Three Years to Three Weeks: Digital Transformation’s Acceleration

Our poll revealed that 86% of technologists said the pandemic has accelerated their need to invest in AI initiatives, and half of them adopted AI in at least one business function in the last year. From cloud transformation to machine learning, it’s something everyone’s doing in some capacity.

CDM Media’s own J.D. Miller, SVP of Marketing & Communities, and John Suguitan, Senior Director of Executive Communities, discussed digital transformation at the recent Cloud & AI Summit.

To hear more conversations like this, register for one of our upcoming summits: CIO Canada Summit on June 10th, CIO Southwest Summit on June 24th, or Northeast and Financial Summit on June 29th.

John: Looking at evolution, what does digital transformation mean today for you, J.D.?

J.D.: Nothing, and also everything, but also it’s one of the most misused terms out there. Digital transformation can be a lot of different things for a lot of people. For a lot of individuals and companies that might mean their migration to the cloud, it may mean adopting AI and machine learning. It’s been a term that’s been used so much that we’re all in a digital transformation, whether it’s different processes and platforms we’re using today, or using cloud and AI which we’re here talking about today. So, when people come to me and talk about the shift in digital transformation, it’s not a shift. We’ve shifted – everybody’s doing digital transformation now. 

Now, let’s talk about how we’re specializing. How’s it going to be different when we’re moving forward? How are we going to have a cloud environment that’s going to work for my company going forward? How am I going to use AI and machine learning now, and then also going into the future and do I have the people to do it? So instead of just digital transformation I think we need to get a little more specific on that and say what is your cloud transformation or what’s your machine learning transformation going forward?

John: In terms of looking forward, we have to understand some of the lessons learned. One of the key things that’s really changed the landscape is 2020 in general, right? The shift that has happened. With that said, how has the pandemic changed digital transformation for most organizations?

J.D.: Budget, first and foremost. A lot of organizations had their budgets slashed, halted, frozen. Others had the budget wide open for a way to get everybody to work from home, to have business continuity. Budget, first and foremost, has really shifted during this pandemic. Staffing, that’s another thing. Do we have the right people in place? A lot of organizations scaled back staff, so how can I have this transformation, if I don’t have the staff to do it? A lot of organizations shifted three years into three weeks and it left organizations reeling and a lot of technologists kind of sitting back going, “Okay, let’s see if this works. Did the steps we took; did moving remote; did having our business model shift so quickly, so dramatically, did it work?” 

There are sectors that have benefited, including healthcare, because healthcare had to move very quickly, and the pressures on healthcare were bigger than ever before. Public sector’s another one. How has the public sector moved and provided the services everybody needs at home? Lots of people are going back but when you’re looking at the stresses and strains on different areas, it’s fascinating. Banking and finance is another one. Right now we’ve learned that brick and mortar isn’t necessarily essential for banking and finance. It can all be done digitally and remotely. So the pandemic accelerated things. 

John: Absolutely. I think you hit that spot-on, especially on your point there with healthcare. I think it’s a tremendous positive change, if there’s a silver lining in this terrible pandemic, I think it’s having to shift the technology investments and the technology strategies. Telehealth, for example, was a function within healthcare that people utilized but it wasn’t the end-all, be-all. There were a lot of elderly folks that just didn’t have the bandwidth but they still had to go to the hospital for checkups, but now it’s accelerated that you do have the access to genuine healthcare without having to be susceptible to being out and about and I think that’s a positive thing.

Well with that said, let’s be specific for a second here. CIOs in general have a big oversight but what are the top challenges that you think they’re seeing this year?

J.D.: We asked that of CIOs who have come to our events over the last year, and digital transformation is number one. The newly remote workforce came in second, skills gaps third. Key projects that they’re looking forward to are leading change and driving innovation, followed by cloud migration. 

So, what are organizations doing to move their data to the cloud? The time CIOs have to address this has shifted considerably. It used to be that they wanted to accomplish it within about 12-18 months, but now it’s six months to address these key projects and these key challenges out there. Now, if you flip that and look at what CISOs are looking at, data protection being number one shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

John: Absolutely. Let’s dive into some specific topics, specifically in AI. Has the pandemic shifted the tech focus away or towards AI and cognitive?

J.D.: It’s really shifted it toward. We polled some technologists and 86% said that the pandemic has accelerated their need to invest in AI initiatives. Half adopted AI in at least one business function in the last year and within the general population, five out of six people use AI in their daily life. In banking and finance $12 billion is expected to be invested in AI this year alone. Manufacturing and retail will invest about $9.5 billion. Public sector, not far off, will invest around $9 billion.

Now what’s interesting when we’re looking at dollars spent, healthcare wasn’t part of that group, only about $5 billion. They’re already leveraging AI and machine learning in a lot of different ways and still accelerating.

We talked about banking, manufacturing, retail, public sector, healthcare. Automotive was one that was missing from the list. There’s said to be fully connected driving, leveraging AI. We’re seeing commercials, you’re seeing it at auto shows, increasing the efficiency and adding value to processes around traditional manual driven vehicles. It is key. Now, we all know about the, the chip shortage right now and that’s really hurting the automotive industry quite a bit but expect to see the automotive sector, moving up that list as far as AI spend.

To hear more conversations like this, register for one of our upcoming summits: CIO Canada Summit on June 10th, CIO Southwest Summit on June 24th, or Northeast and Financial Summit on June 29th.

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