Demystifying Digital Transformation: What Does It Really Mean?

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What is digital transformation, and what does it actually mean? On top of that, how do we distinguish between digital transformation and the barrage of other terms that are often used interchangeably – Industrie 4.0, IoT, IIoT, machine learning, and AI are a few that come to mind.

The term “digital transformation” – sometimes shortened to “DtX” – means everything and nothing at the same time. This term can be confusing, it’s overused, and I’d go as far as to say it’s doing a disservice to the true benefits of the technology.

With plenty of inconsistent information floating around the internet, this article serves to bridge the gap of what digital transformation is and what it does.

While many of the terms listed above are used interchangeably, there are slight differences between the three. They come together to become what’s known as digital transformation or smart technology. Digital transformation is defined as the process of leveraging technologies and best practices to unlock data from key assets, processes, and people – providing the strategic insight needed for agile, impactful decision making.

DtX Technology At Its Core 

The interesting thing about digital transformation is that while some confusion exists around the various terms, many of us are more familiar with this type of technology than we may realize. Many of the products and solutions you’re investigating or using currently, whether in a B2B setting or in your personal life, are smart devices. An important thing to note here is that the manufacturer may not call it that. This can add to the confusion of what a smart device really is when, in reality, many smart devices are already mainstream.

In your home, you probably own several DtX applications or devices that you use daily. What characterizes this technology? We don’t typically refer to the technology as a “digital transformation device” – rather, we focus on the function and how it benefits us.

In casual conversation, you wouldn’t refer to a smart doorbell as an IoT device, but you’d describe what it does. A smart doorbell is a device that connects to your home’s Wi-Fi, providing you with access to live data through a mobile app. This includes viewing your front porch in real-time, accessing a video feed, or even talking to your visitor through a camera speaker.

Or consider a smartwatch. A smartwatch is a wearable device, usually with a digital display, that connects to the internet or your phone. This device provides endless capabilities including fitness tracking, sleep monitoring, answering phone calls, and accessing phone notifications. Things that you couldn’t do before, you can now do because of technology. This at its core is digital transformation.

Why Adoption of DtX Technology Is Increasing

As COVID-19 continues to impact the world and everyday life, what digital transformation meant a year ago is much different than what it means now. Businesses are expediting the adoption of remote monitoring, virtual collaboration tools, or even predictive maintenance in corporate offices, factories, and distribution centers because it’s critical to stay operating when employees can’t be on site.

Through proper technology deployment, machines can connect to the internet and alerts will be sent as problems arise. Businesses can plug into a device that learns their machines and provides feedback to help make decisions, report inefficiencies, and prevent unplanned maintenance. Leveraging a user interface and remote controls, companies can limit human exposure and respond quickly, with better precision.

A smart home device is a prime example of machine learning. This device not only learns your habits and schedule but also adjusts based on your usage. Because the device learns your behaviors, you don’t have to worry about it again as it adapts accordingly. It ultimately saves you time and money.

This is digital transformation in essence – the smarter the device gets, the more recommendations it can give. As input data is fed to a machine, the machine will use an algorithm to learn from that data and produce a specific output result. As new inputs are introduced to the machine, it gradually becomes smarter based on the input/output pairs that it has previously learned.

With remote monitoring and machine learning technology, businesses can maintain uptime while consistently increasing productivity.

What to Expect With Smart Technology

Are you curious about the benefits of so-called “smart” technology? Leveraging this technology can result in more data to make better-informed decisions. The benefits can be extensive, including:

  • Supply chain continuity and flexibility
  • Cost savings
  • Better space management
  • Retain high-performing employees by automating repetitive tasks
  • Avoid unplanned downtime
  • Remote monitoring to limit human intervention
  • Increase employee safety with the latest technology

With the many benefits, there are also security concerns with connected devices. As businesses are introduced to digitally advanced environments, are cyber-security attacks a threat? While there is a risk, security concerns and questions can be mitigated by working with the right partner. With a trusted advisor to guide you toward the right solution, your security concerns and questions can be fully addressed.

Finding the Right Solution


The bottom line is that we all want to work better and more efficiently, and technology allows us to do just that. It can seem daunting, but if you view this as a roadmap, it’s much more manageable. The road to digital transformation includes six key steps:  

  1. Develop strategy and goals
  2. Identify assets, people and processes 
  3. Collect data 
  4. Unlock insights 
  5. Determine next steps 
  6. Take action 

With clear goals toward meeting your ROI expectations, implementing a high-level 1-5 year strategy can get your business started on its digital journey.

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