Looking back at 2016 and taking a peek into 2017, the digital past and future.

We have turned too many pages of the calendar this year. On the last page of it, let’s take a look back on how this year thrived in digital transformation. Let’s rewind the digital clock and explore the innovations and take heed from them about what’s to come. From virtual reality stores to Omni channel integration, 2016 has seen the emergence of a new digital era across industries. What were the takeaways? What should we look forward to? We have Finny Chellakumar, Head of Digital Business Service, Aspire Systems tell us about what happened and what’s to come.

1.What were some of the biggest takeaways from this year’s digital transformation agenda according to you? What digital transformation strategies did Aspire follow this year?

From a market perspective I’ll say we have seen an increase in investments on integrations to harness data to provide seamless customer experiences across channels.  Another focus across industries has been Omni Channel enablement. People are innovating and investing towards mobile friendly technology, as we know most customers come from hand held devices now a days. So, be it banking or retail, business users understand the need for a mobile first approach. Customers don’t want to be compelled to download an app for convenient services.

One thing organizations have realized this year is the importance of integrating business systems for providing a glitch free customer experience. In today’s customer centric market it is extremely important to keep track of their activities, so when they reach out to you, you can help them in the most efficient way. Integrating call centers, which is one of the most prominent customer touch points has been a focus this year. Business users are working towards having their call centers understand the need of customers better with effective integration.

And another important takeaway this year has to be IoT. It is going to be big in the coming years and it is going to be very, very relevant next year. Connected devices will grow like smart homes, smart cars fueling the IoT boom.

Aspire really got in exploring digital this year. We helped a lot of people venturing into digital for the first time and we understood one thing, digital transformation cannot be predetermined, it has to be tailor made for individual enterprises. Our digital discovery model for people looking for digital transformation begins with assessing customers’ existing architecture, capabilities, needs and expectations so that we can create a customized digital transformation strategy for them. Then we follow the steps of competitor analysis, strategize and lastly transform. We have recently entered into a partnership with Temenos and also done some good work using Temenos Edge Connect for accelerating customer experience management and integration of systems.

2.The little guys are pushing the big guys to innovate in the market today. In fact, Innovating quickly during a digital transformation is essential for businesses to stay alive in the face of competition. What is your go to strategy for companies to start innovating quickly?

One thing to keep in mind is that innovation is consistent and to put your efforts towards maintaining that consistency. Organizations have to be ahead of the curve and for that one option is acquiring other innovations. Example of acquiring an innovation includes Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn and recently Tech Mahindra acquiring BIO Agency. This helps in innovating faster and easier, though it is costly.

The second strategy is hiring a CDO or Chief Digital Officer. What CDOs do is that they research about the technology trends that are going to be popular in the next 3-4 years and they strategize investing and developing those. Another way is to have your own R&D wing, where you constantly test and innovate.  Having an R&D wing is costly and takes time to set up. We provide a service called Digital on Demand, where we build an R&D team for you- build, transfer and exit. This is a convenient option for innovating faster and at a low cost.

3.What role does the CIO play in facilitating an organization’s digital transformation? Will it remain the same in 2017?

From a technology aspect, not just digital, CIOs will be relevant in small organizations. In big establishments, however, CIOs may not come with the required knowledge of your customer per se. Developing strategies for how the customer journey is, how it should be, improving various touchpoints and mapping the user journey may not be his primary focus. From this aspect 2017 is going to be very different, CDOs are going to be the primary person to drive digital transformation. But, we have to understand that the overall technology aspect will still rest largely on CIOs.

4.How important are business adaptability and integration going to be for businesses next year?

One simple rule of technology is if you don’t adapt you are going to be irrelevant. Look at Nokia, they didn’t adapt. You need to embrace newer ways of working, business and reaching out to customers. You simply can’t stick to your traditional boundaries and say this is what I will keep doing, this is what I can do, you can never be static. If so then someone else will come and disrupt the market completely, for example look at what WhatsApp did to the telecom market. Telecom service providers were charging for text messages. Now we have an easier, faster and low cost way of communicating. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have calling options, with Facebook having video call as well. There will be a time when telecom companies will be there only for network connectivity. In the financial sector digital wallets like PayPal have brought disruption. Now banks can either adapt to them or become irrelevant.

5.What trends will businesses need to focus on in 2017 to ensure a digital transformation success?

The top trends that businesses will need to follow in 2017 would include:

  1. Strong technology foundation for strong digital foundation
  2. Focus on need for integration
  3. Big data will continue to get bigger. It will become more important.
  4. Virtual reality for engaging in digital content. Innovations like Microsoft’s HoloLens will disrupt the market.
  5. Businesses adapting to mobile first approach
  6. Last of all IoT will continue to grow and businesses need to strategize according to the need of connected devices.

Looks like 2017 has a lot to look forward to on the digital front. Competition is getting tough and innovation pace is increasing. Watch out for the oncoming digital year, it will decide whether you are a laggard or a leader in digital transformation.