The reality of the globalized business is that you have to move fast to stay competitive. That means not only offering better products and services but also improving the way they are delivered, as well as the IT systems that work “under the hood” to allow your company to do what it does best. There is a way to achieve all these goals and more – read about the key digital transformation advantages in 2023.
Defining digital transformation
Digital transformation is a process of integrating technology solutions into your business operations, with the aim of fundamentally changing it for the better – facilitating bigger profits and faster growth. Importantly, it shouldn’t be considered a one-time act, but rather an ongoing process, often one that’s spread out over many years.
Digital transformation can offer your employees intuitive tools that give them access to all the important information in one place, and allow them to carry out their tasks faster and more efficiently. It can reduce the risk of human errors, create new ways to reach clients, help you offer them a better value, and do many other useful things (depending on an industry that you work in).
Nowadays, using digital technologies really isn’t that much of a choice – for companies that still haven’t made the first step towards a digitilized future, it’s a must, something that has to be done to stay competitive. The world becomes more and more infused with technology with each passing day, people live on the Internet nearly as much as in the real world, so businesses have to follow the same path. Otherwise, they risk losing relevance – and market share along with it. It really is as simple as that.
Digital transformation trends in 2023
However, the term “digital transformation” is quite wide, and it’s not entirely clear, what it entails – precisely. What technologies, besides the cloud, which everyone knows about, can be integrated into your business? There are a couple of important trends in this sphere that you should be aware of if you’re planning to bring your company into the digital age.
AI and ML come into the picture
Many digital transformation solutions adopted by companies in recent years – and also those that are being created right now – are powered by artificial intelligence. This is no surprise. Smart technologies give businesses many possibilities to reduce operational costs and can be implemented in one form or another in pretty much any industry and field. Statista predicts that the AI solutions market will continue to grow at a rapid pace in the coming years.
Another important detail here is the rising importance of data, the business insight it provides – and the smart, predictive analytics tools that help draw conclusions from it. Here comes machine learning, a technology directly connected to AI. Algorithms become more and more accurate as time goes by. They’re able to both gather and analyze data, as well as forecast what lies ahead.
Hybrid work challenges
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many things considerably, and the job market is one of the areas that have evolved the most. In many industries, employees have come to expect remote work as the new norm, and want things to continue the way they have over the last few years. Some companies allow that, others consider hybrid approaches, aiming to offer their people the flexibility they want, but also not waste the leased office space. All of these businesses need new solutions and technologies that’ll help them adapt to the changing environment.
Low-code gains prominence
Software development is expensive and takes a lot of time, especially if we factor in the workforce shortage in the IT industry. This is why solutions that allow you to reduce the cost and deliver software faster are very welcome. Low-code technologies are one of the most prominent ways to achieve that effect, offering a way for non-technical people – so-called citizen developers – to take a more proactive role in the process of creating systems and applications. Low-code apps are powerful, flexible, and can be customized, updated and maintained (at least to a certain degree) without too much help from an outside vendor, which is a huge boon. It’s no surprise that so many companies take interest in low-code and no-code solutions nowadays, and consider such technologies during the planning of their digital evolution. If you want to know more about low-code advantages, check out Przemysław Staniszewski’s article. For a more detailed introduction to one of the more prominent platforms read Matt Mulvaney’s great Oracle APEX tutorial.
The rise of new business models
While some industries are innately ready to function in a digital world, for many others, digitalization requires coming up with new business models. Sometimes the solution is as simple as cutting out the middleman and offering the service or product directly to the customer with the help of a well-designed online platform. In other cases, the situation is more complicated and requires the companies to consider many new factors (for example, finding new ways to reach the clients, new avenues for promotion, etc.).
One thing remains quite obvious, however – the best business model is not one that mirrors your competition, but rather one that’s unique to your company and fits your organization perfectly. That, in turn, usually requires custom-made software, because an off-the-shelf solution will only take you so far (or will quickly get costly when used on a large enough scale).
Hyperautomation changes industries
Automation is one of the most prominent global trends right now. Companies use new technologies and software solutions to reduce the workload, cut costs, and optimize various processes and aspects of their operations. This is sure to continue going forward, but that’s not the whole story – expect to see more and more technologies that’ll allow you to scale automation even further, going beyond automating individual, simple processes.
Hyperautomation – because that’s what it’s called – means taking care of complex tasks and carrying out large portions of a company’s activity without the need for human involvement. This is possible thanks to advanced data processing based on the aforementioned machine learning (AI), coupled with technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA for short – it means using software robots to carry out structured business tasks, such as filling out paperwork, for example). Some experts call it “automating the automation” and that phrase is, in fact, not that far from the truth.
Real-life benefits of digital transformation
Digital transformation efforts can offer your company a competitive advantage thanks to such things as improved agility, higher profits, cost savings, and better management of customer data and resources, among other things. However, it’s best to show results in actual, real-life circumstances, which’s why I’d like to show you some examples of projects Pretius participated in.
Transforming the IT infrastructure of a TSL giant
A well-known transportation company that moves goods across Europe hired us to modernize its IT infrastructure and processes. They wanted to evolve solutions they already had – update the software architecture, get rid of the technical debt, and achieve better efficiency in the process.
We’ve implemented an automated system that allowed them to calculate freights, plan routes (using Here Maps), and monitor transports in real-time. There were some problems during the development process – the quality of the company’s historical data being one of them – but the end result turned out to be great, and is now being improved further with new AI capabilities, that’ll allow the system to work more independently (with less human supervision).
The system will also be integrated with the TIMOCOM freight exchange, allowing quick reactions to posted assignments – which is imperative in the TLS industry, as those who react fast often get the job.
We’ve used the Oracle APEX low-code platform to create the new system, and also taught the client’s people a lot about it, so that they can maintain their solution without our help, acting as the aforementioned citizen developers.
If you’d like to read more about this particular project, Ewa Kilian wrote a whole article about it: Freight cost management software: A chance for your road transportation company.
A new digital platform for a construction company
For one of our clients – a big Polish company operating in the construction industry – we’re creating a complex digital platform based on microservices.
Like many other businesses in that sector, up until now, our client operated using various off-the-shelf solutions to carry out tasks such as document processing and HR management (for example, contracts, earning certificates for loan purposes, etc.). While that approach worked fine for a while, over time, as their business grew, the license costs started to pile up, and it quickly turned out that what seemed cheap in the beginning, is actually quite expensive in the long run. Not to mention the fact, that the support wasn’t always exemplary – with a ready-made solution, even if a given problem or bug is well-known, a fix might take a lot of time because it’ll probably be integrated into the next “big” version of the software.
Our client decided that a custom-made system is the most logical answer to most of their problems, and it also opened some new possibilities. For example, much of the paperwork the company takes care of on a daily basis has to do with the contractors they work with (signing contracts, verifying certificates, and so on). The digital platform we’re creating will have a well-designed front-end component that’ll allow the contractors to sign in and do many of these things by themselves, reducing the workload for our client’s employees.
However, that’s not all. The company also wants us to add another component to the system – a marketplace that’ll allow their contractors to sell construction materials they haven’t used and have no need of anymore. Our client will earn a modest margin on every transaction so the platform will serve as an additional source of revenue.
All of this will be achieved in addition to significantly reducing the license costs, as many of the off-the-shelves solutions used up until now will be retired. So, not only will their IT infrastructure stop costing them so much money – it’ll actually start earning them some, covering the operating expenses.
A microservice-based system for a telco market leader
The last project I want to highlight here is a great example which shows that digital transformation usually isn’t a one-time thing, but rather a continuous process. The system I’m talking about was created for a big telco company – a very prominent player in the Polish market.
Initially, our client’s operations were based on monolithic applications (meaning self-contained, independent software solutions), but over the years they’ve changed their system several times. They’ve used desktop clients, lightweight apps, and so on – their systems constantly evolved.
Our project is yet another stage of that evolution – the client wants to move towards an architecture based on microservices, which would be stored and deployed on their cloud. These microservices are to be domain-specific – specialized in dealing with particular parts of their operations (for example, a Customer Inventory Management system as a source of all important information about customers). They also want us to combine these microservices into whole processes, and create a lightweight front-end platform based on Angular or React, that will compliment them.
The second step of this project – which we’ll soon start working on – is all about accelerating the transformation. We’re building one CRM front-end that these microservices can be transferred into, that’ll be used by the company’s branches in all of the countries it operates in. Thanks to this, our client will be able to implement all of the functionalities in all of the countries. This will significantly reduce costs, but also help the organization unify its systems – it’ll be more like one big company (which it really is), instead of a conglomerate of smaller and slightly different branches across many different countries.
Pitfalls and possible problems
Digital technology can offer many benefits, but the process of implementing it can sometimes be quite problematic, especially in the case of companies without much experience in the IT world. If you’re considering making that first step, here are a couple of possible issues you should be aware of, that I want to highlight.
- Lack of a clear strategy – before you start making any decisions, be sure to come up with a real digital strategy for the changes you’re planning. On one end, this will make the whole process go much smoother, and on the other, a well-planned system will always be more beneficial than something that’s a result of span-of-a-moment decisions. If you don’t have people who are able of coming up with such a strategy, make sure to find a reliable vendor that will act not only as your software provider but also as a digital transformation consultant.
- Pushback from employees who fear change – not everyone has to be an IT specialist, and people have a right to fear changes they don’t fully understand. Take the time to explain everything that’s happening to your people, show them the advantages and tell them why it needs to be done. However, even with all this, some of your employees might still be against the idea. Try to be ready for that – one approach that may sometimes work is keeping these people close to the project so that they feel their opinion is valued and may familiarize themselves with the new technology, and see how it’s better then the previous legacy systems. If your software vendor can train these employees in using the new applications, maybe even making them citizen developers, it’s an ideal situation.
- Bad quality of data – most of the digital transformation is really about data – the way it’s being collected, processed, and used by your company. However, if the information that you’ve gathered up until now isn’t of good enough quality (because of errors and typos, for example), it can severely limit the possiblities of the new system. For example, machine learning algorithms will only be as effective as the data they work on – if it’s bad, you can expect errors and problems – and automation can’t work without the AI “magic” under the hood. However, if built correctly, the software can work in a hybrid model for a while (it’ll still be based on machine learning to a degree, but it’ll require some support from employees), and the full-scale AI/machine learning capabilities can be enabled once good quality data is collected. This is what we did in the case of the first project mentioned above.
The digital revolution is just a few steps away
Digital transformation isn’t an unattainable goal – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you find the right people for the job and design a clear business strategy that’ll outline the planned benefits and the way to get to them (a good software vendor has IT analysts that can help with that), starting a project that’ll revolutionize your company and move it years ahead can be just a few steps away. The important thing is to make the decision and start moving – you can be sure your competition isn’t sitting on their hands.
Do you want to digitally transform your company?
Pretius has a great deal of experience with different digital tools, software of all shapes and sizes, as well as a solid understanding of different industries. If you’re interested in moving your business into the digital age, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll answer in 48 hours and tell you how we can help.