In 2017 alone, the International Data Corporation forecasts that businesses worldwide will spend $1.2 trillion on Digital Transformation technologies. Within the sectors of Cloud infrastructure, business services, and applications, enterprises across a vast array of industries are looking for ways to achieve digital maturity faster than their competition.
Simply defined, Digital Transformation is the use of emerging and established technologies to drastically improve the performance or reach of an enterprise. To explore what that means on a practical level, DATAVERSITY® spoke with Mahesh Rajasekharan, the CEO of Cleo – a leader in managed file transfer and multi-enterprise integration solutions.
Mr. Rajasekharan has nearly two decades of experience as a senior software executive in sales and marketing, operations, business strategy, and more. He holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, an M.S in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University, and a B.E in Mechanical Engineering from Anna University, India. Mr. Rajasekharan also has an MBA in Finance, Strategy, and Marketing from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, where he graduated first in his class.
An edited version of the conversation follows.
DATAVERSITY (DV): What would you say it means to achieve Digital Transformation at a time when business technologies themselves are transforming at such a rapid pace?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: The world as we know it is one massive digital network, and achieving Digital Transformation means you’ve equipped your business with the technology and skills to take on constantly evolving challenges. When companies integrate their people, systems, and partner communities with flexible technology that can adapt to emerging digital requirements and scale with the business, only then can they confidently maintain operational agility in the digital economy.
DV: Is it possible to ever reach digital maturity, or is the process always ongoing?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: Companies must embrace innovation and modernize IT infrastructures, which are foundational to achieve any Digital Transformation outcome, such as digital customer experience, omni-channel experience, and developing a digitally enabled workforce. But the technologies that enable Digital Transformation are constantly evolving, and they certainly will not all come from one vendor or one platform. Instead, they will come from best-of-breed vendors and technologies.
To get there, enterprise architects and CIOs need to first focus on creating a roadmap to implement their key digital business strategies. Second, they will need to adopt and commit to the technologies that can enable the kind of operational agility required to digitally transform their businesses.
DV: In your experience, what are the elements of business that stand to gain the most from transformative technologies like Big Data Analytics?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: Supply chains have become more global and connected than ever before. However, because of organizational silos, information is very much siloed within the four walls of an organization without sharing insights with customers or suppliers beyond the bare minimum. There is a wealth of information across the connected supply chain, such as manufacturing lead times, cost of various raw materials and subassemblies, and product availability information for suppliers as well as demand forecasts from end customers.
While there is some business sensitivity and competitive information that can be risked due to sharing such insights across the connected supply chain, the business benefits far outweigh the risks. Digital Transformation technologies such as Big Data and IoT can provide elevated business intelligence to create a level of operational efficiency across the extended supply chain than was previously imaginable. This can significantly reduce costs and create extraordinary value for companies and consumers.
DV: Have you observed certain business aspects getting more attention than others as your clients hurry to achieve Digital Transformation?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: To succeed with Big Data and Digital Transformation, organizations need to focus on three aspects:
- Analytical and visualization tools that increase confidence in the line of business (LOB) managers
- Self-service and the ability to scale pilot projects
- Cultural change management and redesigned workflows and jobs
Out of these three, the area we find the most advancement in is investments in targeted analytics and visualization platforms to conduct exploratory pilots.
DV: What sorts of problems do your clients run into when pushing for these objectives?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: Beyond executive management, most LOB managers have not fully bought into the financial benefits, or they don’t understand the decisions predicted by the models. This is the reason why we still see a lot of exploratory data work that is broad-based in nature and not focused on specific use cases that create impact. Further, after successful pilots, projects stall and get bogged down without being fully operationalized.
DV: How can businesses combat these sorts of issues?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: To fully embrace game changing Digital Transformation initiatives, businesses must:
- Integrate these initiatives as part of their line of business (LOB) objectives and metrics
- Implement the right data fabric and integration tools with self-service capabilities, automation, and industrial strength scaling to operationalize these projects
- Train front-line managers in functions such as customer service, sales, and manufacturing to understand these initiatives, leverage digital business insights in transacting business, and embrace the power of analytics
Without the LOB leadership’s full understanding and alignment with their business metrics and the front line fully enabled and engaged, it will be difficult for companies to derive value from their digital transformation initiatives.
DV: What advice would you give to businesses eager to adopt new technologies as quickly as possible?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: Companies should focus on best-of-breed vendors and technologies rather than embrace a single platform because, given the rapid pace of technology evolution, a focus on a single vendor or platform is unlikely to help companies with the technology footprint needed to enable operational agility and modernize IT infrastructure.
We believe that the critical part of the infrastructure needed will be B2B functionality. It is not just integration, but integration across the fragile relationship between cloud services, social networks, devices that comprise the Internet of Things, and traditional brick-and-mortar organizations.
Since any business contact outside the walls of an enterprise is a B2B-type relationship – be it connecting with various cloud infrastructures, working with processes and applications that span international boundaries, or interacting with customers and suppliers – it is critically important to have robust B2B functionality driving these transactions.
DV: What are the specific types of digital advances that have you most excited?
Mahesh Rajasekharan: Big Data and IoT have truly emerged as key Digital Transformation technologies that have the power to fundamentally transform human civilization. According to a 2016 IDC survey, data analysis and actionable information by 2020 can yield more than $430 billion in productivity benefits per year. In healthcare alone, McKinsey estimates there could be $300 billion in savings every year. Forbes estimates that for every 10% increase in data accessibility in the enterprise, there can be a $65 million improvement in net profit. These metrics are staggering, and indicate exactly why Big Data and IoT have the potential to truly transform the world as we see it today.
Clearly, enterprises of every size stand to make great strides through Digital Transformation efforts, but potential pitfalls hide around every corner. Mr. Rajasekharan pointed out that the human element cannot be forgotten in the rush to achieve digital maturity. As he put it,
“In short, for digital business transformation initiatives to succeed, the humans involved and responsible for these strategies need to be able to fully participate with the technologies, have the peace of mind that the data is safe and secure, and gain rapid operational insights to be able to effectively implement digital business strategies.”
This human-centric focus combined with a best-of-breed approach to Digital Transformation should help enterprises at every level remain – or become – competitive in the ever-changing digital business landscape.
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