Transformation is beyond just having digital operations

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Doctor preparing a prescription. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

Many organisations are realising that technology must form part of their operational and strategy mix lest they become uncompetitive in markets that continue to open up and barriers to entry come down. My mention of technology here must not be pigeonholed to the usual suspects like the adoption of cloud, mobile applications, software as a service, platform as a service et cetera, but looked at broadly as tools, systems, and processes that allow higher efficiency to be realised.

The term transformation seems to roll off easily from the tongues of executives as it seems linked key performance indicators require them to deliver some form of differentiation to commoditised products and services. The chase of these key performance indicators (KPIs) is however filled with digital enablement projects that get bandied around as transformation agendas in what I see a curious case of misunderstanding.

Digitisation can be part of a transformation strategy, but singularly it may not amount to long-term gains and actually runs the risk of making a bad situation worse where the fundamentals are not addressed. Some examples will drive this point home better. In the public transport sector, enablement is an industry attempting to go cashless and pushing multiple transit cards down on commuters and operators. It is also the creation of beautiful maps of the current chaotic para-transit networks with weak business cases beyond visualisation. In healthcare, it is the starting of multi-billion connected health systems that are supposed to suddenly lift an entire country’s well-being yet the infrastructure is still ill-developed and resource leaks abound. In education, it is the adapting of current curricular for consumption on tablets by primary school students with huge disparities in learning conditions across the country calling out for intervention.

Transformation is about flipping modus operandi and reimagining what could be, tempered for the local context. In transportation, it would mean learning from global best practice but doing research on the true pains and desires of every player in the value chain and determining what works best to deliver sustained value. For healthcare, it would be to start interventions from ground zero and look at the paths from farm to fork; how do we keep our people healthy, followed by first principles thinking on the best paths to take should they fall ill.

Transformation is bold and often long term, leaving only vestiges of what previously existed.