Digital transformation is a strange term. Just about everything a telecommunications provider -- or any modern company -- does already is digital. What transformation is needed? Clearly, the term speaks to the broader integration of the many new technologies and techniques into the way telcos and service providers are structured and operate.
That means that the definition is very broad. It can be highly technical, centered in the marketing department or even philosophical. Telco Transformation asked industry insiders what they consider to be the best definition of digital transformation.
On one level, the answers produced no surprise: Everyone has a different take on the term. What is surprising is that there is comparatively little discussion of specific technologies, though some were mentioned as key enablers.
Digital transformation, at the end of the day, is what observers want it to be. What is your definition of Digital Transformation? Please share it in the comments section.
Vodafone Americas: Digitization and digitalization are not the same
Andrew Morawski, Vodafone
"At Vodafone, we view digital transformation as the complete rethinking of how an organization uses technology. This includes everything from the pursuit of new revenue streams and new business models, to the way employees across a business collaborate with each other to how a brand engages with its customers.
"Digital transformation is understanding the difference between 'digitization' and 'digitalization.' While the terms may sound similar and are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two. To digitize is to convert pieces of analog information into a digital format, whereas digitalization involves building digital processes to optimize data, thereby moving toward a digital business. While digitization is a key first step in the transformation process, digitalization is where true digital transformation lies.
"However, digital transformation is not just a technology initiative. It should also encompass a change in culture and strategy across a business. Simply digitizing without a clear picture of how an organization will become more digital overall can lead to confusion and perhaps even a misuse of resources. True transformation is the combination of technology with the ability to envision and continuously drive change across an organization," Andrew Morawski, president and country chairman, Vodafone Americas.
BT: Digital transformation improves customer experience
Jim Sabey, BT
"Digital Transformation brings flexibility, innovation, and agility to the network. Like the cellphone, which has evolved from being a just a telephone to a powerful piece of technology, future networks will deliver the ability to easily change and adapt, giving organizations more control over a network that is more flexible. And they will do it with lower hardware costs. With SD-WAN and NFV, future networks are going to look very different from what we’re accustomed to.
"Digital transformation can be a very broad term, but what BT customers are telling me is that they are looking for digital transformation to improve customer experience, transform costs and improve operational efficiencies. Currently they have an abundance of IP connected devices in networks competing for bandwidth. Digital transformation will over time lessen the challenges of all these devices competing for bandwidth to ensure that the right applications and the right devices are working together.
"At the end of the day, digital transformation is about empowering people -- customers, businesses and employees -- to do amazing things," Jim Sabey, head of BT connect and compute sales specialists.
IHS Markit: Marrying legacy expertise with new technology is a challenge
"Technology can be used by organisations to make internal processes more efficient, create smarter, customised products and services, communicate more effectively with customers, develop new monetisation models based on valuable data and many other things. Technology underpins everything Internet companies like Facebook, Netflix and Uber do -- it’s in their DNA. They need to continue to innovate with new technologies, such as AR and VR, to maintain a competitive edge.
"Most organizations, such as large car manufacturers, physical retailers, energy companies and telecoms operators, were born long before the advent of the Internet. These organizations have deep domain expertise, but technology is not as embedded into their core operations. For these types of organizations, digital transformation describes their journey towards marrying their deep domain expertise with the adoption of technology to enhance their competitive position, customer reputation, financial performance and attractiveness as an employer.
"Although digital transformation requires the adoption of new technologies, it is not solely about technology. It is mostly about being receptive to new ideas -- from inside and outside of the organization, reducing internal structural barriers to working together more effectively together and, above all, to keep sight of how customer requirements will change in the future." Julian Watson, senior principal analyst, IoT, IHS Markit.
Orange Business: Enablers are enriched connectivity, flexible IT, holistic security
Vincent Brunet, Orange Business Services.
"New digital technologies are disrupting every industry. AI, the cloud, virtualization, analytics and connected devices are all changing the very nature of how to run a business and engage with customers. Enterprises locked into a traditional 'analog' mindset will face a greater uphill battle repeating the success they’ve enjoyed in the past. The game has changed and so must the players. In that regard, digital transformation is about embracing these technologies to turn disruption into order, an order that is smarter and more efficient than what was previously in place.
"In enterprise communications, digital transformation means collaborative workspaces where people can share information and work in unison regardless of location; it’s smart cities that offer guided parking and electronic payments; its asset management for monitoring in real time the state of cargo and equipment in the field; and it’s connected touchpoints that offer a seamless customer experience.
"Enriched connectivity, a flexible IT infrastructure, and a holistic security approach are key enablers of almost any digital transformation project. But digital transformation is also more than just replacing old technology with new. A clearly defined digital strategy is needed that is supported by leadership and a culture that is willing to change and innovate. Besides providing the tools, service providers like Orange Business Services can work with enterprises on these strategic steps as well to ensure a successful digital transformation. Technology only becomes innovation when useful to the greatest number of people," Vincent Brunet, vice president, global marketing and communications, Orange Business Services.