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Machine learning will transform Digital Transformation


What is digital transformation 1.0?

It’s all about digital transformation, right? Be agile. Adopt devops - release every month, or maybe every week, or every day or even twice a day. Be experimental - fail fast, adjust fast. Take lots of small, innovation steps. “Everything computes” - there is compute in everything from fridges to smoke alarms to trucks.

That’s digital transformation 1.0.  Although it was written a number of years ago, I think that Professor Rita McGrath’s HBR article “how the outliers do it” captures digital transformation 1.0 nicely. 

We are now entering the age of Digital Transformation 2.0

I believe, however, that artificial intelligence and machine learning particularly, is going to take us to digital transformation 2.0.  What is an Enterprise made up of?

* Systems like create new products. (One of the best business books I’ve ever read is called “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge. It’s about systems thinking).

* Business processes, including supply chains

* Products

* Services

* Customer journeys (not interactions – modern design thinking is all about designing the whole journey, not simply the interaction points between the customer and your company)

* Partner eco system journeys

All of these things share a number of attributes …

* They all need to be designed

* They change over time – they need to adapt. Customers change. Technology changes. Competition changes. Trends change

* They are probably sub-optimal

* The opportunity or need for new ones arises – new systems, new business processes, new markets, new business models

Today, all of the things that make up an Enterprise are largely fixed, and to be honest, not monitored especially well. For example, we may think we have a handle on our customers, but we only monitor a few interactions with them and not our customers' journeys, and anyway, new ways of buying are emerging that we don’t cover.  

Digital transformation 2.0 is about artificial intelligence controlling flexible systems

I believe that the combination of artificial intelligence and flexible systems will allow us to change all this...

* Artificial intelligence will allow us to create “learning” systems, business processes, products, services, customer and partner journeys

* Rather than using prescriptive applications programs, whole chunks of processes, products, services and customer and partner interactions will be based on machine learning – they will adjust with, and get better, over time – by themselves. They will get better by themselves

* They will start to “answer questions we never thought to ask”. They will issue, “have you noticed that?”-type statements. This will allow us humans to create new systems, processes, products, services, business models, customer/partner journeys using the insights that the artificial intelligence systems have generated

* Flexibility will be delivered thru digital technology. A manual system, a fixed non-digital product, a service based on lots of human interaction – they are very difficult to change. Digital processes, products with digital inside – they can all be changed by the machine learning systems inside them.


A world where everything learns; everything optimizes

So, in summary …

* We are currently in the midst of digital transformation 1.0 where there is an application in everything, but that application is made up of statements created by a human. It’s “fixed” because to change it, you need to release another version of the app

* We are moving to an age of “everything learns; everything optimizes itself”. Products learn and get better by themselves. Business processes learn and get better by themselves. Customer journeys learn and get better by themselves. Supply chains learn and get better by themselves.

* Thus, digital transformation 2.0 will create enterprises with systems, business processes, products, services, customer journeys, supply chains and partner journeys that learn and optimize themselves 

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Mike Shaw
Director Strategic Marketing
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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Mike Shaw
Director Strategic Marketing

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About the Author


Mike has been with HPE for 30 years. Half of that time was in research and development, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product management, product marketing, and now, strategic marketing. .