4 February 2019

The Digital Enterprise: Hype or reality?

The Digital Enterprise hype is everywhere. What does it mean to become one?

The challenge today is that no one seems to agree on what the term Digital Enterprise even means. This is, of course, to be expected. We often gravitate toward using simple terms to explain complex ideas as it helps make complex ideas feel more understandable. However, when an idea is being used by so many people to mean very different things, it becomes dangerous as the term loses its ability to simply communicate the complex.

For some, “digital” is all about the internet and web technology. For others, it is simply a more modern, updated term for all things related to technology. Some use the term to simply reflect the idea of a digitally powered customer experience and to some “digital” means a paperless software system.

Digital Enterprise includes all of these things, but there is much more to it.

Things in our world are changing faster than they used to. New products are being made available to us almost daily, new services are presented to us everyday, new types of businesses pop-up every other day and there are new versions of almost everything. To crown it all, we as consumers have new expectations that influence manufacturers and service providers to provide better products (hence the cycle repeats). It is the principle of evolution:

You Adapt, You Become Better, Necessity Becomes an Opportunity.

Manufacturers need to get their products to the market faster, more efficiently, with greater flexibility with the same or even better quality. Thus transcending/transforming from an Industrial Era to a Digital Era. This is commonly known as Digitalization.

Digitalization brings it all together: every idea, every process, every machine (or entire plant), every stakeholder, every eventuality, everything you do. Ultimately forming a unified  Digital Enterprise.

Driving digital transformation is a significant effort and requires addressing virtually every aspect of the organizations operating business model such as the organizational structure, business processes, operational functions and IT strategy. To truly succeed in executing this transformation, the journey does not begin in any of those areas. Instead, it begins with the people and culture of the organization. They must embrace the vision of becoming a Digital Enterprise, understand the fundamental magnitude of what that means and then be prepared to march steadfastly into this future. Without this, there is no hope of succeeding.

I often witness companies engaging in unnecessary projects and activities with little or no benefit towards the overarching strategic alignment with business goals and objectives. There still seems to be siloed environments between plant operations and business operations. This eventually wastes time, money and loss of opportunity.

Digital Transformation is not only about technology but is a process, not a single project (or product) and often requires expert consulting services. The technology to realize this transformation should form part of an execution roadmap (typically 3-5 years) containing prioritized digitization projects aligned with defined prioritized business goals.

Once this transformation takes place the true value of digitalization closes the loop by feeding data analytics back into processes and systems autonomously implementing continuous process improvement and machine learning.

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