I attended CeBIT 2016 from the 14th to 15th March, and over the course of the two days I had the opportunity to spend time with Software AG and some of their partners, amongst the exhibitors in the Digital Business Solutions hall.

Maybe it’s time to tip #DigitalTransformation out of the Buzzword Bucket, says @KateWright24Click To Tweet

The overriding theme of these two days was Digital Transformation. As someone who is fairly new to the IT industry (having moved from recruitment in July 2015), for me Digital Transformation had been thrown into the ‘Buzzword Bucket’. The BWB is where I mentally store all the words and phrases that seem to get aimlessly thrown around with little understanding of what they mean. Trying to educate myself in this industry has been no simple task with everyone providing juxtaposing explanations of these buzzwords. Digital Transformation has been no exception, and has sat cosily in the BWB along with the likes of Hybrid Cloud, Big Data, Disruptive Innovation, Uberisation etc.

However, spending some time with SAG has helped to shift my view of Digital Transformation and maybe it’s time to tip it out of the Buzzword Bucket (sorry Uberisation – you’ll be in there forever).

Speaking with Wolfman Jost, CTO of Software AG, he was able to (finally) provide an understandable, short explanation of what Digital Transformation is:

“Digital Transformation is the creation of new business applications through the use of digital technology.”

This is simple enough and it is applicable across all industries. Companies must now embrace digital to avoid falling behind. Take Blockbuster for example – had they embraced the fact that their target customer was going digital with the emergence of Netflix and other online streaming services, they may have been able to innovate and reinvent. But for most organisations it isn’t so easy to change their attitude and focus. Through discussions with Wolfman Jost and Q&As with SAG partners, there are some key challenges that businesses are facing:

Legacy systems

This is especially difficult for large organisations and those who have been around for 40+ years. It is great that IT moves so fast and opens up new doors, but every time there’s a new application, it means that your current systems become more and more outdated. Often IT departments will focus on just upgrading key areas of the infrastructure and over time you find that you have a long history of applications that now can’t keep up with the speed of the business. It is at this point that organisations need to realise that they have no choice but to innovate or risk falling behind. Software AG’s platform focuses on how these businesses can deliver fast by modernising what they already have in place. Seamless integration becomes a must.

Any organisations that choose to switch their focus to DT are going to need support to do so, and there are a number of organisations that can provide a Digital Transformation Platform

Early(ish) adopters vs Laggards

We all know the deal here – the public sector and governing bodies always get tarnished with the same brush for falling behind and only embracing technologies just as they’re going out of style. Whereas banking and finance are known to be the early adopters. However, when it comes to DT Urs Kramer, from Sopra Steria, said that even the banks haven’t been fast enough. It’s difficult enough trying to integrate a DT platform with legacy infrastructure, but the task becomes even more laborious when you have to first change the attitudes of these organisations. As Wolfman says, “software is leading the world” and these organisations need to switch their focus to become software-centric rather than product-centric.

Which platform?

Any organisations that choose to switch their focus to DT are going to need support to do so, and there are a number of organisations that can provide a Digital Transformation Platform, but who do you work with? Wolfman expressed a critical point that a lot of the key providers are super large organisations that have too many focus areas, meaning they can suffer from ‘jack-of-all-trades’ syndrome. This adds extra challenges as their attention is diluted and they may not be able to provide a holistic solution to suit your organisational needs. On the flip side, they may be trying to provide you with too much and you risk being locked in under a myriad of services. SAG themselves realised this, which is why they have moved away from some of their old service offerings and have invested heavily in their Digital Transformation Platform to ensure that their customers are supported in five key areas:

  1. Business and IT Transformation
  2. Data Transformation
  3. Application Integration
  4. Process Implementation
  5. Decisions and Analytics

Reflecting on my new, less sceptical, attitude to Digital Transformation, it’s good to celebrate organisations, particularly large ones, that have embraced the DT era. Some of my favourite examples include Facebook experimenting with money transfers via messenger; Zara using iBeacons to track a customer’s journey through the store and improve the retail experience; and how Amazon personalises your experience through recommendations based on your shopping habits.

It’s good to celebrate organisations that have embraced #DigitalTransformation @SoftwareAGClick To Tweet

One of my favourite DT stories though? When Coke launched their campaign for people to personalise their Coke bottles and cans – it was a simple idea but one that translated across the globe with people of all ages and backgrounds getting involved. Looking further into this, the platform behind Coca Cola that has allowed their Digital Transformation journey is Software AG. With names such as Coca Cola, ING, Fujitsu and PayPal under their belt, it’s clear that SAG are leading the way for business Digital Transformation. As Wolfman Jost says:

“Every company will become a software company.”