Guest post by Aisling Keegan, Vice President and General Manager, Dell EMC Ireland on digital transformation.

The inertia behind the adoption of digital transformation strategies in enterprise has caused businesses to concentrate harder on upping their game. According to Dell EMC’s recent Digital Transformation Index Survey, disruption is rife across every industry with 52 per cent of participants confirming significant changes in their sector within the past three years. The study, which compiled responses from over 4,000 senior executives across 16 countries, also revealed that nearly half of the participants believe that their businesses might become obsolete within the next five years.

These statistics have positive aspects, however, as they signal that the enterprise market is finally adapting to dynamic shifts in customer demand and updating their IT infrastructure. In an increasingly connected global business environment, the speed of getting to market and organisational agility are fast becoming the keys to success. Coupled with pressure for a more customer-centric approach and the shifting expectations from employees, senior business leaders are having to accept that investment in modernising IT is a top priority.

Enabling the competition
Technology is an enabler and can also be a game changer for companies of all sizes, across every industry. Today’s competitors for many of the large, well-established firms in services, finance, insurance, and consumer facing enterprises are increasingly smaller organisations, many of which are start-ups with smaller footprints, more technology centricity, lower running costs and much greater flexibility. This is reflected by Dell EMC’s survey results, which confirm that 78 per cent of executives believe that the greatest competition for their businesses now and in the future, will be digital start-ups. Reinforcing the point, a further 62 per cent indicated that they had already seen new entrants in their markets as a result of the availability of digital tools and new technologies.

Room for improvement
The data shows that enterprise is on the whole, responding to the new digital environment. However, it is also clear from the responses that a number of challenges are holding back broader adoption of digital transformation. Dell EMC defines the critical attributes for digital transformation as agile innovation, predicting new opportunities, increasing transparency and trust, focusing on personalised experiences and working within an always on, real-time framework. Of the 4,000 respondents, only a third stated that their businesses were implementing these attributes across their organisations and only seven per cent admitted to having executed all five across their businesses. This demonstrates how much work there is yet to do in adopting the future ready technologies necessary to remain relevant and competitive in the markets of the next decade.

Breaking down the barriers
Amongst those that are still to start on the path towards digital transformation, the data shows five clear barriers to the progress of modernising IT operations and infrastructure. The most cited factor, is a lack of budget and resources, as confirmed by a third of the participants of the study, however it’s not the only consideration, as reduced budgets do not necessarily prohibit investment in IT. More frequently, technology vendors are moving towards offering financial services on their product lines, ensuring that businesses can purchase solutions on a financial plan that suits the company. Also, with the development of cheaper, more powerful virtualisation and cloud technologies, enterprise has a wide range of options to adopt future ready technology whilst making significant savings on hardware and maintenance costs. These solutions also offer businesses greater flexibility and options to scale with demand, adding cost-efficiency and agility to the implementation.

The second most important consideration for business leaders pursuing digital transformation was revealed as training and recruitment for specialist skills and knowledge. With the global skills gap only widening, especially in the technology sector, it’s becoming difficult to find experienced professionals capable of managing the transition. However, this can be overcome by bringing together siloed departments to plug knowledge gaps or by deploying external, short-term consultants to manage the implementation. For companies that are unable to take on more in-house staff, this support will ensure the successful installation of new solutions, whilst imparting the necessary skills to maintain subsequent operations to existing internal IT teams.

Leading the way
The research shows that amongst different business units, there are several departments leading the way in establishing a modern IT infrastructure to support future demand. Unsurprisingly, most executives indicated IT as number one for digital transformation, with marketing, finance and customer service(s) coming in second, third and fourth place respectively. This confirms the need for experienced IT professionals to manage digital transformation implementations and shows that without it, progress can be delayed. It also indicates that customer demand is a key driver in influencing the decision to implement new solutions, with three highly visible, consumer facing departments appearing in the top five for addressing digital attributes.

Survival of the fastest… adopter
With constant development and evolution of technology platforms for business and consumers, it has never been more important to ensure that a company has a strong digital strategy, which can cater to current and future demand, fluctuations in the market and the emergence of new competitors.

Though business leaders are aware of this, additional challenges are stalling the implementation process. To successfully implement a digital transformation strategy, business leaders should evaluate the needs of their organisation, market trends, customer demand and the available resources to finance and manage the project. With so many digital tools now available and with assistance from vendors, resellers and consultants, it’s possible to match the best new solutions with the needs and capabilities of the company, whilst flexible financing options exist to help create a manageable payment scheme compatible with today’s challenging marketplace.

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