The fourth industrial revolution is here, and it’s one of data, disruption and, above all, value. Change is in the air, and business leaders are wondering how their businesses can succeed in this new era where companies that are innovating and introducing new value are making established, but static, companies irrelevant.
You don’t want your business to merely survive. You want it to succeed and lead. The answer is to embrace digital transformation.
Digital transformation is the means by which organizations leverage data and digital technology to rethink the way they provide value to their customers. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, describes the program in four essential pillars — engaging with customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations and transforming products or services.
While the end goal is to better serve the needs of customers and of the market, digital transformation touches every department and employee.
Nadella’s four pillars highlight the changes organizations must make to succeed going forward. But what exactly do those changes entail?
Engaging customers involves improving customers’ experiences, their satisfaction, their loyalty and the way they view your brand. Empowering employees requires building a culture of productivity and performance using technology that supports mobile collaboration and diverse working styles.
Optimizing operations means creating more efficiency and responsiveness using technology such as automation and cloud platforms. And transforming products or services involves generating new revenue opportunities through innovation.
For industrial, product-manufacturing companies, Nadella says, core business processes are increasingly digitized, which affects how they optimize operations.
For many, digital transformation has come in the form of Shop Floor Optics, a platform that utilizes cloud technology, data-driven dashboards and internet of things (IoT) sensors on industrial machinery to provide real-time machine status updates. This continual data gathering and monitoring allows manufacturers to predict when a machine will experience issues that reduce efficiency or even halt production. They can then solve the problem before it creates downtime that leads to lost revenue.
The ready availability of data and ability to interpret it quickly empowers operators and makes manufacturers overall more efficient and productive, which, in turn, increases revenue without adding equipment or labor.
The goal of any digital transformation is to analyze and utilize data to contribute to positive change and continuous improvement in an organization, but it also involves getting employees on board, educated and excited about using new technology.
Wipfli worked with a particular manufacturer struggling to gain user adoption of Salesforce as a metrics tool. This led to a big issue—measuring performance consumed significant effort, and sales representatives had a difficult time understanding their standings. The organization continued to operate with fragmented silos of information until it realized it could not continue to meet its goal of growing 30 percent each year without better visibility.
We conducted an extensive discovery process, including interviews with key stakeholders across sales, service and marketing. After working together to take a more customer-centric view of performance, we helped the manufacturer eliminate redundant tools and introduce Microsoft Dynamics CRM to ensure all resources going forward not only provided enhanced visibility but also supported that customer-centric direction. By empowering employees, the manufacturer is now better able to support new product launches, make strategic decisions and meet its annual growth goals.
No matter what industry you’re in or what you sell, digital transformation — and the data it builds on — is key to a business’s continued success.
As you connect with your customers in new ways, you learn more about their behaviors and needs. You become able to predict what they’ll want before they know they want it, based on data, and you can better tailor your products or services to fulfil those wants and needs.
By better connecting employees, sharing knowledge and enabling them to work more productively, they become empowered to better serve customers and continue helping the organization innovate. This informs how you can improve operations and even anticipate how those operations will need to change to continue capitalizing on the insights provided by data.
Data is what’s leading this fourth industrial revolution. The companies that leverage it to digitally transform, evolve their business model and add value to the market are the ones that are going to thrive.
Wipfli partner Terry Kerscher leads the front-office consulting practice at Wipfli, a national accounting and consulting firm with local offices in Appleton and Green Bay. He is responsible for the strategic direction of customer relationship management, collaboration and business intelligence services. Visit Wipfli online.