The Benefits of Digital Acceleration

20 July 2022

The Benefits of Digital Acceleration

By Sachin Kubsad

During the summer vacation period of 2021-2022, I had the great opportunity to complete an internship with global technology company IBM. It was an amazing experience during which I had exposure to observing technology services in action, meeting and working with the wider team of IBM both across Australia and globally. 

The internship allowed me to learn and develop consulting skills within group projects, understand business operations at a higher level and further my learning in areas including design thinking and AI. It is an experience I highly recommend to anyone interested in developing their skills in the above areas.

Why Digital Acceleration?

I believe we can all say that the age of the Covid-19 pandemic has demanded much greater versatility and strategy from businesses. And it is in no doubt that even without Covid-19 in future, these high demands will continue to remain in place as the modern world looks for greater capability in businesses. However, it is of no surprise to us that some businesses have shown greater success than others in recent times. Thus, there have been top performing businesses and low performing businesses. And the key to this difference lies in digital acceleration.

I believe a lot of value can be produced from digitising aspects or processes in business as much of our modern world is data driven. In recent times, I have found myself ordering several more products online than usual. While online-purchased supermarket store deliveries went ahead pre-pandemic, online-purchased deliveries have greatly accelerated amidst the pandemic. I believe the central benefit that this service and digitisation on a whole provides is in its ability to expand the customer base and offer much greater reach to customers. Amidst the pandemic, technology adopting organisations outperformed other businesses by 6% on average across 12 industries where technology was a performance differentiator (click on link here for illustration from IBM research conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value). However, there are also many factors that come to play when accelerating towards digital and adopting technology to create real business value, particularly in times of adversity. I will discuss some of these main factors below.

What technology and how has that created high impact?

IBM research has found that during the recent pandemic, the most impactful technologies which have differentiated high performing and low performing businesses have been: Mobile, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud systems.

Specifically, high impact comes from aligning technology to what matters most for the business - its core values and from there on in identifying areas for growth. And that is exactly what high performing businesses have done.

One of the key areas of technology driven impact by top performers during the pandemic has been supply chain operations. Living through the era of Covid-19, I have witnessed the gripping effects that Covid-19 can have on society and its businesses. Here in the local towns of Australia, seafood market exports have fallen dramatically due to Covid-19 and millions in revenue has been lost due to stockpiling of unpurchased exports and slow response in supply chains to shifts in demand. I believe we could prevent all that if we embraced technology solutions to upgrade supply chains. In fact, IBM research found that top business performers had 54% more use of technology in supply chains, offering them more delivery speed, efficiency, cost reduction, and a multitude of benefits.

Other notable areas of technology driven impact during the pandemic are in the field of: Agility and efficiency – 91% more use by top performers which includes the use of hybrid cloud (mixture of public and private cloud services) powering development and delivery, and cybersecurity -141% more use by top performers which includes use of AI tech for protection.

What are the barriers to AI and technology adoption and how should we overcome them?

While there are many great benefits and successes from technology incorporation in business, there are factors that still impede technology adoption and differentiate high and low business performers.

IBM research has identified the main factors to be an inflexibility or unwillingness to incorporate change, unavailability of skilled expertise to implement specific technologies, and privacy concern about the use of data and information. I know that I previously had concerns initially before switching to a digital bank. However, in the end, I realised that the benefits associated with doing so (including much easier banking -a faster and more accessible system) outweighed all else. And it is good to know your personal information is protected and encrypted with security technology.

Additionally, another point to make is that some businesses do not end up incorporating technology in the right way and realise it is not bringing them much value. The key to this is that, although incorporating technology in ways that top-performer brings value, technology can have different impacts for different businesses and may not bring the same value when used in the same way. So, it is important, for each business, to identify its own areas for technology incorporation. This is where IBM offers leading services in technology implementation – connecting the right technology to the right use cases. For further information on technology driven impact from the IBM Institute for Business Value (click on link here).

Furthermore, it can be said with confidence that such barriers to technology implementation can be overcome through businesses choosing to be more adaptable and evaluative of their current practice of technology use in the way that extracts most value for them. Whether you are a small business looking to scale up or a large business wanting to improve operations, I believe we all can go part digital.