How to Turn Your Company Into a Digital Powerhouse

For most organizations, the transition to digital technologies hasn’t been easy. Amid a growing array of devices, systems, apps and connection points, there’s the mounting challenge of integrating everything and building better pathways to business results and deeper connections to customers, business partners and employees.

“A digital business isn’t merely about adopting technologies and introducing them into the organization,” says Adam Burden, a managing director at Accenture. “It’s about how you leverage technologies to reinvent the organization you already have.”

It’s a concept that’s forcing many business and IT executives to rethink and re-examine everything from enterprise systems to how basic business decisions take place. Mobility, cloud computing, big data, social media, connected devices and a whole lot more are creating a level of disruption that hasn’t previously existed.

“The barriers are lower than ever for startups, consumers are more demanding, and the business and IT landscapes are changing rapidly,” Burden notes. “The goal is to become a digital disrupter, as opposed to a digitally disrupted organization.”

“Today, all roads lead to digital,” points out Chris Curran, PwC Advisory principal and Chief Technologist. “From business strategy to execution, digital technology has become the foundation for everything.”

Tackling this rapidly changing frontier requires new ways of thinking—and far better collaboration and conversation across the enterprise. There’s also a need for new IT platforms that support digital interactions rather than merely transactions, and radically different skill sets. In this new order of business, agility and flexibility are essential.

In the past, gaining a competitive advantage in the business world revolved heavily around rapid adoption of niche technologies—ERP systems, CRM applications and other traditional tools—and pushing them out to workers. But the stakes have changed.

Brad Brown, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co., argues that organizations must adopt a digital fabric that supports more modular information technology. That means plugging in smaller, more specialized components, including mobile apps and capabilities, clouds, social components and the Internet of things. “The key question,” he asks, is: “How can digital technology fundamentally change the company?”

David Nichols, EY America’s IT transformation leader, adds that within the emerging digital business model, innovation is everything. The starting point for building a digital powerhouse is to understand that communication and collaboration are the foundation for faster and better decision making.

When organizations assemble the right technologies in the right ways, they’re able to improve data flows and workflows. Advances in connectivity and connectedness have created entirely new channels and a highly fractured business environment. “The same technologies that create the enormous opportunities create enormous challenges,” Nichols says.

Insuring a Digital Future

One organization that has placed digital transformation in the spotlight is AEGIS Insurance Services, an East Rutherford, N.J.-based mutual insurance company that provides liability and property coverage, as well as related risk management services, to the utility and energy industries.

When CIO Gene Blauvelt joined AEGIS in 2008, the organization was mired in legacy systems and software that couldn’t support a digital enterprise. Since then, he has focused on transforming the company through a combination of automation, agile software practices, data sharing, collaboration and standardization. He began constructing a digital business model that migrated the company off a legacy midrange system that held a proprietary database and toward a more agile and modular infrastructure that uses a configurable rules-based environment.

“We had a portal, but there was no way to access data other than from desktop computers in the building,” Blauvelt says. “That impacted a whole array of processes, including the ability for claims lawyers and others to attach photos to documents from losses and handle tasks in the field.”

What’s more, the system required a huge amount of IT time, money and resources. “The goal was to find a much quicker, cheaper and more efficient way to do things,” he adds.

Over the past few years, AEGIS has embraced a number of new systems and processes. For example, working with global BPM and CRM firm Pegasystems and independent consultant Shirley Shea, it built a platform that ties together back-end systems and operations with a portal and mobile tools, including iPads that are used in the field.