Digital transformation (DT) was considered a business opportunity less than two years ago, now has quickly become a matter of survival, a means of providing continuity to companies. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted industry plans and triggered a race to digitalisation, but many were left behind. The difficulties that have arisen since the early months of the health crisis have confirmed that, as a 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review states, DT is about a cultural change as much as technological evolution as a whole, and it is from the needs of consumers that the 2022 trends of digital transformation are set. Only companies that are ready to listen and dynamically adapt their business models to the new market challenges can hope to leave a footprint.
THE BENEFITS OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FOR SMES
The pandemic has forced millions of households to embrace nearly overnight technologies rarely or never previously used to work, buy essentials, connect with loved ones and educate their children.
Certainly, companies that have coped best with the pandemic challenge are those that facilitate a smooth transition and are best organised in terms of workflow. But keep in mind that none of these companies had to revolutionise their business. Digital transformation is a gradual process, never completed, through small steps and adjustments. In this sense, we speak of the intrinsic scalability of digital transformation, providing business development in harmony with three main elements:
In a highly volatile context, the precise measurement of ROI (Return On Investment) becomes essential. In this respect, digital transformation generates a very important competitive advantage because powerful algorithms are able to provide useful insights for decision-making.
Another benefit for companies that embark on DT is the enhancement of customer experience. A satisfied customer is a loyal customer, and modern multi-channel CRM systems allow the end user to interact with the company in real time, access their data at any time and receive customised rates and products.
All these advantages contribute to the creation of a resilient armour that can protect against the many risks that a company, operating in the interconnected landscape in which we live, has to face: health crises, natural disasters, trade wars, cyber attacks, new regulations, etc.
In summary, the advantages of digital transformation are:
THE TECHNOLOGIES OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
The reason why digital transformation processes often fail is the absence of a vision. The technologies are available (and the list below is proof of this), what’s usually missing is a rational way of using them. Let’s take a look at the innovations most in use today, and then move on to the 2022 digital transformation trends.
INTERNET OF THINGS
The Internet of Things, a system of interconnected devices and machines provided with unique identifiers, allows all elements of the network to send and receive data. Companies use this technology to create real-time patterns without human interaction.
Enterprise resource planning softwares combine all key business processes (accounting and finance, HR, production and supply chain) in an in-memory database. Modern ERP applications use cloud technology to process big data, analyse it and learn to optimise processes.
AUGMENTED REALITY AND WEARABLE DEVICES
Once confined to entertainment, augmented reality (AR) is now being used in the professional, commercial and educational sectors. The same goes for wearable devices, which, after a pre-pandemic setback, have played an important supporting role in sectors such as healthcare and delivery.
THE 2022 TRENDS IN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
The 2022 digital transformation trends point strongly towards personalised and always-available technology. The phenomenon of ubiquitous computing, which refers to the integration of computing power into all aspects of daily life, is being driven by smartphones, 5G networks and internet cloud. Let’s take a look at the main trends in digital transformation.
Today, one key word underlies all major economic and social activities: sustainability. Achieving the goals of the present without compromising those of future generations is a commitment to which Europe has long adhered: the 750 billion euros of the Next Generation EU are aimed primarily at green and digital transition, for a ‘sustainable, even and fair recovery’. Such a development is also expected to stimulate employment and growth. The companies that will be part of this ambitious movement are those able to ease this transition and that take concrete actions to implement transparency and energy efficiency of production processes.
The education industry is particularly flourishing at the moment because its innovations are a response to urgent and specific issues. Not only the pandemic, but also the need for continuous and specialised training has led to the development of advanced FAD platforms. Education trends also include the increasing use of serious games and of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) displays for practical learning of knowledge and skills. These technologies are now available to a large number of companies and research institutes.
The global health emergency has highlighted more than ever the need for more reactive, interconnected and personalised healthcare. The healthcare sector is one of those that is benefiting most from new technologies: augmented reality in the operating room and for medical training, software developed in relation to the specific needs of medical facilities, machine learning for disease prediction and treatment, wearable devices for monitoring patients’ health conditions and so on.
Personalisation of goods and services, direct interaction with the manufacturer, traceability and community support reviews are features that customers now demand and that can be delivered through social commerce. The main social networks are implementing changes to enhance the customer experience through partnerships with platforms such as Shopify that allow the automatic upload of the company’s entire catalogue and the creation of customised paths according to the user profile, among other things.
Smart cities collect and process complex packages of data to optimise services and resources through the Internet of Things (IOT). As the evolution of cities in the smart direction involves large numbers of people, these new ecosystems will inevitably be subject to special compliance standards relating to the management of citizens’ personal data and cyber security. Smart cities will bring benefits in terms of efficiency and eco-sustainability of large urban aggregates and their development will be one of the most important 2022 trends of digital transformation.
There will not be an inclusive and large-scale affirmation of smart cities and DT if only certain sectors of the population can benefit from them. In fact, a large part of digital applications is oriented towards improving the user-experience and computer interfaces in order to facilitate the use of new technologies for people who have less access to them, such as the elderly or people living in small towns, rural communities or developing countries.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: STRATEGIES FOR 2022 (AND BEYOND)
Digital transformation, an initiative to integrate smart technologies into all areas of business, is a plan to boost business resilience. The benefits for companies are obvious, the technologies available, the trends already in place. The only thing left to do is therefore to develop your own digital transformation strategy for 2022 by assessing resources and the level of digitalisation of your business. The definition of priorities must be accompanied by an appraisal of the technological tools that can contribute to the development of activities, bearing in mind that it is the business strategy that drives the digital transformation and not vice versa. It is the clear vision of the objectives that identifies the technological tools capable of enhancing its distinctive mark.
In conclusion, it is easy to understand how the digital transformation process is particularly important for the continuity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): because it does not present particular barriers in terms of costs, it can be implemented through gradual investments accompanied by precise measurements of ROI. In other words, DT is a tuning process that, step by step, allows you to look back and assess whether the objective is still the same or whether it should be changed in relation to new developments and challenges. And JO Group, a cluster of companies specialised in DT, is already considered by many European economic players to be a partner of choice for these challenges and can also support your activities in 2022.
As a final word, keep following our JOurnals to stay up-to-date on the latest news, original insights and upcoming calls regarding digital transformation.