How to put yourself in the driver's seat of digital transformation

Digital transformation is the ability to leverage digital technologies to accelerate the transformation of business activities, processes, and models. More than just the latest buzz phrase, it’s a blueprint for how to survive and thrive in the coming months and years in the face of rapid innovation.

Which would you rather be: Uber or a traditional taxi company? Amazon or a brick-and-mortar retailer? Both Uber and Amazon used technology to seize opportunities. They didn’t merely react to competitors in the markets they wanted to be in. They made the markets.

Are you driving the digital transformation of your business, or are you simply reacting to circumstances when you invest in new technologies? Your answer to that question might determine whether you become a disruptor or the disrupted.

Before you make a hardware, software, or services purchase that is designed to enable the digital transformation of your company, follow the path of successful companies that have led the way in digital transformation. Make sure your purchases possess the following three capabilities.

Cloud, whether on-premises or off, is the easiest and most cost-effective way to scale. Some people would argue it’s the only way.

1. The ability to scale—both up and down

Demand for your apps, products, or services is fluid based on any number of factors: the overall economy, the selling season, changing customer preferences, and the moves of competitive firms—both from existing competitors and new market entrants. You need technology that can support your activities no matter what peaks and valleys you experience, so you can scale up and scale down at a moment’s notice.

Cloud, whether public or private, is the easiest and most cost-effective way to scale. Some people would argue it’s the only way. An added advantage is that with cloud you have the option to pay as you go, so you never waste dollars investing in “just-in-case” resources that go unused if your predictions don’t materialize. If scalability is important to your digital transformation—and it almost certainly will be—make sure your plans include a cloud strategy.

2. Openness

Whatever technology you invest in also has to comply with universally accepted standards. That way, you’ve future-proofed your investment. You won’t get stuck with a proprietary technology or be locked into a particular vendor.

Say you’ve developed an app that is dependent on geolocation data. That app has to do more than simply fulfill your current functional needs. It has to align what’s going on in the geolocation ecosystem in the world. In this particular case, it must adhere to the W3C standard so your app will work anywhere around the globe—tomorrow, as well as today.

Choosing open, standards-based technologies will enable you to cope with unanticipated changes in markets, as well as anticipated ones. Adhering to open-source standards and taking advantage of the burgeoning open-source ecosystem will allow you to flexibly bring new products and services to customers by taking advantage of the API economy. You’ll be able to customize products based on user preferences, create service bundles that drive new revenues, and deploy new purchasing models that leverage data offered in the growing information marketplace.

3. Quick time to productivity/revenue

Business moves swiftly. What if your competitor deploys a mobile app that streamlines its sales process and enhances the customer experience at the point of sale? Even if you manage to play copycat and follow in six months, it might as well be six years. You need to lead, not follow. You must monetize products and services rapidly using new business models as soon as emerging technologies make them available to you.

One way to do this is through automation that minimizes the need for human intervention. For example, by deploying self-services for customers that incorporate machine learning and self-healing attributes, you’ll drive costs out of your business while increasing revenues. You’ll also create the kind of IT staff efficiencies that are essential in this era of cloud talent shortages.

Participate in the API economy

Thanks to a growing understanding of how APIs can facilitate collaboration and business growth, the cloud is the new distribution warehouse where ecosystems are formed and partnerships are solidified. That’s why most of the companies that have successfully mastered digital transformation focus their efforts on cloud architectures and principles, which help them achieve scalability, openness, and quick time to value. Because digital interfaces are the way that products and services are created, sold, and used today, you’ll need to consider incorporating APIs into your cloud strategy in order to achieve your transformational goals.