Digital transformation and the tangible process of change

Everyone is talking about digital transformation

And it seems as if they’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s true; it is a popular topic across industries and business of all sizes. Transformation is necessary in order for your business to remain relevant in a fast-changing landscape, stay competitive and retain your customers, while still being able to attract new ones. But when it comes to defining what it actually means, that’s where you’ll encounter the first hurdle. For some, digital transformation represents a very technically-orientated view of the world — using Office 365 to motivate your workforce, or moving servers off-premise and into the cloud. For others it is defined as a cultural transformation impacting the people within your organisation.

While  emergent technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, bots, big data and Internet of Things (IoT), are disrupting all aspects of business and industry operations, embracing digital transformation requires a holistic approach to change that brings together all the elements and helps you re-engineer your business.

It’s all about changes to technology, commercial and business strategies, the customer engagement approach, and perhaps most importantly cultural change. Importantly, digital transformation has to be driven from the top down. It is a leadership task that incorporates several critical components, including: creating a culture of digital transformation; accepting the idea of collaboration not competition; embracing fear (by providing strong leadership and having the right people); demonstrating value (this is as much about ‘show’ as it is ‘tell’); respecting your ecosystem; and living agile.

Forget about the jargon; focus on the task

Digital transformation isn’t a rebranding or marketing exercise (although that may be one component of any change); it’s about re-engineering and rebuilding your business in the era of cloud, mobile, analytics and AI, all for the purpose of better interacting with your customers, who are themselves changing.

It isn’t about moving to the cloud or embracing different technologies. Rather it is about enabling your business and your customers to be a part of the paradigm shift and benefit from the changing industry around them. Of course technology is behind this, supporting it, but it is not the sole focus of transformation initiatives.

You have to get the right culture and change programme in place to unlock the value of technology and, most importantly, create a culture in which technology seamlessly forms part of the modus operandi of the business. Many businesses are struggling because they don’t recognise the cultural changes required. A majority also change their technologies, infrastructure and processes but if you don’t address the human elements of change then successful transformation is unlikely to happen.

Transformation and technology — tangible change

Inevitably you can’t talk about digital transformation without talking about technology. Whether you are an independent software vendor (ISV), or a hosting company, a logistics company or an investment bank, you are looking at your cloud strategy and the latest cloud technologies on offer, and considering how they may improve your operations, provide cost savings, create new services for your customers and so on.

Looking at the coming year, there are likely to be three main technology components of transformation to focus on: hybrid, security and compliance, and data transformation.

To put this into perspective, consider the changes that have been afoot in the ISV market for the last few years, the move away from selling traditional applications to embracing cloud and moving to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Why? Because ISVs identified that in order to survive and remain competitive, they had to move with the times. There is a lot more to SaaS enablement than merely changing product portfolios and technologies. There needs to be  a significant shift in mindset, a cultural, as well as an operational change. This includes redeveloping the sales approach, retraining sales staff, adjusting to a new revenue and remuneration model, and ensuring compliance.

As a result, your approach to transformation should be shaped by answering three questions that guide the journey. What is the compelling business reason for digital transformation? What is the technology challenge that the organisation must comply with? And what technical solution can be put in place to solve it?

So how is this achieved? Taking the above example a step further, let’s use an ISV active in the financial services industry as a starting point. With all the regulatory changes shaping the industry (like GDPR or PDS2) at the moment, the ISV needs to ensure the service it is providing is fully compliant with these regulations in order to still find a place in the market. That may mean looking at a hybrid solution — developing a modern hybrid application that is suitable for cloud consumption, while being compliant. For many ISVs their solutions are underpinned by databases and it is here where data transformation comes into play. The question then becomes how does the ISV take the data, consolidate it and make it useful in a modern application sense?


Transformation may not be inevitable for all businesses, but once there is a compelling commercial reason to do so, then the journey must begin. It may not be a linear journey, and it definitely won’t be the same for all organisations, but its goal will be shared: digital transformation makes businesses more relevant, more competitive and improves the ways in which they engage with their customers. Ultimately, this helps the long-term sustainability and success of a company in a fast-changing environment where agility, compliance and customer focus are key.

About the author

Dr. Stuart Nielsen-Marsh  Director — Microsoft Cloud Strategy at Pulsant

A highly experienced and adaptable business leader with over twenty years of experience in the software, consulting and professional services industry, with a track record of customer centric growth, leading business innovation and change.

Nielsen-Marsh has real-world experience of developing and running cloud services businesses, as well as adoption, integration and strategy implementation, having been involved in various Cloud start-ups and projects in both enterprise and SMB companies. As a Microsoft Partner Executive, Partner Influencer and IAMCP mentor, Nielsen-Marsh is always happy to discuss planned cloud services strategies and to present or provide consulting in this area. Over the last 12 months Nielsen-Marsh has been driving Pulsant’s Microsoft Strategy and leading the transformational changes required to become a Microsoft ‘modern partner’ — focused on the development of Pulsant’s MS Cloud Solution Provider program and Data Centre Modernisation and the use of Azure Stack and public Azure services.