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Digital transformation: Getting from here to there

Technology can be used and is currently being used to help businesses meet outcomes. More so now than before with technologies like cloud computing, analytics and mobile, a general view in almost all industries these days, is that tech can affect outcomes to the point of helping a business transform.

Fujitsu’s Director of Strategy and Foresight, David Gentle said, different industries have different business outcomes to achieve.

For example, in retail and service industries, customer experience is key and the customer is at the centre of everything that the business does.

In manufacturing and logistics however, digital transformation is about operational excellence, streamlining manufacturing processes, supply chain processes and so on.

Interestingly, Fujitsu advocates a balanced approach to digital transformation (DX) – essentially that means bringing in new innovative technology without compromising existing traditional tech in an environment.

Different technology applications for different industries

The potential for tech when applied to different processes in different industries, is mind-blowing.

A Swedish highstreet fashion brand was able to map their customers’ interactions via a WiFi network when the latter visited their physical retail outlets, much like how retailers can already do so with visitors to their online stores.

“For the first time, they could see what customers were doing, how they were moving around the store and they could gauge the effectiveness of their point-of-sales methods, sales personnel and so on,” Gentle explained.

Working also with a large US engineering company, Fujitsu’s RFID tagging solution gave better visibility into the company’s state of inventory during the production process.

“Without this technology, the picture they have of their inventory would be 3 weeks out of date. Instead now, they don’t have to hold so much inventory and reduce order duplications.”

More importantly, the biggest gas turbines that the company produces, need components costing up to USD100 million. Now there need not be huge costs locked up in the production process of these large turbines.

Gentle said, “For an organisation like this, that’s how you construct a business case – by digitalising the supply chain, you see patterns you couldn’t see before and with this visibility, you start to innovate around the production line.”

Current landscape

There several handfuls of these kinds of innovations happening as a result of more visibility into resources, and more flexibility in managing them. For example, Airbus is moving towards having a virtual production line alongside their physical one, just so they can experiment with new processes and find more efficient ones.

Fujitsu is also helping the island nation of Singapore manage the time and space metrics of shipping – at any one time there is around 200,000 ships in the Singapore straits and a spatial app that uses big data analytics, provides time and location information to safely navigate them all within that body of water measuring only 105km by 16 km.

The long road

But how does a business get from where they currently are, to “that” useful and innovative application of IT?

Gentle reiterated, “Bi-modal IT is key to this. It’s less glamourous but it’s key to digital transformation.”

Instead of a ‘rip and replace’ approach, there can be a happy middle road.  The bi-modal or hybrid IT approach means a peaceful co-existence between modern and traditional technologies. But, certain important things need to take place first.

For example, Gentle opined, “Businesses have to get better at managing their existing technology. It’s surprising how many customers are focused upon keeping the lights on.” Current industry consensus is that 60- till 80-percent of IT budgets go towards making sure an IT environment keeps running.

What if there could be an ‘overlay’ to enable different IT delivery models like on-premise, public cloud, workplace mobility, big data analytics and more?

Enter MetaArc, Fujitsu’s digital business platform that Fujitsu says can orchestrate all kind of IT delivery services, and which sits on top of Fujitsu’s Open Stack-based cloud service platform, K5.

Gentle described it a key go-to-market for Fujitsu, touting the management of hybrid IT and the different types and styles of technologies.

But, what is the market’s current appetite for DX?

Gentle observed, “Two years ago, the CIO has a limited shelf life. Roles like the chief digital officer and chief innovation officer started to come around. What’s happening with Fujitsu’s customers is that their CIOs have become the person most engaged with the digital transformation of the organisation.

“Their responsibilities are the same, but what’s different is the overall shaping of direction for tech is more collaborative as the business and CEO are getting more involved.”

He also added in conclusion that “…people in all geographies will become really focused on (digital transformation).”

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