Is digital transformation just data integration?

“Digital Transformation” is now one of the biggest buzz phrases you can find if you’re walking through any organisation in the world today.

Throughout the hundreds of companies I’m speaking with every day, it’s become apparent that many brands and people seem unsure or overwhelmed by the very thought of Digital Transformation. The task of trying to unravel what it means for their business can seem like a never ending mountain to climb with no peak in sight.  I believe that there’s a common issue where many professionals overlook the bigger picture, and in our field of online listening there’s a tendency to put too much focus on the digital and social teams, and forget about, or even disregard the rest of the organisation.

So how can organisations effectively transform themselves digitally to make better decisions?

First off, I think it’s fair to say that digital transformation is happening every day to each and every one of us. It’s part of this digital world to which we now belong.

From the way we communicate on our mobile phones, make online payments, book taxis or order food on an app, to the way we receive the news, many things today have now been digitalised. This isn’t something we have all been necessarily taught how to do though, it just happened through technology in what seemed like an almost overnight process. In a way, our lives have all taken part in this digital transformation process and we’re now all very much used to it.

Now when companies talk about digital transformation this can sound scary, it feels like such an enormous task that many organisations don’t know where to start and plans can look disjointed. Here I’m not talking about whether a company took their business from an offline to online business because this, in many cases, is simply sink or swim. What I’m talking about is using digital data.

It’s easy to look at digital transformation and focus on the digital or marketing team. But in reality, this transformation has a far greater reach than just those departments and it affects everybody in the organisation. This doesn’t mean that we have to become digital marketing experts overnight though, far from it.

25 years ago nobody would expect your average R&D director to understand how to create a TV advert or put together a press release, just as today you wouldn’t expect that same person to know how to create quality video content or set up a Facebook campaign. But what we are expecting everybody to do today is consume more data.

This is data that people might not be used to receiving. It might be data from sources or websites which they think have nothing to do with them, which leads to resistance or reluctance to receive this information.

Today, we have more data available than ever and understanding how to find, analyse and share this information with the relevant people takes some organisation and planning.

For me it makes sense to look at data per department. Here are some common topics which can be achieved to help different teams perform better:

  • Communications: Listening to your digital reputation on social media, including sentiment, themes, progression as well as PR activities
  • Sales: Identifying people looking for your services/products on social media and engaging with them
  • Market research: Running low cost market surveys to identify consumer expectations and market trends
  • Human resources: Leveraging both B2C Social platforms (Twitter/FB/YouTube/Instagram and so on), as well as B2B platforms (LinkedIn, Glassdoor an online forums), to increase awareness and attract the best talent
  • Legal and Risk: Monitoring online threats and risk assessments such as counterfeiting, fraud, and information leaks
  • Customer services: Identifying customer complaints/issues and limiting backlash
  • Research and Development/ Innovation: Finding new startups or technologies to acquire or partner with
  • Purchasing: Identifying new suppliers whom you may not be aware of
  • Strategy: Tracking competitors to see their latest moves

Aside from supporting these common demands there are many things to take into consideration. For one, it is important to make sure that information has the biggest impact and is well received by the audience. This can include the sources where the data comes from, whether insights and analysis have been included and the format in which the information is delivered (such as dashboards, analysis reports or newsletters).

If we can get these things right, for me this is real digital transformation: making information readily available and digestible, in a customised way that will have a direct impact on the way different teams make better strategic decisions in their daily tasks and impact the bottom line.

Intel is one of the greatest success stories in the APAC region, with their unique digital hub supporting different departments by having analysts and technologies in place to answer any questions thrown at them.

The writer is Stephen Dale, general manager APAC, Digimind.

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