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Successful Digital Transformation Starts with Customers

Person on a hilltop at night, holding up a smartphone to take a picture of the city lights

 

During the digital transformation track of Keysight World 2021, Keysight's Chief Technology Officer, Jay Alexander, discussed how the COVID pandemic is accelerating the technology adoption cycle and reframing how we approach digital transformation.

Alexander kicked off his talk by describing the pre-COVID progression of digital transformation, the megatrend affecting virtually all parts of today's economy. All things digital are essential enablers of the longstanding vision of connecting everything and everyone. This enablement has been happening for a long time, starting with curious early adopters willing to experiment and continuing on to acceptance by the cautious mainstream.

But Alexander noted an interesting change to the pattern during the pandemic: existing technologies, such as video chat and online purchasing of goods and services, became ubiquitous. Online ordering for delivery of food, medicine, and even home repair items, became part of our weekly routines.

"The first effect of the pandemic on technology evolution has been an acceleration of the classic adoption cycle," said Alexander. "Broader, faster adoption of new technologies is driving the second effect: No matter where or how you engage with digital transformation, customer expectations have changed forever, with a new expectation of instant access, constant availability, and zero lag."

Rapid technology adoption and evolving customer expectations are changing how businesses approach their digital transformation strategies to maintain a competitive edge. Continue reading for four key takeaways from Alexander's keynote.

1. Start with Customer Experience

User experience is crucial to maintaining a competitive edge, and customer expectations are only becoming more challenging. 

"As we move forward, people and their evolving expectations are the core driver for all that we do," said Alexander. "As customers come to rely on the new capabilities you create, your design and test strategy for future products and updates must ensure maximum availability when customers want it, with the right performance, and the right user experience." 

As customers come to rely on the new capabilities you create, your design and test strategy for future products and updates must ensure maximum availability when customers want it, with the right performance, and the right user experience.

Delivering on connectivity, performance, and user experience requires a plan to ensure your technology won't break when changes are made. And to that end, your employees will need tools to adapt in real-time. Alexander posed the question: Are crucial tools available when and where your employees need them? If your employees are not equipped with the right tools, it will be significantly harder for them to deliver on the heightened expectations of your customers.

2. Shift from Validation to Acceleration

The new paradigm has created many new complexities when designing and validating new technologies, but Alexander pointed to a positive outcome. He said, "the pandemic experience has thoroughly validated the core idea that, done wisely, digital transformation leads to better outcomes for you and your customers."

In fact, the worldwide stress test brought on by the pandemic has amplified the need to accelerate our collective digital transformation. Surveys by Bloomberg, McKinsey, and others show this is already happening: many or most companies believe the pandemic has sped up their digital transformation by three to seven years. On average, the speed-up is on the order of 5.3 years.

The pandemic experience has thoroughly validated the core idea that, done wisely, digital transformation leads to better outcomes for you and your customers.

While it's tempting to throw the latest, hottest technology at a problem, hoping it will magically make everything work better and keep customers happy,  this approach rarely works. Alexander proposed three essential elements to creating a customer-centric strategy from the outset:

  • A crisp definition of your customer set.
  • An imaginative understanding of their unmet needs.
  • A compelling offering that delivers real value to those customers.

3. Create Best-Case Outcomes

With that level of clarity established, Alexander said you can embark on thoughtful, but fast-paced, planning of the changes most relevant to your business's digital transformation. You can then move on to the selection and deployment of the right technology—or technologies—to make those changes a reality.

"If you want to achieve exceptional performance across your digital platforms, you'll want to assess how far you need to reach—from core to cloud to edge, or vice versa—and how far up or down the protocol stack you need to look," said Alexander. "It's useful to examine how you can validate performance gains, potential and actual, and decide what to test in the lab and what to monitor in the field."

If you want to achieve exceptional performance across your digital platforms, you'll want to assess how far you need to reach—from core to cloud to edge, or vice versa—and how far up or down the protocol stack you need to look.

If you're seeking to embrace new use cases or even new business models, which technologies will inspire and enable new possibilities your customers will value and pay for? Depending on your core capabilities, Alexander said it might be time to consider what kinds of technology partners and collaborators will help you deploy a new concept successfully and in less time.

All of this makes it clear that the essential enablers of connecting everything and everyone are also what makes for a superior user experience. The business goal is to create an experience that provides differentiation and competitive advantage. The best-case outcome is a user experience that meets or exceeds ever heightened expectations.

4. Face New Challenges Head-On

Achieving these goals will not be easy, and Alexander noted significant obstacles on the road ahead. The strain of the past year and a half has revealed crucial weaknesses that are on the verge of becoming fatal liabilities.

"Demand for bandwidth continues to grow unabated, and it's rising like a digital tidal wave," said Alexander. "In today's world, more devices are transmitting and receiving richer content: high-resolution images; 4K and 8K video; dynamic, interactive experiences like multi-player gaming; and telemedicine."

The key drivers include exponential growth in IoT devices and machine-to-machine communication. They also include new capabilities and use cases made possible by the ongoing rollout of 5G. In networking, the world continues to deploy 400 gigabit Ethernet, but the jump to 800 gig is coming, and 1.6 terabit Ethernet is on the horizon.

"The need for ever more processing power is unending," said Alexander. "Unfortunately, after almost 60 years, it looks like Moore's Law is decelerating."

The need for ever more processing power is unending. Unfortunately, after almost 60 years, it looks like Moore's Law is decelerating.

Makers of classical computers and supercomputers continue to innovate, but most are also investing in quantum computing. Meanwhile, quantum effects in semiconductors are one factor limiting device makers' ability to move process geometries significantly below five nanometers. Thus, between the traditional manufacturers and a cadre of focused startups, quantum is gaining momentum.

Driving the Digital Transformation of Everything

These forces are driving technology trends we all need to be ready for now: process automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the AI of things, edge computing, and so much more. Staying ahead of these trends is essential to meeting customer needs, building competitive advantage, and achieving business success.