Digital transformation is certainly one of the most important topics in business today. It’s a journey that organizations must take to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world – with a lot of different stops.
Crafting a digital transformation strategy is daunting, and picking the right technologies to enable that strategy is an even bigger challenge.
But being left behind in today’s digital age won’t do any better for your business, as 91% of businesses are engaged in a digital initiative of some sort.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 of the top digital transformation technologies. For your business to succeed, consider investing in these if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
What Was Business Like Before Digital Transformation Technologies?
Before we get into the top digital transformation technologies, let’s first take a step back and understand what business was like before these existed.
In the past, businesses were mostly analog. This meant that they operated in physical spaces with physical touchpoints – think brick-and-mortar stores and face-to-face interactions. Businesses also used a lot of paper for things like contracts, invoices, and records.
There were some digital technologies in the past, but they weren’t nearly as prevalent or integrated into business operations as they are today.
For example, early versions of customer relationship management (CRM) software existed, but they weren’t nearly as sophisticated or user-friendly as the CRMs we have today. And while businesses could send emails, they didn’t have the same level of email marketing automation that we do now.
How Have Digital Transformation Technologies Changed Business?
Digital transformation technologies have changed business in a number of ways. First and foremost, they’ve made business operations more efficient and effective. By automating tasks and integrating systems, businesses can operate more quickly and with fewer errors.
Businesses can now seamlessly reach their customers. With the internet and mobile devices, businesses can connect with customers anywhere in the world – instantaneously. With social media, businesses can create a two-way dialogue with their customers that wasn’t possible before.
Most notably, these technologies have given rise to new business models. For example, companies like Uber and Airbnb have completely disrupted traditional business models by leveraging digital technologies.
10 Digital Transformation Technologies Your Business Needs
To keep up with the competition, here are 10 digital transformation technologies your business might want to use:
A digital twin is a replica of a physical object or system that can be used for various purposes such as monitoring, analysis, and predictions.
Let’s say you have a fleet of trucks.
You can use digital twins to track the location, performance, and health of each truck in real time. This would allow you to make changes to the trucks’ routes or maintenance schedules accordingly – before problems arise.
Additionally, you could use data from the digital twins to improve your truck design for future iterations. This technology can be used in manufacturing to monitor products and predict problems before they occur.
Many sectors, including transportation, can take advantage of digital twins. Health professionals are able to practice surgery or other procedures in a simulated environment, while hotels can deliver top-notch personalized services to guests.
Your business needs this because: A digital twin can help you save time and money by identifying and solving problems before they happen. It’s a great way to gather data for analysis and predictions.
The internet of things (IoT) refers to the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity, enabling them to collect and exchange data.
IoT has the potential to transform everyday objects into digital assistants that can make our lives easier – think of your fridge ordering milk for you when it’s running low. For businesses, IoT can be used to improve efficiency, cut costs, and create new revenue streams.
Let’s take a quick look at some notable companies that have made strides with the IoT.
After acquiring Blue River Technology, an innovative intelligent machinery company, John Deere implemented machine learning and other agriculturally useful technology to make farming more efficient. Their equipment monitors are able to track things like soil temperature, moisture levels, and more and provide that data to farmers.
LG Electronics’ repertoire of products includes the ThinQ appliances line, which uses machine learning and boasts Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility. As well, by pairing smart appliances with personal devices, owners can easily find out when maintenance is needed.
And, it’s definitely no surprise that Tesla’s cars take advantage of the IoT, with wifi-only connectivity features and a Tesla app for instant charging history information and roadside assistance access.
Your business needs this because: IoT has the potential to revolutionize how businesses operate. It can help you save time and money while also opening up new opportunities for growth.
Learn More: What are the main components of IoT?
Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of computational resources – such as storage, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence – over the internet.
It’s a way for businesses to access technology services without having to build and maintain their own infrastructure and is often cited as one of the key enablers of digital transformation.
Here’s how you can understand the cloud and its impact on digital transformation.
The cloud is a pay-as-you-go model that offers flexibility and agility, two essential ingredients for successful digital transformation. Being able to be accessed from anywhere, and quickly provisioned, the cloud can help businesses move faster and be more responsive to change.
It also supports a wide range of digital transformation use cases – from big data and analytics to the Internet of Things (IoT), to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – a few things we have covered or will cover later on. It’s also becoming increasingly popular for edge computing, where data is processed at or near the source rather than in a central location.
Your business needs this because: As well as helping your business become more agile, respond quickly to market changes, and scale your operations up or down as needed, you’ll also save money by reducing your need for on-premises infrastructure.
AI and ML
If you were to shout out the most important aspect of digital transformation, you might be surprised that “data” wouldn’t be the first word out of most people’s mouths. But it’s true – data is at the heart of just about every digital transformation initiative.
And to make use of all that data, businesses are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
AI and ML are very much associated with each other, but there are important distinctions.
AI is a more umbrella term that refers to making machines “smart” – giving them human-like abilities such as reasoning, natural communication, and problem-solving.
ML, on the other hand, is a subset of AI that deals with teaching computers how to learn from data (including historical data) so they can improve their performance on specific tasks without being explicitly programmed to do so.
These two technologies enable computers to learn and work smarter, automating tasks, making better decisions, improving customer experiences, and much more.
Your business needs this because: AI and ML can help you boost your productivity, make better decisions, and improve your customer experiences. For example, you could use chatbots powered by AI to handle customer queries automatically – freeing up your staff to focus on other tasks.
Making important decisions quickly is critical for businesses – but it can be difficult when those decisions require analyzing large amounts of data. This is where robotic process automation (RPA) comes in. RPA software “robots” can be configured to do things like read and interpret documents, fill out forms, and extract data from multiple sources.
After all, why waste time having humans do things that can be automated? RPA can help you free up your workforce to focus on more strategic tasks, and it can be used in a wide variety of industries including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and logistics.
Your business needs this because: Not only does RPA speed up decision-making, but it can also help improve accuracy and compliance.
Related: RPA use cases for small business
As traditional software development can be a long and costly process, it makes sense that low-code platforms are becoming more popular. Low-code platforms allow businesses to develop custom applications with little or no coding required. Forget finding the right developer with the right skill set – anyone can create an application on a low-code platform.
As well, low-code platforms tend to be more agile than traditional development, meaning that you can get your applications up and running faster. This is ideal in today’s fast-paced business world where time-to-market is critical.
Your business needs this because: Low-code platforms can help you quickly develop the custom applications you need to support your digital transformation initiatives – without breaking the bank.
Related: Low-code vs No-code
An application programming interface (API) is a set of rules that allows different software applications to communicate with each other.
In the past, businesses would typically develop their own APIs to connect different systems. But now there are plenty of off-the-shelf API solutions that can be used to quickly and easily integrate disparate systems.
Dealing with business processes that span multiple software applications can be a real headache. An API integration platform can automate many of these processes, making life much easier for everybody involved.
Your business needs this because: Using APIs can save your business time and money, while also increasing agility and flexibility.
The fifth generation of wireless networks – 5G – is on the rise, and it’s going to be a big deal for digital transformation.
5G will provide much faster speeds and lower latency than current 4G networks, which will enable new use cases like real-time video streaming, virtual reality, and autonomous vehicles.
Let’s take a look at how 5G has already dominated digital transformation.
In South Korea, Telcos are using 5G to provide remote medical services. With the goal of eventually establishing a 5G smart hospital, many areas such as training, in-patient care, and more are using autonomous robots. The low latency of 5G networks makes this possible, as there is no lag in the transmission to the robot.
In China, 5G is being used to power smart city initiatives. Cities are using 5G to connect devices like traffic lights, CCTV cameras, and street lamps to the internet.
This gives city officials real-time data that can be used to improve urban planning and management. 5G is also being used to provide free Wi-Fi in public spaces, as well as power autonomous vehicles and robots.
The rollout of 5G networks is still in its early stages, but it’s clear that the technology will have a big impact on digital transformation – after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Your business needs this because: With 5G, businesses will be able to do things that weren’t possible before, or that were too expensive to justify.
Virtual reality (VR) is another technology that’s been around for a while but is only now starting to be used in business. It’s not just for gamers anymore – businesses are using VR for training, product design, and even marketing.
Take this for example – Lowe’s is using VR to give potential customers a realistic view of what their new kitchen might look like before they make any decisions. This means that customers are more likely to be satisfied with their purchase, and it helps Lowe’s avoid costly returns.
VR also taps into our natural desire for escapism. We all want to try out new things and explore different worlds, and VR lets us do that without leaving our desks.
That’s why businesses are using VR for training employees in dangerous situations, like oil rigs or firefighting. It’s also being used for product design, so businesses can see how their products will work in the real world before they invest any money in manufacturing them.
Your business needs this because: VR can provide a realistic, immersive experience that helps employees learn new skills or processes. It can also be used to give customers a new way to interact with your product or service.
Data and BI
Data is the lifeblood of digital transformation, but it’s not enough to just have data – you need to be able to make sense of it all. That’s where data and business intelligence (BI) come in. BI tools can help you visualize your data, spot trends, and make better decisions.
But it’s not just as simple as buying a BI tool – you need to have the right data infrastructure in place first. That means having a data warehouse or data lake where you can store all your data, as well as the tools and processes to clean and prepare that data for analysis.
Want to hear some real-life use cases? School systems are using data and BI to track student progress and identify at-risk students early. Retailers are using it for things like pricing optimization and targeted marketing. And manufacturing companies are using it to improve quality control and predict maintenance needs.
Your business needs this because: Data and BI can help you understand your customers better, make better decisions, and optimize your marketing efforts.
Bonus Section: How to Use Digital Transformation Platforms for Integration and Streamlining
Digital transformation can be a daunting task for any company. There are numerous technologies available and it can be hard to determine which ones will work best for your business.
A digital transformation platform can help by integrating multiple systems and automating processes, thus streamlining the process and making it more efficient.
The most important aspect of a digital transformation platform is its ability to integrate with other systems. Think – data sources, applications, and devices. By integrating with these systems, the platform can automate processes and make it easier to manage data.
What else? These platforms help companies by providing a way to monitor progress. This includes tracking KPIs and providing performance reports to make changes to the digital transformation strategy.
Finally, a digital transformation platform provides a way to connect with other businesses, which includes sharing best practices and collaborating on projects. By connecting with other businesses, companies can learn from each other and improve their own strategies.
Digital transformation is a journey – not a destination. And like any journey, there are a lot of different things that can help you along the way.
The 10 technologies we’ve covered in this article are just a starting point that could very well change the way your business runs.
As you craft your digital transformation strategy, consider which of these technologies can help you achieve your goals in consideration of your specific business needs.