As organizations define their digital transformation strategies, they have a lot of different technologies to choose from. Today I will cover the top 10 types of digital transformation technologies that you should consider for your organization.
When we're helping clients craft their digital strategies and roadmaps for the next three to five years, the question often comes up what kind of technology should be included.
There's a lot to think about as we define digital transformation strategies. One of the things that you should keep in mind as you consider this top 10 list is that every organization has different priorities and needs.
One of the first technologies that most organizations ever deploy in their organizations is finance and accounting software. At first glance, this could be something as simple as QuickBooks or in some cases, simpler financial systems or even spreadsheets. For the most part, however, when organizations are first starting out, and as they continue to grow, and scale, it is one of the first things that they find that they need to automate.
Over time, many organizations find that finance and accounting software isn't enough or that they want to integrate their finance and accounting processes with other non-finance and accounting-related processes. This is where some of the other technologies in our top 10 list can come in handy. If you're a small and midsize organization, chances are if you don't already have a finance and accounting system, that's probably an area that you'd want to automate early on.
Another common technology as part of successful digital transformations is Human Capital Management. The organizations that are labor-intensive, that have grown their employee headcount, and that really want to manage their human capital as an asset is something that will help automate HR business processes.
There's a lot of different HR technologies like human capital management in the marketplace. For instance, you have Workday, Oracle Talent Management, and Kronos Ulti Pro. A lot of different HCM vendors that provide automation of everything from the initial recruiting and hiring process all the way through benefits and payroll, performance management, and ultimately the departure of employees as they leave the organization.
These are all processes that historically have been very manual or had been very dependent on an HR department. Human capital management technology can not only automate those processes and make them more efficient but also ensure that organizations are treating their human capital management as an asset and a competitive advantage.
A third common technology that we see especially for sales-driven organizations, is Customer Relationship Management or CRM software. This type of software is what enables a sales team to track their pipeline and prospective clients that they're selling to. These programs support the organization in seeing across the sales organization and sales teams.
CRM tracks what's being sold, what's not being sold, and what we're doing well and not doing well. It ultimately helping drive processes and performance that can increase revenue and help sell more business.
In addition to helping automate the sales pipeline, CRM software can also integrate with other parts of the business that allow sales reps to be able to provide more accurate estimates. This is especially powerful if you're a construction company or a project-management intensive type of company where every solution or every service you sell, is very specific or custom to a customer.
CRM software when combined with data from other parts of the business can actually help your sales team provide better quotes and automate the overall sales process.
One technology that's becoming increasingly popular in today's day and age is Supply Chain Management or SCM software. This is a software that enables organizations to track their supply chains and to track where the inventory resides for raw materials. It is about getting the raw materials to the factory to make whatever the finished good are and then ultimately getting the finished products to either your warehouse or directly to customers.
No matter what your supply chain looks like, there's software out there that can automate those processes to ensure that you're able to track your supply chain globally, especially as organizations struggle with how to manage a global supply chain and how to manage the postcode environment where a lot of supply chains have been disrupted.
Supply Chain Management has become increasingly popular. There's a lot of excellent products out there that specialize in SCM. For example, products like JTA, or Manhattan Associates, or even some traditional ERP vendors like Oracle, provide very strong supply chain management capabilities.
At the end of the day, whatever specific technology you might be looking at, it's important to at least consider supply chain management for your digital transformation.
An emerging technology that's becoming more and more popular is business intelligence. The reason business intelligence has become so popular is because so many organizations have systems that they've had in place for a long time and have accumulated data over time. The great thing about BI is that it takes raw data and transforms it into something that's more actionable.
Let’s take reporting for example. They identify historic trends and potential forward-looking trends or forecasting, so we can make better business decisions. What ends up happening is a lot of times, companies will put in other technologies to automate different parts of the business, but they still can't see the metrics and the operational data that they need to see to be able to make informed decisions.
Ultimately, business intelligence is a way to capture data throughout your operations and present it in a way that's more understandable via dashboards or traditional reports.
Next on the list is a common technology that is probably one of the most popular ones out there - Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP software. A lot of times organizations will use ERP as sort of a catch-all technology to capture data from other systems. For example, many ERP systems will handle supply chain and business intelligence along with CRM, and HCM, and financial and accounting systems.
ERP can provide other capabilities outside these main categories and more importantly, ERP is a way for an organization to migrate to one single system that does all of those things that we've talked about. While some organizations might go out and implement specific CRM systems, and maybe a different HCM system, a different finance, and accounting system. Some organizations will use ERP as a way to have one single system do everything.
Ultimately, you have one common look and feel, database, and system that's being used across the organization.
One of the main problems with ERP systems is that ERP is by definition, trying to be everything to everyone within an organization. The bottom line here is that it simply can't be everything to everyone, it simply can't do everything that you could possibly need in a system.
What you're gaining in terms of having simplicity with one system, the tradeoff is you're not going to probably get the functional fit that you're looking for in every part of your business. But, if you can get pretty close, many organizations find that it's worth it in the end.
For a lot of product-based companies or innovative-based companies, product lifecycle management can be something that can be a very powerful technology to help track the development and lifecycle of developing new products. For organizations that are very engineering intensive, innovative, and constantly developing new products – these systems can be very important.
PLM systems can help track and maintain all that data in one central place so that your engineering team, product development team, and everyone can be using the same collaborative tool to track that sort of thing.
When implemented appropriately, PLM can also be used to tie into other parts of your business. Ideally, when you develop a new product within your PLM system, once the product is approved, and you can then enter the market.
In the end, you take that data and you use that to set up your new products. ERP system or any other sort of technology you might be used to manage the rest of your operations. So, product lifecycle management, PLM systems are something that's very common, especially for those sorts of forward-thinking and product-based organizations.
Now, with the advent of all these different types of technologies we've talked about so far in this blog, a lot of people overlook or dismiss the whole concept of creating some sort of custom technology for organizations. A lot of those in the enterprise technology space will simply dismiss custom technology because there are so many commercials off-the-shelf options out there. As I mentioned before, no off-the-shelf software is going to be able to do everything you need it to do.
For larger organizations and especially more complex or different organizations that have unique competitive advantages, some may find that developing some sort of custom solution can be a good augmentation of some of the commercial off-the-shelf software that we've talked about here today. Now chances are you probably don't need to go out and develop technology from the ground up to automate your entire business, you can probably at the very least find commercial off-the-shelf software to fill specific niches or specific needs within your business.
The thing about custom development or custom software is that it can be used to fill in some of the gaps, identifying some of the weaknesses of that commercial off-the-shelf software, and start filling in gaps of certain processes that may be there. One thing you have to be careful of is that you don't want to necessarily recreate the wheel if you don't need to.
If you have specific parts of your business, it is a key source to having a competitive advantage. It really constitutes your secret sauce as an organization. It's why you're winning business against your competitors. Those are candidates for either custom develop software or the other option is you could take some of the off-the-shelf technology that we've talked about and make selective customization to that software to fit your business.
Regardless of which approach you take, at least considering custom development software is one option that you have in your arsenal as you define your digital transformation strategy.
What organizations tend to forget about oftentimes is they'll focus on the back-end technologies. Your HR, CRM, all that stuff that helps on the back end. One thing that organizations should be thinking about is how can we develop mobile applications that allow us to extend the footprint of the core back-office functionality that we might be implemented in other technologies.
Some technologies like ERP systems, for example, will have mobile development capabilities to where the product is available for use on mobile applications. In other cases, it might be that you need to write some sort of mobile application to draw from the data in those back-end systems.
It could be that you don't necessarily want to give someone access to your ERP system customers, but you may want to give them access to select data and select processes within the ERP system in which case, you could develop a mobile application to help them access data and do more of a self-serve type of process.
These are some of the ways that mobile applications can be used to automate your business. It's something to consider as part of your digital transformation strategy.
Customer service technology is another technology that you may contemplate for your organization. This is especially true if you run a help desk or a customer service center that's fairly large. Having customer service technology to help automate that process and to really track customer touchpoints with your business can be extremely powerful.
For example, ServiceNow is a common customer service type of software that can be used either for external customers that are calling into a help desk or a Help Center and customer service center. This technology could even be used internally for your IT department. If someone's calling into your IT department, and they're opening a help ticket, they could use a product like ServiceNow to help track those sorts of things.
In the end, whether you're talking about internal customers or external customers, customer service software can be a good way to automate those processes and to help you track the volumes of data that go along with that.
Now, there are a lot of technologies we haven't talked about but I want to at least mention those that relate back to the 10 things we have talked about. When you think about some of the emerging technologies in the marketplace today, like artificial intelligence, or machine learning, robotics, predictive analytics, many of those technologies are getting a lot of attention and creating a buzz lately.
The reason we haven't called those technologies out separately is that the 10 technologies we have talked about tend to incorporate those types of technologies in their offerings.
For example, artificial intelligence is being used by many, ERP and CRM, and HCM vendors, to automate some of the processes and to create more of an artificial intelligence learning environment in an automated way. Same with machine learning and predictive analytics and some of the other things we've talked about.
There's a technology like robotics or industry for Dotto, that is very specific to manufacturing companies. Overall, these actually may land in your top 10 if you're in the manufacturing space.
In addition to the technologies, we've talked about today, it's also important to look at technologies that may be specific to your industry and specific to your business operations.
Finally, I've talked a lot about different types of technologies, and I've made passing references to specific software vendors. Now, you may be asking yourself - if I'm interested in any of these technologies, who are some of the major vendors or some of the major players that I should reach out to?
For that information, I'd encourage you to download our annual Digital Transformation Report, which not only captures the top vendors and a bunch of different types of technologies. It also has an independent ranking that our company provides based on our experience and research. I highly encourage you to check it out.
As always, my team and I are available to be your impartial sounding board and digital transformation guide. If you’d like to discuss digital transformation technologies or other topics in more detail, please reach out to me directly. My inbox is always open.