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4 powerful digital transformation examples

Four organizations succeeded in their digital transformation efforts. Here's a look at what goals they had, problems they faced and rewards they reaped.

Digital transformation -- the process of modernizing to compete in today's market -- takes many different forms.

For a company that's not even connected to the internet, digital transformation first means making that connection. In contrast, a company that's farther along might add AI to their ERP. In terms of pace, companies can take a gradual approach or go all-in. They can transform as part of an ERP implementation or create changes in a standalone system. Regardless, digital transformation is not a one-and-done endeavor. It's a process.

ERP transformations are critical to digital transformation as a whole, but other areas are important as well. To help illustrate how revamping financials, data reporting and other aspects of a business can help modernize, here are four digital transformation examples.

Lone Star College

Lone Star College is a system of colleges that serves more than 100,000 students across seven campuses in Texas. Its digital transformation initiatives focus on improving the employee and student experience and on driving operational efficiencies and revenue growth.

"The real challenge is getting to the root of the business problem and then clearly defining it," said Link Alander, CIO and vice chancellor of college services at Lone Star College.

Lone Star College's digital transformation example shows that technology can be critical but not the only element of a transformation.

"The vast majority are problems that require business process changes tied to technology in a digital transformation," Alander said. "The secondary challenge is identifying missed opportunities: The only way to do this is if you truly understand the processes, goals and aspirations of a department."

Lone Star College spent the past few years refining the delivery of IT services through integration and consolidation with ServiceNow, a process that has involved building systems and processes for other functions such as financial aid grants and veterans' benefits. 

A financial aid team handles inquiries and applications for 55,000 students annually across seven campuses, all of which work independently. Unifying the financial aid system was a daunting but necessary task.

In the past, students would contact multiple campuses and receive different answers, as each contact center had different information on the same applicant. That changed when IT built a form to manage requests and generate tickets using ServiceNow's software, Alander said.

During Lone Star College's ServiceNow deployment, Alander had conversations with the company's president and chancellors about their overall business priorities and how specific IT investments and tech initiatives could support those goals.

"Today's role of CIO has changed -- we have to be talking at the business level to be effective, and that can be a difficult transition for those who are only comfortable speaking to the technology," he said.

Merrill Corporation

A 50-year-old company that once printed financial documents as its core business, the Merrill Corporation is now a global SaaS provider for merger and acquisition professionals. Its example of digital transformation highlights the hard choices required.

"Evolving technology has dramatically changed the way deals are facilitated in today's 21st century economy," said Rusty Wiley, CEO of the Merrill Corporation. "We had to ride the technological tide or get washed away by it."

When Wiley joined the company in 2014, competitive and technological changes in the larger business landscape were hampering several of the company's business units and rendering some of those business models useless, but that wasn't true of every product.

"Our Datasite platform for intelligent due diligence and enterprise collaboration was growing top line revenue at double digits," Wiley said. "We made the tough decision to sell the businesses in secular decline and go all in on Datasite."

The Merrill Corporation invested more than $100 million to completely upgrade the platform using advanced cloud-based technologies and microservices architecture. Released in March 2018 as DatasiteOne, the overhaul "dramatically increased" the scale of the company's global distribution scheme and drove the due diligence process, Wiley said.

Arguably all digital transformation examples illustrate the difficulty of what this type of endeavor requires. The Merrill Corporation's journey was no different.

Our decision to disrupt our business involved many risks, but our digital transformation is driving positive change for our company.
Rusty WileyCEO, Merrill Corporation

"Our decision to disrupt our business involved many risks, but our digital transformation is driving positive change for our company," Wiley said.

Last year's revenue increased by 30% and the number of M&A projects under its management increased by 25%. Within 90 days of launching DatasiteOne, 90% of new transactions was conducted on the new platform.

The tool has been important to the company's digital transformation journey.

In the past 18 months, Merrill introduced a number of features and enhancements to DatasiteOne, including an integrated redaction tool to hide confidential words, phrases and images from buyers during the due diligence phase.

Accenture

Accenture is a multinational professional services company that provides strategy and consulting services on digital transformation, technology and operations for large corporate clients. The company's leaders take the position that flexibility, an adaptive IT team and the cloud are critical to digital transformation, both in the area of ERP implementations and elsewhere.

"We aimed to achieve an internal digital transformation by focusing on three main areas: aligning IT with business priorities, weaving more digital technologies into Accenture's business and driving down the cost of IT," said Merim Becirovic, managing director of Accenture's internal IT organization.

That means supporting Accenture's $43.2 billion company with 500,000 people in more than 52 countries and in more than 200 office locations.

Part of Accenture's digital transformation goal was creating flexibility in its offerings.

"As we work with a diverse range of businesses that do not all have the same technology needs … we also aimed to equip Accenture with technology which is no longer one-size-fits-all," Becirovic said. "Our client-centric solutions needed to evolve and become more flexible."

The cloud has been important to Accenture's digital transformation.

Within three years, Accenture expanded its cloud footprint from 9% to 95%. Accenture now has a multi-cloud strategy that incorporates three public cloud platforms.

The company simplified where possible using a lift-and-shift approach. It's been an evolving process.

"We initially adopted AWS, then added Microsoft Azure and -- most recently -- we have been experimenting with Google Cloud Platform. Using a multi-cloud approach allows us to better meet needs within specific markets while also identifying the costs and features that best fit our clients' requirements," Becirovic said. 

Accenture uses its own Cloud Platform to host all three.

Recently, the company added AI and advanced analytics such as predictive models to the mix, Becirovic said.

Accenture used to operate on siloed reporting functions and spreadsheets, with multiple versions of data and a focus on past performance rather than future guidance. Digital reporting and analytics have helped to drive changes in the way the Accenture decision-making workforce operates. Analytics capabilities have grown by 25% in the past year, with more than 250,000 views a month into the team's reporting and analytics, Becirovic said.

The company also added more collaboration and social tools to further spur its digital workforce.

Accenture currently uses Microsoft Teams to send more than 40 million instant messages every month, and employees download approximately 365,000 documents from an internal central repository each month, saving time and resources for more value-add activities, he said.

Accenture migrated to a single instance of SAP to unify data and provide end-to-end processes, according to its white paper, "SAP at Accenture."

First Interstate Bank

This 50-year-old, $14 billion community bank has 150 rural and small community locations in six states. Any long-established business has myriad legacy technologies. Major upgrades -- let alone a digital transformation -- can be a major lift.

"For us, digital transformation is about delivering an effortless client experience and adopting technologies that create efficiencies for our internal teams," said Josh Botnen, director of digital strategy and client experience at First Interstate Bank. "We want technology that enables our employees to do their job."

One example of the bank's digital transformation efforts is its online mortgage offering. Prior to the company's transformation, mortgage prequalification took up to two days. The wait time was shortened to 10 minutes by making the whole process digital.

The First Interstate Bank team was also able to complete that project in four months, rather than the 12 to 18 months typically required for a traditional banking team. The team accomplished this by adopting an agile workflow and establishing clear objectives with a cross-functional team, Botnen said.

"The shift is challenging, and you'll spend as much time counseling people through that change as you do on the product development," Botnen said.

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