In February of 2022, the Irish Government published its long-term digital transformation strategy Harnessing Digital – The Digital Ireland Framework, with the aim of helping Ireland become “a digital leader”. The plan comprised four core dimensions: The Digital Transformation of Business, the development of Digital Infrastructure, Digital Skills training and the Digitalisation of Public Services.
When it comes to promoting the digital transformation of businesses across Ireland, the Government set some fairly ambitious targets:
- 75% of enterprises to have embraced cloud, big data, and AI by 2030.
- 90% of SMEs to have a basic level of digital intensity by 2030.
- At least 800 businesses supported under the Digital Transformation Fund by 2026.
- At least 35% of state funding for start-ups to be invested in innovative digital businesses.
At the end of 2022, the Government issued a progress report that showed Ireland was ahead of the EU average in every category. However, while the progress in digital infrastructure, upskilling and the digitalisation of public services was strong, there is still some work to do in the digital transformation of Irish businesses.
(Image: Cloud adoption is a common form of digital transformation)
As of December 2022, less than half (47%) of businesses had embraced cloud computing and significantly fewer had adopted big data and AI technologies (23% and 8% respectively). Finally, the level of basic digital intensity amongst SMEs stood at 64%. This final stat is a little nebulous as it can be tricky to define exactly what a “basic level of intensity” means.
The Digital Intensity Index (DII) was developed by the European Commission and is based on the results of annual ICT surveys. Each year, respondents are questioned on their adoption of 12 different digital technologies. A basic level of intensity equates to the adoption of at least 4 of 12. The trouble with this index is that the 12 technologies vary every year, so we’re not comparing apples with apples.
What does digital transformation mean for you?
It’s important to note that digital transformation is not a project. It’s a process of continuous innovation, whereby businesses invest in the enhancement of people, products, and processes. The journey towards digital transformation for each organisation will be unique, but the advantages sought are very similar.
Process automation brings improvements in productivity, efficiency and integration whilst reducing costs and error rates. Of course, the digitalisation of services often removes the need for physical assets, so supports the adoption of remote working practices.
(Image: Digital transformations can improve remote working.)
By digitalising processes you also gain access to a wealth of big data analytics that simply wouldn’t have been available previously. This allows organisations of all shapes and sizes to identify areas for further improvement or innovation, in what becomes a digital version of a virtuous circle.
For smaller businesses, going digital means they can compete head-to-head with much larger organisations and across much larger geographies. A digital business can reduce the impact of economies of scale typically enjoyed by larger enterprises and can leverage enhanced agility as a point of competitive advantage.
Finally, embracing digital ways of working can significantly help businesses to meet their ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives or obligations. A strong ESG proposition can help to add value beyond the conventional benefits of digitalisation: improving staff morale, enhancing your sustainability stance and boosting your ability to attract talent with greater social equity.
What should you digitalise and when?
As Irish businesses move towards a hybrid IT environment, one that features elements of cloud and on-premises technologies, they frequently find themselves butting up against a skills gap. There is still a shortfall nationally when it comes to accessing talent skilled in application development and transformation.
This is why many businesses choose to partner with a third-party provider that specialises in digital transformation and outsource elements of their strategy. According to a 2022 survey by tech giant Hewlett Packard, almost one third of Irish enterprises use systems integrators or hosted service providers to help manage their ICT infrastructure.
(Image: Using systems integrators or hosted service providers can help speed up and strengthen your digital transformation.)
While some digital initiatives can be transformational on a company-wide basis, they don’t all require a sea-change within the business. In fact, the digitalisation of point solutions within the business can often be the best way to introduce process efficiencies, cost savings and productivity improvements.
Let’s briefly explore two digital initiatives, one that specifically impacts the finance department (invoice processing automation) and one that has a wider impact across the business (cloud-based printing).
Supplier invoice processing is typically a repetitive, manual process that is error-prone and time-consuming. The more complex your supply chain, the more invoices you are likely to process: receiving invoices, logging them, manually checking against purchase orders and goods received notices, forwarding for approvals, followed by settlement and statement reconciliation.
It’s a laborious process that, while essential to the business, may not be the most rewarding of tasks and leaves little time for other, value-adding activities. Automating the process significantly reduces the time and resource consumed. It provides improved visibility of end-to-end workflows, eliminates the risk of human error, and accelerates the approvals process. It also empowers AP employees to add greater value to the business by analysing things like price changes over time and eliminating over-payments.
In a hybrid working environment our relationship with printing has changed. While the idea of a truly paperless office might still be a pipedream for most, it is true to say we are printing less than we were. Migrating print workflows and management to the cloud can impact not only the management and control of your print, but also the efficiency, sustainability, and security.
Moving your print infrastructure to the cloud eliminates the need for on-premises servers (and the costs associated with licensing and maintenance). It allows users to remotely print or scan from mobile devices and provides a consistent user experience, whether printing remotely or locally. User authentication can be leveraged to make sure unauthorised users don’t have access to devices and local print release functionality can both reduce waste and enhance data protection.
Digital transformation encompasses so many elements of our day-to-day activities that its applications are virtually endless. If you are embarking on your own transformation journey, here are 5 tips to help you on your way:
- Understand your objectives and the business case for change.
- Start small, with an initiative that is impactful but not disruptive.
- Align your choice of technology with your business objectives.
- Partner with a service provider that shares your long-term vision.
- Continuously innovate, transformation is not a one-time project.