besides its hygienic benefits, substantial savings can be had by utilizing contactless payments rather than forcing customers to use physical money, which is actually more expensive because it needs to be constantly secured and guarded.
All of these transformations are leading up to the biggest transformation of all — a transformation of the customer experience through personalization. Great customer service requires an understanding of the customer that goes beyond email address, personal information, or social media accounts and onto behavioral and contextual information. Setting up a geo-fencing apps that can spot a customer entering a store or a bank or a hotel can trigger a greeting or a marketing offer that takes into account their location and context. This can be done with cloud and edge cloud technology. Facial recognition and emotional recognition technology can capture even more detail and make a customer experience extremely personal.
Customer service via digital social media can help a customer instantly connect with a brand using the channels customers prefer. Instant messaging through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat, or Instagram put the message right on a customer’s mobile device. Chatbots can also automate customer service requests, disseminate brand information, even take orders in contactless ways. Customers are getting extremely sophisticated, and personalization is one of the best ways to ensure a brand is reaching a level of customer service today’s highly demanding consumers expect.
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The pandemic was a shock to the system for many businesses and it forced a complete re-evaluation of how they worked. Companies all over the world are implementing a digital transformation that affects almost every part of their business. Although the cost is high for this transformation, most companies are expecting to be greatly rewarded.
They hope to follow in the footsteps of the early movers, who have seen their digital transformation pay off in untold ways. It is likely that many of these changes are here to stay. Since the pandemic forced brands to eliminate many of the barriers that once stood in their way of digital adoption, such as network security to allow employees to work remotely, it will be significantly easier for companies to operate on a remote basis. Companies have already made key investments to help them protect their digital security while also building a technology stack that allows employees to work from their home office.
Those who haven’t thought about transforming digitally need to ask themselves why not? They should ponder the fate of other executives who ignored important moments and technology in their time. Not embracing the digital transformation could prove to be one of the costliest make an executive ever makes.