To become efficient or to become digital?
16 Mar 21
There is high pressure in the consulting industry when it comes to offering services to help companies and organizations increase their digitalization. However, the messages from the consultants who offer these services are often fluffy and hovering about “what” it means to become digital. In many cases, it is primarily about helping the customer to become a little more “efficient” and hardly that the customer becomes digital. And at the same time, all organizations have been striving to become efficient at all times. So, what’s new with all this?
Let us take RPA (Robotic process automation) as an example. Today we see a diversity of consulting organizations that offer knowledge and system support in the form of RPA to help customers become “digital”. But basically, RPA is about adding automation to manual routines and eliminating and simplifying steps in the customer’s business processes. It thus creates both efficiency and increased data quality. But that still does not mean that the customer goes digital, does it?
The same issue can be related to the introduction of voice control or a so-called chatbot. This means that technology is added that can save a lot of working time for the customer at the same time as it can significantly increase the availability of service to the customer. Thus, positive for both parties. But again, does that mean the customer is going digital?
The above should not be construed as objections to either RPA or other technology that can simplify the customer’s processes. These techniques are welcome and will contribute to improvements. However, the basic problem remains that many of the underlying applications and databases are not developed for the changes we see ahead in terms of increasing data volumes and complex structures. Many of the established and “old” vendors strive to add new technology on top but are reluctant to “clean up” the existing infrastructure and landscape with old applications and inflexible information flows.
Although it is positive that many organizations review their processes and routines and try to find tools to become more efficient, we see a limitation in how far you can go with your digitalization without rebuilding the basement and foundation for your information management. Everything indicates that the information volumes we handle today are only a fraction of what we will need to handle in a few years. In addition to increased personalization and the introduction of IoT, most organizations will want and need to handle data from more data sources, both internally and externally, to gain access to a larger information base that provides opportunities for what is called predictive analytics. The sum of a fragmented landscape of old systems, the lack of a homogeneous data and information model and the lack of a service-oriented architecture will lead to difficult obstacles to the next generation of system landscapes.
Of course, it is not necessary to go digital overnight. But given the pace of change that is now prevailing in the business world and the competition that is starting to come from previously completely unknown competitors in the market, there are significant reasons for most organizations to review their current situation and make plans for how to move to a future-proof platform of applications. And it will not be enough to supplement the IT environment with RPA and other tools. It’s just a small step along the way.