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Digital Transformation 2020: The Digital Transformation Roadmap, The Journey, and The Messy Middle

Organizations have been pursuing the dream of Digital Transformation since the last decade. Stimulating the ascend of the contemporary service-providing environment towards the paradigms of digitalization is the basis of Digital Transformation 1.0. Multiple advances have been made in the wake of this inspiration:

  • Most of the legacy applications are being advanced to the cloud
  • Lines of Businesses (LOBs) are procuring SaaS licenses
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools are automating manual work.

We’ve entered 2020, yet, Digital Transformation hitherto seems to be a distant future. Digital Transformation 2.0, on the other hand, is already in its contemplative stage. Questions like these are steadily stitching their knots into online discussion threads:

  • What’s better – Search or Navigation?
  • What would be more convenient – a UX App or a User UX Application?
  • What will be the future of VUIs like Alexa and Siri?

Thought leaders around the world are brainstorming over positioning the interaction between the user and the system. The only barrier standing is that the system’s still not ready. It’s like a relay. Player 1.0 has the baton. Player 2.0 is already getting ready at its post, but there are still some unseen hurdles on the course.

To unveil these said hurdles, let’s break down the system into two key definitions:

  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure can be defined as the basic physical environment that supports the service’s development, execution, operation, and maintenance.
  • Interface: You can term something as an Interface when it acts as the communication medium between two services or a service and an end-user.

When probed individually, both of these can be contrived with the utmost perfection. We can have both a robust infrastructure and the friendliest interface at our disposal. Theoretically, this should be enough to assume Digital Transformation in your enterprise. Different infrastructures should be able to come together and communicate through their respective interfaces. The real world, however, rarely is compliant with theoretical hypotheses.

Here’s how the ship of Digital Transformation sailed, against the waves of practical reality over the years:

  • The year 2004 witnessed Facebook setting up the grounds for social media biennale
  • By 2008 Apple’s iPhone amplified this festival of connectivity by setting up the roadmap for mobility
  • Traditional companies started to see the digital platforms as a means to gain upper hand over their competitors. Thus, the prompted promotion of manual processes to digital services encouraged the Digital Transformation roadmap as we know it
  • By 2014, winds were in favor of mobility and connectivity as every software application development company began to explore Cloud-first Mobile-first development approaches.
  • Around the same time, many well-known companies started creating customized solutions to digitally enable more and more in-house processes. Those who were unable to pull this off themselves hired vendors to do the same.
  • Lastly, there were some processes still in the legacy system; but that shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

Misjudgment in the last two steps gave rise to a series of hiccups and sabotaged Digital Transformation 1.0 drastically. Ambitious companies stirred up the hornet’s nest in attempts to attain digitalized enterprise systems. A custom software development company could definitely provide an excellent product. Integrating those solutions with already existing fundaments is a ball game no one was going to enjoy. For starters, there was a huge communication gap between the legacy infrastructures and the solution interfaces. Moreover, procuring licenses to these solutions in bulk demanded room for a lot of data silos that added nothing to the productivity of these ecosystems. Here’s what this boils down to. To make the two ends work with each other, most companies ended up creating a mess in the middle and to sort out this mess they desperately resolved to short term solutions like RPAs and AI/ML. The latter could’ve been an effective long term solution had they not underestimated the required skill maturity.

In their attempts to formulate a foolproof digital transformation strategy, most of the organizations ended up creating a complicated ‘messy middle’. In his speech NASSCOM CXO Meet – Digital Transformation 2.0: What does the future hold? – Mr. Anand Deshpande (Founder, Chairman, and Managing Director, Persistent Systems) drew a very apt analogy about this same concept. He compared current enterprise systems with a Cheese Burger. The Infrastructure and Interface were described as the two slices of bread on either side. The middle of these two is where the messy middle is. Owing to this ‘messy middle’ most of the companies are still seeing Digital Transformation 2020 as a story about achieving Digital Transformation 1.0 caliber.

It would be unfair to not address the hopeful advances that have been and are being made in this journey. Digital Transformation 2.0 is still an achievable feat for at least some if not all the organizations. ‘5G’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ are holding open new doors of innovation. New challenges for Saas, Paas, Iaas, multi-cloud, etc. services are being assessed and steps are being taken to deal with them. Moreover, Single Process Service Provider firms are doing really well despite the current situation. It’s just a matter of time before innovative minds come up with gourmet solutions for the gap between.

At the beginning of this millennium, the internet was a luxury only a few could afford. Within a decade, Facebook was capable of connecting some of the most remote areas in the world. Organizations will also be able to sort the ‘messy middle’ and thrive for Digital Transformation 2.0. At the end of the day, a messy burger sandwich can still find its way to nurture all taste buds.

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