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Written by Eduardo Cruz, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems

 As we start the New Year, inevitably our focus moves towards turnover and budgets for IT investment for 2017. When beginning to this about this, I would urge business leaders to look at IT as an asset and an enabler. IT should deliver competitive advantage for the organisation rather than as a sunk cost. Many organisations are now looking to digitally transform their business. They are looking at how customers can interact not only via digital channels but also to start to self-serve.  That said, the phrase ‘digital transformation’ often sounds incredibly daunting, especially when budgets are tight. Thanks to low-code platforms like OutSystems however, digitisation doesn’t need to break the bank. It can actually be achieved cost effectively and quickly.

 Put simply, implementing digital transformation will see long-term reduced IT costs, reduced costs of doing business, faster time to productivity in core areas, as well as increased business growth and greater agility within IT to meet day-to-day business needs.  Not convinced?  Let me share with you a couple of examples:

 When a global provider of image-processing equipment,Ricoh, partnered with OutSystems to replace several of its disjointed applications, it did more than just break down its siloed data stream. The company was able to avoid additional software costs, reduce its hardware costs, and increase developer productivity. Not only that, the company also achieved an ROI of 253 percent, while racking up annual savings of $131,967. Aside from our own clients, the UK government provides us with some fantastic examples of successful digital transformation according to the figures jointly provided by Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and Government Digital Service (GDS). Against a 2009/10 baseline the amount saved from transformation services was £891 million in 2012/13, increasing to £978 million in 2013/14. With last year’s figures added onto this, the combined total saved over these three years is £3.56 billion. This is a direct result of work done across government by departmental teams who have been building digital services and making better use of technology.

 Another misconception that surrounds digital transformation is the false assumption that current business processes must be overhauled all at once, when in fact it is perfectly conceivable to transform parts of your organisation, in manageable chunks. Using a low-code development platform like OutSystems, IT teams are able to tackle projects quickly and easily, achieving fast development times while seamlessly integrating with existing technology. You can achieve all of this without the need for huge Dev-Ops teams. This not only saves money during the development stages, it also has notable long-term financial implications especially in terms of competitive advantage.

 Successful digital transformation programs impact processes, products, services, and suppliers. To achieve dramatic results an overarching framework is needed where all the resources of an organisation are strategically directed around collaborative interactions. The customer is positioned at the heart of the organisation and is the focal point of the digital transformation initiative. These organisations understand that providing a great customer experience can maximise value and engagement.

 It’s equally important to remember that customer expectations and preferences have drastically evolved; customers expect goods and services quickly so the delivery must be seamless, it must be fast, and it must be easy. For many organisations evolving customer expectations and preferences have forced them to re-think how they define and deliver their products and services to the end user. Meeting customer expectations let alone exceeding them is becoming progressively difficult in the digital economy. As a result, organisations are investing in digital initiatives to better attract, engage, and retain customers. More efficient processes, more innovative services, better products, alternative delivery channels, more responsive engagement channels; these are no longer business aspirations, these are necessities. As I stated earlier however this needn’t cost the world.

 Beyond budget I would argue that organisational culture is actually one of the most critical considerations for any digital transformation. Culture shapes the attitudes, beliefs and aspirations of individuals, teams and entire organisations. It influences the strategies that an organisation employs to better deliver goods and services to customers. It influences how an organisation structures itself, and the operational processes it employs.  The culture therefore must be considered and all parts of the organisation must be onside with the transformation and understand why it is necessary and what it will achieve. If this doesn’t happen staff won’t be engaged and the transformation won’t be as successful as it could be.

 As the New Year begins, there are new trends and technologies such as big data, VR/AR and API that will be at the core of digital transformation efforts in 2017. Digital transformation is no longer an option, it is now a necessity. The ability to build an agile and adaptable organisation that can rapidly change both its technology and its culture without breaking the bank will be core to thriving in a time of heightened business disruption.