The TGOA university defines a new unique knowledge platform bringing teachers and students together in order to rethink and redefine the processes of digitalisation
BY CARMELA MELONE
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2019)
What are the greatest obstacles businesses face on their digital transformation journeys? The answers to this question are as numerous as they are diverse. Insufficient financial resources, the wrong staff, lack of a consistent digital strategy, no time. This list continues ad infinitum. Ultimately, it depends on one thing above all – namely the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and this in an as resource-friendly a manner as possible.
The fact that companies tap into new business fields is nothing new. Even Ferruccio Lamborghini – back in 1963 – expanded his until that point in time exclusively tractor-related product range to include sports cars, which the Lamborghini is actually world-famous for today. Or who can nowadays still imagine purchasing nothing but books on Amazon? And even Zalando has been supplying its customers with more than just apparel for many years now. In addition to the increasing diversification of their offerings, there are many other factors that characterise the businesses of companies in all sectors.
Just take a look at how – and above all, with what speed – marketing has changed over the past few decades. Starting with print products such as flyers, brochures, catalogues and ads in newspapers, the World Wide Web has opened up a digital universe that nobody at the time could have even remotely imagined. Suddenly, it was possible to give your company a face to present to the whole world – live and in full colour. However, public image, products and services have been discussed just as openly, hence suddenly shifting both existing and potential customers and their expectations into the focus of companies. Social media, smartphone apps, forums, online shops and their assessment and comments columns: suddenly, touchpoints between customers and products were being created everywhere. But even managing these touchpoints is now no longer sufficient in order to place your product in the spotlight. Customers change, they want to be entertained and informed, not be lectured and bored senseless. Today, the quality of the contents is very different to what it was just a few years ago. Sometimes, a company even manages to succeed in having the whole world discussing one of its opinions or views – as in the case of Gillette!
Such developments are always preceded by inner change, as even the smallest nuance in the world of business is only triggered by a comprehensive tremor in the information supply chain. Here, it is not just the data itself that is collated, but also the internal processes, systems and their interfaces as well as all parties involved and their areas of responsibility. To this end, titles such as Chief Technology Officer and Chief Data Officer are necessary consequences of the growing significance of corporate data and an expedient corporate architecture. And further roles are constantly being added – because as quickly as the general parameters and requirements change, we urgently need people able to convey these developments internally. Pressure is growing within businesses thanks to ever-shorter innovation cycles in the most diverse areas of technology and customers' expectations to be able to keep up with the latest trends. The ability to adapt to changing situations and prerequisites is what we at TGOA call “responsive ISCM”. A desirable objective of the digital strategy is to achieve a sustainable and long-term IT infrastructure design, something that can only succeed if this basic framework is agile and can flexibly adapt to new circumstances. If, for example, the implementation of new microservices does not result in data flow bottlenecks. Or the fact that the new sales department has not had direct access to important content for months. Or even the fact that migrating to a new system cannot even be considered, as complexity and capital commitment prevent any movement.
There are numerous small cogs in corporate organisations, which – with the right adjustments – permit an improvement in agility and hence increasingly make a responsive ISCM system feasible. Here, it is important that we view the company as an interrelated organism. Turning just one cog can have an impact on numerous elements. For this reason, the basis for implementing responsive ISCM is a transparent, up-to-date and complete map of the entire structure – all in great detail. It must at all times be clear how the elements connect to each other and who is involved in which processes with which access rights. This is the only way to actually determine in which areas performance can and must be improved and what requirements new technologies will have to fulfil. But there must be transparency and continuous quality assurance during the implementation and operation of business software as well. This requires close collaboration between software development and software operation. Therefore, DevOps – as a process optimisation approach – plays a fundamental role for implementing responsive ISCM and should be firmly anchored in the mindset of future-oriented companies. Only with this awareness and the involvement and commitment of all employees can the IT architecture be actively shaped and equipped for future developments.
In addition to the philosophical basis, there are, however, also numerous technological achievements whose utilisation is potentially a further milestone on the journey towards responsive ISCM. To this end, automating workflows enables companies to considerably reduce the risk of error in certain processes and simultaneously preserve precious resources. AI services in image processing, for example, help when sorting and archiving large quantities of image files – and do so substantially faster and more efficiently than humans ever could. Here, entire procedures are concentrated and the information supply chain hence made agile.
However, small and medium-sized businesses often lack the resources to develop agile IT infrastructures themselves. For them, cloud solutions and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models can be the key to nonetheless participating in the Digital Revolution, as they excel as a result of scalability and user-neutrality. These options offer precisely the level of service and functional scope that are actually required. In this way, expansion and downsizing can be approached in a reactive manner using adapted service levels. Even if on-premise solutions can in some cases potentially still make the most sense, for instance in the case of sensitive data with longer execution cycles, the question of the form of purchasing software for each individual department must be accurately evaluated on a company-by-company basis and also monitored following implementation.
Content management is another area in which a company can effectively optimise its information supply chain. Central data storage enables all relevant departments and employees to access corporate contents and to use and further process these for their own purposes. To this end, the sales and marketing departments need direct access to product information just as much as customer service and manufacturing employees do. Digital participation is an important achievement of modern corporate culture and enables the creation of company-owned know-how. Firms not least benefit from the resulting synergies – ultimately, this is precisely what DevOps is about. Business divisions are moving closer together, hence generating a strong, joint knowledge base benefiting all parties and to which all parties contribute.
Companies cannot expect the world to soon revolve around them more slowly. There is no time to rest, as what is new and innovative today will be standard or possibly obsolete tomorrow. What remains, however, is the necessity for an adaptable basis to ensure a digital capacity for action.
Carmela Melone is an analyst and co-founder of The Group of Analysts and founder and CEO of The Group of Authors, where she is responsible for the “headsUp” series of the whitepapers, articles and e-papers.
Picture credit © Westend61/Getty Images