Change is one constant in life. For the world of technology, change only means one thing—pushing the boundaries in search of more innovative developments.  Digital transformation (DX) is the unification of digital technology and a business, company, or organization. Digitizing various processes can boost efficiency and allow services and products to improve by leaps and bounds.  In 2021, there’s no way for any organization to stay relevant without keeping up with these new DX trends:
  • Cybersecurity

Whatever the industry, security is one of the most important considerations, especially since so many people are now working remotely. Consequently, so many processes have migrated online. These days, financial fraud or theft happens online more often than not, and data breaches cost companies an average of $3.86 million in 2020. Thus, implementing new and improved cybersecurity measures is crucial in fighting back.  The 2021 cybersecurity trend is a movement from reaction to proactive prevention. The focus now is on thwarting hackers’ attacks, rather than trying to mop up the mess. One approach is the zero-trust security model (ZTA). This is a system that works off the assumption that all network devices are untrustworthy and rely on authorization policies, authentication steps, and strict access control to mitigate risks. An example of this is Microsoft’s implementation of a ZTA security model a few years ago. The increasing use of mobile computing, Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) policies, cloud-based services, and the internet of things (IoT) prompted the move. Initially, the scope included common corporate services on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, which are then used by the corporation’s employees, partners, and vendors. The corporation then expanded the focus to include all applications used on Microsoft. The corporation introduced the use of smart-card multi-factor authorization (MFA) to control administrative server access. It later extended this to include users who access resources beyond the corporate network. Eventually, the smart cards were exchanged for a phone-based challenge and the Azure Authenticator application. Microsoft also implemented device verification, access verification, and service verification. 

  • Data Analytics

One universal concern for businesses is the generation of revenue, and to grow that, they need to know what works and what doesn’t. The world is moving towards automation of processes and an increased use of AI to perform tasks that were previously manually performed.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have by necessity moved online; apart from this, the traditional AI techniques that relied on previous statistics and information are potentially becoming ineffective because of the vast changes of the past year. AI systems are heading towards working with “small data” instead of historical data. Data science developments and the use of cloud technology are closely linked, especially when it comes to using data as a service (DaaS), granting on-demand access to information without relying on proximity. Phoenix-based mining company Freeport-McMoRan is a fine example of how data-driven decisions can transform a business. Chief operating officer Harry ‘Red’ Conger told McKinsey Digital that real-time data, AI, and the company’s veteran metallurgists’ and engineers’ institutional knowledge combined to lower operating costs, bolster economic resilience, and speed up decision-making. In 2018, the company unveiled a $200 million plan to expand the capacity of its Bagdad, Arizona, copper mine. When copper prices plunged a few months later, however, they scrapped the plan. Not long after, the company started building an AI model that could boost productivity. Data scientists analyzed and challenged existing operations, and AI showed how they could better use equipment. Working together, the data scientists, engineers, and metallurgists made changes that led to the mine’s processing rate to increase by 10%. The company has since implemented the AI model in eight of its other mines. 

  • Democratization of Innovation

Democratization in the digital transformation field refers to the shift away from a provider-focused model towards a user-focused one.  Companies have a tendency to create fairly uniform products that are quickly being pushed aside by individuals’ and small businesses’ desires for innovations that are specific to their field. Developments are no longer going to be withheld by a smaller clique of establishments but made available to a much wider group of users.  According to the WorldBlu list of freedom-centered organizations, New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a business that has democratized innovation. Founder Kim Jordan said the brewery involves all its workers in the business’ strategic planning every year. Jordan also encourages open communication, trust, engagement, and inclusivity, and has an open-book approach to management.

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  • The Cloud

Many people use the cloud for personal activities, and businesses already know the importance of using its capabilities to their full potential. In the world of COVID, where so many employees have transitioned to remote work, the worldwide ease of access to the cloud is imperative. In 2021, technology is moving towards the use of multi-tenant clouds and hybrid cloud models.  Organizations are letting go of the belief that it’s best to use a single cloud vendor and are venturing into the area of hybrid clouds. It’s predicted that by 2022, over 90% of companies will have transitioned to hybrid cloud technology consisting of private clouds, various public clouds, and legacy platforms. Toyota offers an example of how cloud technology can enhance its offering. The vehicle manufacturer used the cloud to transform its cars from regular vehicles into connected platforms. Apps connect the cars to Microsoft Azure-hosted social media sites to track electric vehicle reward points and to offer other elements that improve the customer experience.  

  • Real-Time Data Processing

Financial establishments that required immediate data processing and updates to provide a service primarily made use of this technology. There’s an ever-increasing need for the instant delivery of answers—within a second or two.  Change in the business and technology sectors is constant and accelerating, and that requires real-time processing; processing that is not only fast but automated and reliable too. Development in this field gears itself towards flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and scalability.  Nissan uses real-time data analytics to make decisions that are appropriate for local markets. The automobile manufacturer uses Google analytics e-commerce tracking to obtain product preference data, such as the colors, models, and categories of the vehicles that are in demand in each market. The company uses Hortonworks Data Platform for its data lake, which includes driving, quality, and other data from across the company’s operations.

  • Contactless Solutions

Another effect of COVID has been the drastic shift away from face-to-face interactions towards virtual connections—from family get-togethers to business meetings. Virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom have taken off because of social distancing.  Contactless solutions also include contactless payments, which are becoming more and more popular for businesses providing a public service. Tap to pay debit or credit cards has almost become the norm, and they do away with the need for multiple people to handle the same payment terminal.  Apart from contactless payments, there’s also been a surge in contactless fulfillment. This digital development has seen the rise of online shopping. This isn’t only about purchasing items on sites like Amazon, but also ordering groceries and other smaller products from local businesses and receiving them by door-to-door delivery or arranging curbside pickup. Many small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are among the South African businesses that have seen how contactless options can transform companies’ operations. Nedbank launched tap-on-phone functionality for SMMEs in October 2020, and customers have responded well to the option of tapping their cards rather than swiping them and entering their PIN number. A MasterCard study indicated that 75% of South Africans used contactless payment methods when given the opportunity. 

  • Development and Wider Launch of 5G

Contrary to what conspiracy theorists believe, 5G is a massively positive development that’s set to revolutionize internet use by upgrading response time, improving speed drastically, and granting greater ease of access for multiple connected devices.  5G promises to deliver to both telecom operators and users. For individuals, the step up from 4G will bring vast improvements in internet access through a low latency rate and larger access areas. No more endlessly searching for Wi-Fi or having to move your laptop around in the hopes of a stronger signal. For operators, 5G offers the ability to shift their value proposition, allowing them to change from network capacity providers to full-scale, innovative digital partners. The spectrum for growth is huge, as are the opportunities for increasing revenue.  Samsung is one of the biggest brands globally already capitalizing on 5G. The brand’s range of Galaxy 5G devices takes connectivity to new heights and has set the benchmark for other mobile manufacturers to follow. 

Looking to the Future

The past 18 months have brought about a multitude of changes, challenges, and crises for individuals and businesses alike. Some industries have suffered more than others, but it seems unlikely that things will go back to “normal,” at least in the next few years.  There are speculations that the world is about to enter an age of pandemics, which will cement the current trend of remote working, online shopping, and reduction in face-to-face interactions across all industries. These changes have forced industries to innovate at a rate that has previously been difficult to sustain. Change has become the order of the day, and to survive, organizations have had to dedicate every effort to stay ahead of the curve.

Evolve to Thrive

Every species undergoes evolution over centuries and millennia, and technology is no different. The speed of change may differ, but the purpose is the same: to adapt to an unstable environment and prepare for the future.  These digital transformation trends will positively drive change and pave the way for new developments that will build on existing structures.

Digital Transformation Roadmap for Businesses

The following map is one approach to digital transformation for an organization. By following these steps, your organization can update practices and gain a competitive edge over those who’ve yet to embark on the transformation process. Step 1 – Develop innovative business models and experiences. Step 2 – Encourage a digital DNA culture within the organization. Step 3 – Update existing infrastructure with new technologies. Step 4 – Use data, not gut reactions, to drive the decision-making process. Step 5 – Find and collaborate with innovative and creative partners.

Ready to start your digital transformation journey?  

Digital transformation is at the core of pushing the business forward. When done the right way, it can help businesses achieve sustainable growth and stay ahead of their competition. Building a successful digital transformation strategy doesn’t have to be a challenge. With the right support and expertise, you can adapt to change and outpace evolving demands. Xaltius is a trusted partner for these projects.  Our experience has proven that a successful digital transformation strategy needs to focus on two things. First, your strategy must include ways to manage evolving business goals. These strategies also need to account for the cultural change that comes with those advancements. Our Data Scientists provide the kind of external perspective, agility, and understanding required for real innovation.   When you partner with Xaltius, you’ll have access to highly skilled professionals, Business Analysts, Data Engineers, Corporate Trainers, and all the ancillary roles for the delivery of your strategy. Each of us at Xaltius is directly accessible to your project managers. We are a Singapore-based IT consultancy providing customized, cost-effective IT solutions to enterprises.  Let us know if we can do anything for you.  To learn more about what we can do for your organization, talk to an industry expert – Book a consultation.

About the Author: This article is written by Kristie Wright. Kristie Wright is an experienced freelance writer who covers topics on logistics, finance, and management, mostly catering to small businesses and sole proprietors. When she’s not typing away at her keyboard, Kristie enjoys roasting her own coffee and is an avid tabletop gamer.
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