February 16, 2021

Should we still be talking about digital transformation in 2021?

By Kevin South, Head of Digital & CX

Digital transformation is a phrase that has been bandied around for quite a few years now, with most businesses having already gone digital to some extent. This has left many of us wondering whether conversations around digital transformations are still relevant in the year 2021.

The term has become commonplace, often being used to refer to all types of business innovation. This diffusion of meaning has resulted in corporate leaders being skeptical of its relevance or utility in our current economic climate.

This apprehension seems reasonable since many businesses have faced losses in their attempts to bring their enterprises in line with digital trendsetters. Yet, to disregard digital transformation would be a massive oversight for businesses looking to run more efficiently. Revolutionizing your businesses through digitization opens up access to new markets, and allows companies to become more flexible and competitive when it comes to meeting their customers’ needs.

Digital transformation is undoubtedly a costly affair, but the associated financial risks can be alleviated when companies understand how to effectively implement and integrate digital into their current operations. Organisational leaders need to prioritise digital if they wish to capitalise on what it can provide, training their employees on how to use digital technologies, as well as mitigating the effects of digital fatigue.

By deepening their understanding of what effective digital transformation entails, businesses can take advantage of new opportunities for growth and development. With this in mind, digital transformation is still a relevant topic for discussion in 2021.

Effective transformation takes time

The successful implementation of digital technologies enables companies to streamline their workflow and enhance customer experience. Expenses can be reduced as more processes are automated. These benefits are expunged when the inappropriate technologies are chosen, or when staff training is not rigorously undertaken.

Anti-tech sentiments among employees can lead to massive resistance to change. When faced with opposition and failure, it seems logical for business leaders to push aside their digital ambitions. However, instead of being deterred by these failings, business innovators can turn these experiences into heuristics. Mistakes provide value feedback loops which allows companies to identify areas for improvement.

Digital transformation involves some trial and error, as well as a clear understanding of the needs of the business and clients. Incremental improvements are more likely to bring success, than a massive once-off digital overhaul. Gradual tweaks to business procedures allow for a dynamic transformation as priorities change.

What do business executives think about digital transformation?

A survey conducted by McKinsey suggests that corporate leaders who drive organisation change have been largely successful in improving business operations. Of the 1546 business executives interviewed, almost 40% reported that transformation had successfully led to enhanced performance. 30% agreed that transformation had been “somewhat successful” and only a tenth of respondents admitted that transformation had been unsuccessful.

What these figures suggest is that being at the forefront of organisational change promises financial success. Opposition to digital transformation could very well be due to the fact that companies do not know how to effectively go digital. Some may think they lag so far behind that there is little chance of catching up with the digital forerunners.

Such beliefs create a misconception that digital transformation will be prohibitively expensive and cause unnecessary disruption to operations. Some businesses are hesitant to evolve into the digital era, disregarding the opportunities digital can bring for increased revenue and employee productivity.

Why should we digitally transform our businesses?

The greatest advantages of digital transformation are often understood to be lower expenses and improved performance. In light of the global pandemic, more companies are moving towards remote working for their employees. This has brought about an even greater need for cloud services to allow teams to work together effectively. Such services can be provided at relatively low cost or disruption to workflow.

Working with tech service providers has allowed business leaders to access all the benefits of digital technologies, without distracting themselves from the everyday running of their businesses. Performance can improve immensely thanks to digital tools that enable smoother, faster, and more accurate business processes.

For developing countries, digital transformation promises economic development since it corresponds to increased production, as was found in a 2020 study.

What are the risks involved with digital transformation?

Businesses need to take into consideration the common pitfalls related to transformation, namely that going digital isn’t the only way to stay ahead in the game. The digital revolution is making it more difficult for companies to stand out from their competitors. Brand loyalty no longer has the same potency as it did in the past, with customers quickly and easily moving to better options as they arise.

As a result, businesses need to focus on adding value to their customers by providing high quality products and services. The process of digitizing a company’s operations should be customised according to their needs and established workflow. By tailor-making their digital roadmap, companies are guaranteed more success.

A thorough analysis needs to be undertaken to ensure that business operations are working properly before bringing in the automation or digitisation of those processes. It’s important for business leaders to be aware of what different technological investments can offer, and whether these will work for their businesses.

How can we reap the rewards of digital transformation?

Despite the challenges involved, research has shown that digital transformation has resulted in higher profits and productivity. In a survey done by Gartner, it was found that 56% of CEOs reported improved revenue due to digital innovation.

Going digital allows businesses to reach new levels of success, while also changing attitudes towards the digital revolution. We are all interacting with the digital world, so consumers should be able to engage with your business in a digital way too. Enterprises need to step up their digital game to stay ahead in markets.

For these reasons, digital transformation remains a hot topic in 2021. Find out how SEACOM can help enterprises to upgrade their digital processes and infrastructure. Email us at marketing@seacom.com or leave us a message to learn more.


SEACOM owns Africa’s most extensive network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including subsea cables and secure internet connections. We offer a diverse range of flexible, scalable and high-quality solutions for businesses that meet world-class standards for connectivity.

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