Let’s face it: most (if not all) industries will undergo some version of digital transformation in the near future.
But which industries need digital transformation the most?
For this post, we researched digital transformation across 15 different industries and summarized key findings, trending use cases, and some of the main challenges that lie ahead for each.
Digital Transformation By Industry
- Energy and Utilities
- Transportation and Logistics
- Small Business
- Farming and Agriculture
The healthcare industry is an obvious candidate for digital transformation.
Healthcare providers are under constant pressure to improve patient outcomes while reducing costs.
Digital transformation can help healthcare providers achieve both of these goals by improving communication and collaboration between different care providers, automating tasks such as appointment scheduling and medical records management, and providing patients with better access to their health information with secure and convenient patient portals.
Further, new technologies such as 5G may significantly reduce latency and improve traffic speed, allowing for real time interactions with patients.
In fact, according to this health system survey, 99% of healthcare executives agree that investment in digital transformation is important to improve patient outcomes and access to care.
However, with more technology disruptors and an ever-changing digital landscape, it will be imperative for healthcare providers to move beyond the planning stage and start implementing technology that improves patient experience.
Related: Learn more about important trends in digital healthcare transformation.
Manufacturing is another industry that is under pressure to digitize in order to stay competitive. However, according to this survey, only 24% have a digital transformation strategy in place.
One of the main themes for manufacturers is to focus on developing a digital thread that ties all aspects of the manufacturing process together. This can be achieved through integrating data from supply chain to design, engineering, production, and customer service.
By doing so, manufacturers can reduce costs associated with errors and rework, speed up product development timelines, and create a better experience for customers.
Additionally, a digital thread can help manufacturers take advantage of new opportunities, such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and augmented reality. (IoT in particular offers significant potential in manufacturing).
However, one of the main challenges manufacturers face, aside from the cost of embarking on advanced digital transformation initiatives, is having a clear path to follow (plus well-defined digital transformation KPIs and objectives).
Additionally, they need to ensure that the data generated by various systems are properly integrated and made available to all stakeholders.
Energy and Utilities
Digital transformation is impacting the energy and utilities sector in several ways.
For example, utilities can use data analytics to improve the efficiency of their power plants and transmission networks.
In the oil and gas industry, companies are using sensors and data analytics to improve the accuracy of drilling operations and to monitor pipelines for leaks.
In addition to improving operational efficiency, digital transformation can also help energy companies and facilities reduce their environmental impact.
For example, digital management systems can help wastewater utilities manage aeration and chemical use, significantly reducing overall energy usage and costs.
Digital transformation can also help energy companies engage with their customers and employees in new ways.
For example, many utilities are using social media to provide customer service and to promote energy-saving programs.
But a major challenge for companies in this sector is aligning the interests and objectives of executives and front-line personnel.
Plus, many energy and utility companies rely on well-established legacy systems and protocols, and innovation at any level can be expensive and time-consuming.
Embarking on digital transformation initiatives will therefore require buy-in from multiple stakeholders, along with business model transformation in some cases to become more agile and integrated.
Transportation and Logistics
The transportation and logistics sector has accelerated its adoption of digital technologies in recent years. Much of this investment has been in fundamental digital building blocks, such as new ERP and MRP systems, to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
The next phase, known by many in the industry as Logistics 4.0, will bring broad and accelerated adoption of advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud infrastructure and advanced analytics.
Using this technology, companies can implement tools to track vehicles and shipments in real time, optimize routes and better predict maintenance needs.
In particular, the use of IoT sensors can help transportation companies to monitor their assets and anticipate problems before they occur. This can help to reduce downtime and improve safety.
However, perhaps the biggest challenge for the transportation and logistics sector is to keep up with the pace of this new technology.
Additionally, the use of autonomous vehicles and drones is expected to have a major impact on the sector in the years to come.
For small to medium businesses, digital transformation can offer a number of advantages. And, as COVID-19 accelerated, many SMBs were forced to adopt new digital tools and frameworks much sooner than expected.
In fact, over 70% of SMB respondents in this survey reported that the pandemic drove them to accelerate digital transformation at their companies. And in most cases, SMBs are in the very early stages of digital transformation.
Still, many small businesses have started the DX journey with incremental steps towards better efficiency, collaboration, and customer experience by adopting solutions such as remote working technology, digital payments and e-commerce platforms, automating digital processes, improving cyber-security, and investing in cloud storage solutions.
However, moving towards digitalization is not a simple transition for most SMBs.
Even at the early stages of digital transformation, many businesses in this category face a serious digital skills gap, along with cultural resistance to adopting new digital methods and frameworks.
Most of us have witnessed the advancements made by the banking sector in recent years. It wasn’t long ago when banks operated primarily through physical branches. Today, banks are digitizing at a rapid pace to keep up with the needs of their customers.
In fact, over 80% of middle market banks have a formal digital transformation strategy in place focused on making the customer experience better with solutions including digital wallets, peer-to-peer payments, and automated fraud detection.
Banks are also looking to adopt more modern and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and the cloud.
While the banking sector has made great strides in digital transformation, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed.
For example, banks are facing increasing competition from fintech companies that are agile and able to move quickly to meet the changing needs of customers.
In addition, as banks move more of their operations online and embrace open banking APIs, they are also exposed to new cyber risks. As a result, banks need to ensure that their digital transformation strategies include robust cyber-security measures.
There are several reasons why digital transformation is becoming increasingly important in the education sector.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced educators to move away from traditional classroom teaching and adopt new digital tools and methods.
Second, there is a growing need to provide students with modern learning platforms that offer personalized learning experiences, which include using data to track student progress and using technology to tailor instruction to individual needs.
Schools must also tailor their curriculums to training students for roles in the new digital economy and prepare them for job opportunities in the growing digital transformation category.
Of course, digital transformation can also help educators at the institutional level by reducing costs and increasing efficiency with updated ERP systems, faculty collaboration tools, virtual learning labs, and facility improvements (i.e. smarter buildings to improve safety and reduce energy costs).
Of course, educators also need to develop the necessary digital skills to take advantage of these new tools and platforms which, like small businesses, remains one of their biggest barriers to digital transformation.
As such, many educational institutions are still at the beginning of their digital transformation journey.
As this survey notes, over 70% of higher education institutions are still considered “digitally distraught”, relying on legacy processes, siloed data structures, and cultural resistance.
Farming and Agriculture
Agriculture is another sector that is addressing digital transformation on many levels, with the goal of ensuring a stable, efficient and nutritious food supply for the global population and minimizing environmental impact.
Core technologies include drones for crop mapping and yield analysis, precision farming using GPS and sensors to track soil conditions and water usage, and livestock management using RFID tags and sensors.
In addition, blockchain technology is even being used to track food from farm to table, and the Internet of Things is connecting various devices and machines on the farm to help with irrigation, equipment maintenance, and crop monitoring.
Farmers are also using data analytics to make better decisions about seed selection, planting, and harvesting.
Needless to say, there are several other digital use cases in the farming sector and the use of technology is growing rapidly.
According to this report, just the use of AI in agriculture is expected to reach 790 million USD by the end of 2023, growing at a CAGR of 21.8%.
Challenges lie ahead, though, as many farmers still need to overcome the digital divide, lack of technical expertise, and high costs of implementing new technology.
In addition, as the agricultural sector becomes more digitized, there are concerns about data privacy and security, as well as the potential for robotics and AI to displace human workers.
The automotive industry relies heavily on new digital technology to develop, manufacture and sell vehicles.
In fact, most large automakers now have some form of digital transformation strategy in place as they seek to become more agile and responsive to changing consumer demands.
This includes the development of new connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as the use of IoT to improve line operations and data and analytics to improve manufacturing processes, track vehicle performance, and develop new marketing campaigns.
Like other sectors, the automotive industry faces some challenges when it comes to digital transformation.
For example, the industry is highly regulated, which can make it difficult to adopt new technology quickly. In addition, there is a need for more standardization across the value chain to enable better data sharing and collaboration.
Finally, the automotive industry is also dealing with the negative perception of some new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, which raises concerns about safety and privacy.
Despite these challenges, the automotive industry is making significant progress in its digital transformation journey and is expected to continue to do so in the years to come.
While e-commerce has become the norm for many consumers, the retail industry is still working on its digital transformation.
This includes the use of technology to create a more seamless omnichannel experience for customers, as well as the use of data and analytics to improve inventory management, track customer behavior, and personalize the shopping experience.
In addition, retailers are using IoT to better manage their store operations and connect with customers, and are even using AR/VR to create new interactive shopping experiences.
However, like any traditional industry, retail faces some challenges when it comes to transforming legacy systems and embracing new operating models.
Chief among these challenges is the ever-changing landscape of consumer behavior, which can be difficult to keep up with.
Other challenges include the high cost of implementing new technology, the need for more data and analytics expertise, and the difficulty of integrating new technology with legacy systems.
Despite these challenges, retail is slowly but surely transforming itself for the digital age.
Recently, the main theme in this sector has been to upgrade from “Telcos to Techos“, which implies a much greater focus on digital services, modernized networks and IT infrastructure, and open software systems to compete with streaming platforms and web-based companies.
This has included the development of new 5G networks, the launch of new cloud-native digital services, and the use of data analytics and AI to improve customer service and operational efficiency.
For example, communication service providers (CSP) can use AI and IoT technology to analyze customer usage data and proactively offer new services that meet their needs.
In addition, CSPs are using predictive data analytics to improve network performance and prevent outages.
However, the telecommunications industry faces some challenges when it comes to digital transformation.
One of the biggest challenges is the need to upgrade legacy systems and infrastructure, which can be costly and time-consuming.
In addition, the telecommunications industry is highly regulated, which can make it difficult to adopt new technology quickly.
Finally, the industry is also dealing with the negative perception of some new technologies, such as 5G, which raises concerns about safety and privacy.
The fitness industry has long felt pressure to digitize in order to stay competitive.
With digital transformation, the fitness and health club market is specifically looking to improve efficiency and customer service in key areas, such as appointment scheduling and check-ins, equipment maintenance and management, and personalized training programs.
The overriding theme is that conventional health and fitness clubs must become more customer-centric.
Using collaboration tools, developing new software solutions, and bringing in cloud technology and data analysis will be critical for fitness companies to make these improvements and stay ahead of the curve.
However, many fitness clubs still rely on paper-based systems, which can be difficult to manage and often lead to customer frustration.
Also, the influx of new, tech-savvy fitness companies is putting even more pressure on established businesses to digitize in order to remain competitive.
Digital transformation can help governments meet the challenges of diverse and growing populations by providing new ways to engage with citizens, improving service delivery, and reducing administrative costs.
In a sense, government agencies at all levels need to think and act like agile digital companies, moving away from legacy-based systems with disparate technologies and processes.
For example, many government agencies are using cloud-based solutions to improve collaboration, increase flexibility, and reduce costs. In addition, data analytics is being used to make better decisions about everything from policy to infrastructure projects.
However, digital transformation can be a challenge for government agencies because of the need to change long-standing processes and culture, the lack of skilled personnel, and the need to comply with data privacy and security regulations.
In addition, government agencies often have to deal with legacy systems that are not compatible with new technologies. As a result, these agencies need to find ways to integrate new and old systems, which can be difficult and expensive.
The insurance industry is working towards a customer-centric digital transformation, with the goal of offering more personalized products and services.
In order to do this, insurance companies are using data analytics to better understand customer needs and preferences. In addition, they are using digital channels, such as social media and mobile apps, to engage with customers.
Many “insurtech” startups are now offering a suite of digital tools to help insurance carriers and agencies with everything from customer acquisition to risk management and claims processing.
The technology is moving fast, and one of the main challenges for carriers and agencies is both keeping up with the pace of this change and deciding which solutions will actually improve the experience of their clients and customers.
Additionally, the insurance industry is highly regulated, which can make it difficult to adopt new technology quickly. However, the industry is slowly starting to embrace change, with more and more companies investing in digital transformation.
Like the insurance industry, the legal sector is embracing digital change with the main purpose of improving service quality and efficiency for their clients.
For example, solo practitioners and small firms are now using cloud-based solutions to improve collaboration, document management, and client communication. In addition, many law firms are using data analytics to gain insights into their cases and clients.
The use of artificial intelligence is also becoming more common in the legal sector, with some firms using it for tasks such as contract review and court research.
There are also a number of “legal tech” startups that are offering a range of digital solutions for everything from contract management to legal research and e-discovery.
However, the legal sector is facing some challenges when it comes to digital transformation. For example, the industry is highly regulated, which can make it difficult to adopt new technology quickly.
In addition, many smaller law firms are still using paper-based systems and outdated billing practices, which can be inefficient and lead to customer frustration.
How Will Digital Transformation Impact Your Industry?
All of these industries are in the midst of digital change and pursuing different types of digital transformation; whether it’s small incremental steps towards new data and cloud systems, or complete business model transformation and significant investment in IT infrastructure.
The 15 sectors we’ve listed are just a starting point. And within each industry, there many sub-sectors, specific use cases, and unique challenges for companies of different shapes and sizes.
The key is to get started with a form of digital transformation that aligns with your business goals (what will really drive value for your company and improve the experience of your customers?), your budget and resources, and your company culture.