Digital transformation boils down to one simple common denominator: competitiveness in a future “hyper-digital world,” which Dell Technologies predicts in its latest study, the Digital Transformation Index (DTI). In this futurescape, users have extremely demanding requirements. Economic limitations are a thing of the past, meaning that any company can address any market – but it also means that they have to step into the ring with a constantly growing number of competitors. Innovation plays an even more crucial role in this hyper-digital world, and there are completely new challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, that the markets have only had fleeting dealings with – if at all – until now. Companies would do well to factor these futuristic parameters into their calculations.
However, these parameters are not actually all that “futuristic.” We have all, at one time or another, looked at the clock after midnight and uttered the words, “Oh, it’s already tomorrow.” For the markets, it’s “already tomorrow” as well. In fact, all of the changes mentioned in the previous paragraph have already begun to take place, be it increased user requirements, stronger competition, or climate change. When we talk about the hyper-digital world, then, we are not talking about some sort of abstract future; it has been the here and now for quite some time! It is also not a sudden development (today versus an undefined “tomorrow”), which would maybe please many procrastinators, but an incremental one – the digital society is taking clearer shape with every passing second. This progression is too slow for many to grasp.
The procrastinators and the hesitant should take Albert Einstein’s quote to heart: “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.” Or, even better, update it: “I never think of the digital future – it has long since arrived. If I don’t act now, I’ll quickly lose my competitiveness.” According to Dell’s DTI, only just over a quarter of those surveyed consider their company to be a leader or implementor in the digital transformation, while the remaining almost 75 percent are taking their time – time that they don’t actually have.
Given the high number of digital laggards and (perpetual) evaluators, it is no wonder that those surveyed said that in five years’ time, half of all companies will barely meet the requirements of their customers. Many will also no longer be able to present themselves as credible and reliable partners in their markets as they will have fallen behind from a technological standpoint.
At this point, it is worth taking a look at the Global Competitiveness Index 2018 from the World Economic Forum. It lists the most competitive countries, notably the U.S. and Singapore, followed by Germany, Switzerland, and the usual suspects. It would not be too far-fetched to conclude that these industrial nationals are investing the most extensively and at the fastest rate in digitization. After all, they have the most expertise and the largest budgets.
Way off the mark. According to the DTI, India, Brazil, and Thailand top the list of most digitization-savvy countries. In developed markets, only 24 percent of companies are among the pioneers in this environment, while in India the number is 45. Who would have thought that emerging economies would be the ones demonstrating how digitization is done?
I am well aware that more relaxed data protection and other regulatory provisions form less of a barrier for the economic transformation process in many of these countries when compared to the stringent laws in the EU. In fact, data protection, data security, and legal requirements are some of the biggest hurdles on the path to full digitization. Still, it is worth asking one question: Do India and Thailand top the list of most competitive countries in the hyper-digital world because they systematically carry out numerous actual projects alongside the fact that they work with digitization much more intensively?
One could assume that developed markets will fall far behind emerging economies when it comes to digitization – but it probably won’t get to that point. All the same, this scenario can still serve as a cautious wake-up call for one company or another. The momentum of today’s emerging economies should be an example to the global markets.