Our whirlwind relationship with technology has taken a life of its own in recent years. In less than a decade, gazing into a glowing screen full of information has become a natural part of life. But don’t be fooled. Every device we use, every piece of data we view, and every connection we engage is no longer just tools for getting stuff done.

“We don’t use technology solutions to solve technology problems. We use technology solutions to solve business problems,” Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Futurum Research + Analysis, shared during the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) Webcast “Digital Transformation and Innovation at Scale Across Industries.” “By adapting and innovating quickly with emerging technologies, the speed in which you are constantly looking to use technology and growing your culture to take advantage of them will inevitably help companies become disruptive by nature.”

But all too often, companies fail to find the right digital strategy that will propel them into the stratosphere of industry leaders such as Amazon, NetFlix, Airbnb, Lyft, and Facebook. So what’s going on? Is it possible that they are making digital transformation more difficult than it really is?

Lost in translation: Deciphering the true meaning of digital transformation

As the rate of change accelerates, leadership needs to pay attention to how digital transformation relates to the overall business strategy. Understanding how the interdependence of people, process, and technology breathes new life into the marketplace can set the business on a path towards outperforming and dominating competitors while adding value to every customer’s experience.

But all too often, as Newman noted, executives are often caught up in the ever-evolving flurry of favored buzzwords, ideas, and terminology. “Every single business is challenged by technology jargon, especially digital transformation, digital disruption, and innovation. It is important that there is a baseline understanding that these terms are all distinct and not interchangeable.”

By knowing how these terms interconnect, companies can set a firm foundation for success for years to come:

· Digital transformation: The right blend of technology (“digital”) and people (“transformation”) is vital – and you cannot have one without the other. The right mindset, skills, strategy, and culture is needed to implement and use technology in a way that will drive the business forward.

· Digital disruption: This term is not just about Netflix upsetting Blockbuster or Amazon taking over digital and brick-and-mortar commerce. Digital disruption is actually more than that. Instead, it’s about technology shifting the behaviors and experiences of existing and potential consumers.

· Innovation: Although this is not a new term, this is probably one of the most challenging concepts to achieve consistently and productively. In essence, innovation is about introducing new ideas, products, and services that will help keep the business going and strong.

The thin red line: Connecting data, people, technology, and partnership

Companies that are successfully innovating and overtaking their competitors are the ones that understand how to address four fundamental elements:

· Optimized talent: Make the best use of every employee to foster a culture that embraces change and innovation.

· Data management: Collect, analyze, and share the right data for more precise decision-making.

· Technology alignment: Choose technologies that complement corporate objectives and culture.

· The right partnerships: Establish partner relationships that can take the business strategy to the next level.

By unifying these components, companies can deliver the tools they need to make better decisions and offer products and services that resonate and evolve with customers. Such a foundation is critical because, as Newman suggested, “there is simply too much data flowing through businesses right now – we don’t just need analytics; we need analytics and insights now.”

Technology that helps users cut through a massive volume of data so they can get the right information and pair it with their experiences is invaluable in today’s economy. “For example, machine learning helps people make better decisions faster by leveraging quantitatively supported forecasting metrics, facial recognition, and pattern detection,” Newman continued. “Meanwhile, blockchain helps improve how we validate information, verify transactions, and establish a system of checks and balances to make sure data [from which decisions are made] is accurate from the perspective of the business and consumer.”

The gap between: Bridging together culture and innovation

Digital transformation of any kind is never easy; however, it doesn’t make sense to make it harder by moving forward without the right mindset, culture, data, technology, and partnerships. Before innovation can happen at a competitive speed, the people powering the business at every level and in every organization need to buy into change and embrace innovation with ease.

As Newman noted in his discussion, it is imperative to build a strong culture around change and innovation. There are just too many hurdles to overcome in the process – and a weak culture will only magnify them.

Contemplating people, culture, and a changing mindset when starting any digital initiative sets the foundation a business needs to transform. But more importantly, it opens up a platform for imagining the possibilities and experiences the company wants to create [even without considering the limitations of finances and politics involved] can be powerful.

Learn how companies such as Target, Ally Bank, and Trek are promoting a culture of innovation to simplify and accelerate their digital transformation. Watch the replay of the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) Webcast “Digital Transformation and Innovation at Scale Across Industries,” featuring Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner of Futurum Research + Analysis.

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