You know it’s coming, but are you ready? With the steady march toward all things artificial intelligence, businesses must set themselves up for success with the right digital transformation, says Andy Dunn, Chief Revenue Officer at CSI Ltd.
The next generation is used to spinning up and down digital capabilities in Azure – boards that don’t recognise the huge implications of this and what their future customers will demand will fail. Keeping up with digital transformation (DX) is not about ROI. It’s about survival.
The difficulty for boards is that ROI is continually shifting under their feet because of the pace of technological change – think ChatGPT and the impact of AI in the next year or so. Boards must constantly monitor their DX strategy because it can be outdated in as little as 90 days. They must recognise what tech they need to implement to stay relevant – to shift and move quickly in this rapidly changing world.
For me, there are four key questions the board needs to be asking: Can my customers find me in a digital world? Are my business processes being digitally optimised to make me more efficient in saving money? Am I enhancing my customer’s satisfaction level in their day-to-day involvement with our business? Can my infrastructure handle the computing power that the AI software will require?
Here are my top tips for making sure your business can transform digitally with ease.
Have a strategic plan, even if it’s changing weekly. By looking strategically at your customers’ needs and working out how you best want to support them, you can assess whether your business can meet those needs. You can implement a tech plan to upgrade your network and apps as required. Any strategic plan should also take into consideration your data and security needs.
For example, look across your business at all your processes and assess what needs to be upgraded and when. Where can you save by simplifying the number of security tools you use or the number of providers? Is your cloud strategy working for you? Which apps do you need to host on-prem, which can be hosted in the cloud? Do you have enough compute power to deal with the new apps you want to use? Can you scale up and down your cloud provision whenever needed, or are you tied into contracts and license limits that prevent scalability?
Assessing where in the business AI will bring real benefit rather than be nice to have is also key. In terms of generative AI and tools like Microsoft’s upcoming Copilot, not everyone in the business likely needs it, so having a strategic plan in place will enable you to decide who has access to what and when.
Create a network with the right computing power. Regardless of the AI strategy, the most important need is to ensure your infrastructure can handle the compute power required to drive and deliver an AI system and its analytics demands while ensuring that the platform can scale as it continually evolves.
Take, for example, a customer experience initiative where your systems must remain highly available. You need to ensure your platform is fit for purpose before moving into production. This will depend on reliability, availability, security and performance. And this is where the cloud comes in. Suppose your infrastructure is currently hosted in a public cloud like Microsoft Azure. In that case, you should assess how cost-effective it will be to host an application that will rapidly drive up your number of licenses.
Use multi-platforms for different apps that require different computing needs. It’s essential to look at which apps you want to deploy or migrate and on which platforms they will optimally perform, offering the best results. Different apps work better across different platforms. Having a clear view of which apps you want to use, and which platforms they are compatible with, is important so you can match them to their specific computing needs; otherwise, they won’t perform as expected.
Digitally optimise business processes. One of the main reasons to digitally transform has historically been to automate key business processes. This remains critical where using technology will improve productivity and efficiency in your business. Look across your core functions – marketing, sales, customer service, HR, finance, and the supply chain – and see which processes can be automated. Use service tools like chatbots and automated email to respond more quickly to customer inquiries and automated digital marketing tools to optimise and streamline business outreach and keep track of campaign effectiveness in terms of return on investment. In HR and finance, as another example, digital tools that scan CVs and invoices will reduce the administrative burden around mundane tasks.
Business processes can be further optimised as we move towards an AI-driven world. For example, Microsoft Copilot is set to send all meeting attendees action points and write emails and presentations if given accurate information. Time savings will increase, and the ability to focus on high-value strategic projects will transform the way many of us work.
Clean up your cyber security. According to a report by Paneer, the average number of security tools organisations must manage has increased from 64 to 76 over the past two years. The question is, do you need all these, and where are the gaps? Despite having numerous security tools in place, we find that many organisations have significant security gaps and lack of an overall cohesive security strategy. Assessing which tools you still need and from which providers is key to ensuring a smooth digital transformation and that your cyber security is as strong as possible.
Continue to meet sustainability goals while upgrading compute power. Continuing to meet sustainability goals is a must for the tech industry, particularly the data centre industry. With new legislation coming, it’s likely data centres will be improving their sustainability in terms of how their buildings operate and the servers they offer. Not all servers were created equal. For example, IBM Power Systems are designed to sustain the most demanding, data-intensive computing, but crucially, its power consumption footprint helps to meet ESG agendas.
If you don’t digitally transform, you won’t see an increase in new customers, growth or market share. DX is necessary, and businesses struggling to rally behind a vision for DX should look no further than the cautionary tales of Kodak or Motorola. The real ROI on DX is about remaining functional in your market. You need a digital footprint to gain market share. Customers will go elsewhere if you’re not optimising your digital experience. If you don’t embrace AI, ultimately, you will lose employees and customers.