Buzzword bingo: digital transformation edition

It’s time to utilise big data by end of play if you want to adopt digital and transform the paradigm. And then going forward, you have to drill down into out-of-the-box and blue-sky thinking to help disrupt your verticals. After that, you should reach out about end-to-end processes with a focus on marketing automation to help bring AI into the fore, to create a bigger drive for customer centricity.

If you didn’t understand a word of that, you’re not alone. Buzzwords around technology and digital transformation are taking over our offices, businesses, email inboxes and social media feeds – and it’s an epidemic that’s not slowing down. From IT leads to business managers, people are swamped with meaningless terms that do more to hinder than help the digital journey.

Making technology tangible

If businesses are to transform successfully, they need a comprehensive understanding of digital transformation strategies. It needs to go beyond the definitions of buzzwords and jargon, to knowing what’s needed, why it’s needed, and how to go about getting it. Layers of jargon remove digital transformation from what it’s all about. When all you want to do is give your customers a better experience, or automate your admin work, it’s easy to get bogged down in jargon and think the entire process is far harder than it is.

With a web of buzzwords woven around it, digital transformation can seem unattainable. But when it’s broken down into pieces, it becomes much simpler. To do that, business and IT leaders need to make technology tangible. They need to experiment and understand how it all works, and what they can use it for.

From blockchain, big data and the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence and machine learning, these technologies are the bedrock of any company’s digital transformation. But to move them from buzzword territory to useful tools, people need to get their hands on them.

Making technology accessible

When something’s tangible, you can feel it. Play with it. Know it upside down and back to front. And that’s how you get a full understanding. Which is exactly what business and IT leaders should have when it comes to the technology and strategies behind their digital journey. Well, that is if they want transformation to be a success.

But it’s not as daunting as it might sound. The tools and technology that are often bandied around, like machine learning, AI, blockchain and big data, are easy to implement and don’t require huge leaps of faith. They aren’t half as confusing as many vendors and articles make them out to be. It’s just a case of putting them into context, and seeing them in action.

Machine learning, deep learning and active learning, for example, might sound complex, but once they’re put into action, it all becomes much clearer. At Microsoft, we worked with conservationists in Tanzania to help track and monitor the Masai giraffe, using Azure’s active learning. The model learnt how to recognise patterns on giraffes’ bodies, to identify different animals. Conservationists could then see how many individual giraffes live in the park, and keep track of how each is doing.

It’s just one example of how these broad technological terms work in real life. These technologies aren’t built to be unattainable terms. They’re there to help businesses make life easier for either customers or employees.

“Explain like I’m five”

Depending on how much time you spend online, you might have come across the concept of “explain like I’m five”. It’s quite simple: people explain a term in such a way that a five-year-old could get it. It’s a simple idea, but when you try to do it, it can be pretty hard. And it’s even harder if you don’t completely understand the term.

Customers and employees are the people who are going to benefit from digital transformation. So, to get staff on board and to meet customer expectations, businesses need to be able to convey concepts in an attractive, benefit-led way. There’s little point asking your employees or customers if they like the idea of machine learning. But ask them if they want to recognise giraffes and track individual animals easily, and there’s going to be a resounding yes (well, if they’re giraffe conservationists anyway).

To make digital transformation a success, you need to fully understand the technology you’re using: why you’re using it, what you’re using it for, and what it’s going to do for either the business or for customers. A lot of people won’t care about the details: they just want to know how it’s going to save them money, or make their life easier.

Buzzwords aren’t enough. You need to have a solid understanding of the technology you use. Just think: if you visited a new restaurant, the directions and description you give will be much better compared to just looking it up online. To get the most from digital transformation, it’s time to try technologies and understand how various tools and disruption will work for your business.

For the chance to get hands-on with technologies like AI, IoT and big data, sign up for the Azure Summit, on day two of Future Decoded