The Microsoft meaning of Digital Transformation

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The Microsoft meaning of Digital Transformation

At Microsoft, digital transformation has emerged as a key corporate theme. The focus on digital transformation starts at the top. At the recent Microsoft Inspire conference, the vendor’s annual meetup for its reseller, systems integrator and cloud services partners, CEO Satya Nadella pointed to digital transformation as a $4.5 trillion market.

“With increasing digitization, where every part of our society and economy has been fundamentally transformed because of digital technology, the opportunity is greater than ever before,” Nadella said. “Think about how every product, every service is going to have digital cogs associated with it. It’s no longer just building an information system that keeps track of your products and services — the product and the service, itself, is digital.”

There’s no question that Microsoft would like digital transformation projects to include plenty of its own offerings, whether that means Microsoft Azure, Office 365, business applications such as Dynamics 365, or some combination of products. But the Microsoft digital transformation vision revolves around what Nadella described as four “digital transformation outcomes” that are, at least on the surface, about as vendor-neutral as one can expect from an $85 billion software company: engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations and transforming products.

Indeed, digital transformation, according to Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, is “not about technology.” Speaking at the 2017 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Ross characterized digital transformation as a redefining of an organization’s value proposition and, ultimately, a redesigning of the organization.

That type of transformation calls for consulting skills, business process re-engineering expertise and an ample dose of change management. It also calls for industry-specific knowledge. It’s a fool’s errand to reimagine a client’s business without detailed knowledge of its environment — the competitive threats, regulatory duties and customer-purchasing trends.

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