Cloud

Microsoft: Digital Transformation Isn’t About Digital

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

Focusing less on the digital and more on the transformation itself might not be such a bad idea after all.

Cloud Expo Europe 2017 kicked off at the Excel Centre in London this morning and it didn’t take long for the term ‘digital disruption’ to appear. In fact it happened in the first session of the day.

As we all know, digital disruption – also referred to as digital transformation – has been one of the most prevalent buzz phrases in tech over the last 18 months or so and an area in which all manner of vendors have been pushing hard.

Trends such as the growth of cloud computing and the consumerisation of IT have merged and given birth to new business models that have forced organisations in all industries to rethink how they operate.

The likes of Uber, Netflix and Deliveroo immediately spring to mind, leveraging digital technologies to entice customers with innovative subscription based or on-demand services.

Digital Analog Umstieg © N-Media-Images - Fotolia

Personal touch

As you would expect, conversations around this topic primarily centre around technology, but James Matthews, Azure enterprise lead at Microsoft UK, came at it from a slightly different angle.

Of course he didn’t try to downplay the importance of technology, citing Microsoft research which predicts that 25 percent of the entire world’s economy will be digital by 2020, but primarily emphasised the importance of people.

“Digital transformation actually has very little to do with digital,” he said. “It’s all about the transformation piece which is inherently cultural. Getting people to change how they sell, what kinds of products they sell, moving from selling products to selling services can actually be an extremely challenging prospect.”

Related to this is the skills factor, an issue that continues to plague the technology industry and something that the UK government has been keen to address in its recent budget announcement and new Industrial Strategy.

“Getting the right skills has been highlighted as the single biggest challenge for all of our customers,” Matthews said. “What we find is it’s the biggest barrier to digitisation, organisations need people with technical skills and business skills as well.”

The demand for technical roles such as solution architects or data scientists is far outstripping what it currently available in the market, which is holding some organisations back from continuing with a “digital first focus” and another reason why a focus on people is just as important as on the technology itself.

As a result, 30 percent or businesses want to put a digital literacy initiative in place by next year, through the likes of apprenticeship and training programmes.

Several businesses have announced such initiatives, such as the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) with its re:Start cloud training programme and the government is also going its bit by announcing that it intends to create more than four million free digital skills training opportunities across the country.

“It’s a real challenge, particularly in the UK,” Matthews concluded, providing a compelling reason why focusing less on the digital and more on the transformation itself might not be such a bad idea after all.

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