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The era of Digital Transformation-as-a-Service

By Nicole Blohm, Director of Portfolio Architecture, Ricoh USA, Inc. 


This article highlights the future of digital transformation-as-a-service.

Time: 4 minute read

Digital Transformation has been a trend for several years. Looking back on 2020, it’s clear that making investments in it was essential for survival. As we think about it, recent events like the pandemic pushed the evolution of how we think about and execute digital transformation initiatives. 

Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) to a 2020 KPMG and Harvey Nash CIO survey say the pandemic has permanently accelerated digital transformation and the adoption of emergent technologies.1 While the acceleration is unavoidable, the fundamental goals of digital transformation mostly remain the same: 

  • Increase operational efficiencies
  • Improve customer engagement
  • Enhance security

Now we must ask ourselves: How will digital transformation propel growth and competitive advantage for businesses of the future?

The answer to this question begins with an understanding that digital transformation is a business decision. 

What does this mean? 

  • It is not just about technology. Customer experience for internal teams cannot be ignored and should be a top priority.  
  • Look beyond simply the technology implementation and involve other areas of the business such as human resources, finance and marketing. 
  • It should be as flexible and scalable an implementation as business needs require.

In the past, digital transformation posed a challenge. Today, however, digital transformation-as-a-service makes this possible for businesses of all sizes.


What is Digital Transformation-as-a-Service?

Like any as-a-service offering, digital transformation-as-a-service delivers tools, technologies and expertise via a service, typically delivered remotely, instead of on-premises or in-person.2 It enables end-to-end transformation with the ability to pivot to changing business and market environments due to the flexibility and scalability that come naturally in a services model. 

This approach lowers the cost barriers to entry, which helps organizations that previously thought digital transformation was too expensive to get into the game. 

Digital transformation-as-a-service enables and manages digital services, helping businesses simplify complexities by connecting people to the information they need to solve broader business challenges. It can also uncover opportunities by turning existing data into key insights, for example, common feedback from customers from multiple channels can be consolidated and addressed proactively moving forward. 

According to a recent Gartner study, 76% of CIOs report an increased demand for new digital products or services during the pandemic, and 83% expect this demand to increase further this year.

Nearly half of respondents to a 2020 KPMG and Harvey Nash CIO survey say the pandemic has permanently accelerated digital transformation and the adoption of emergent technologies. While the acceleration is unavoidable, the fundamental goals of digital transformation mostly remain the same.

Closeup of a woman with glasses

How can digital transformation-as-a-service be a business-led decision?

Digital transformation-as-a-service is built to address long-term business needs because it delivers without the larger overhead costs of onsite hardware or expertise. 

We can think about it in this scenario: 

IT is asked to help simplify information sharing between finance and HR, as it has become more challenging post-pandemic with work being done in more places than ever before, for example, managing work-from home expenses from employees.

How do they go about solving this problem? 

Historically, there are a few ways the problem would be addressed:

  • The decision was made based on the technology’s capability. If it checked the right boxes, and it was from an approved vendor, it made the cut. 
  • An existing technology that solved some of the problem, but was not a perfect fit, was relied on as custom development was too time consuming for resources already stretched thin. 
  • A new technology was purchased from a technical standpoint without full understanding of the business need. 

The problem is, such decisions often result in overspending and under-utilization. Why? The people who would use it are not consulted. 

Making decisions about IT that takes more than technology into consideration are proven to be more effective long-term. This is often referenced as business-managed IT.

According to the 2020 KPMG and Harvey Nash CIO survey cited earlier, business-managed IT is helping organizations make the right decisions. 

How? This approach incorporates the needs of the people who will be experiencing them. It also takes into consideration business and end customer needs, two crucial points that could easily not be represented on a technology-centric checklist. 

Additionally, subscription packages will likely grow in popularity with digital transformation-as-a-service. The reason is simple. Digital transformation-as-a-service enables scalability. 

As organizations research which digital services offer the most value to their internal and external users, scalability and flexibility become more important. 

Information is moving faster than ever before and that is not changing anytime soon. With CIOs clamoring for more digital services, the time for digital transformation-as-a-service is now.


What has the pandemic taught us about digital transformation? 

At a minimum, we’ve learned that no digital transformation project is not a “one and done” effort. 

The beauty of digital transformation projects, especially those related to process automation, is that there’s always room for adjustments and evolution. And with the flexibility of digital transformation-as-a-service, the ongoing changes don't require a new investment each time. We must embrace that reality and leverage it to our advantage. 

Try these tips:

  • Listen to a diverse set of leaders and users across the organization and beyond. New perspectives bring fresh ideas. 
  • Reverse your past thinking. Don’t force-feed a technology because it’s supposed to be the best; implement a solution because it has been tested to solve a specific problem. 
  • Evaluate regularly and keep an open mind about ways to improve. Continual improvement is more achievable when leveraging digital transformation-as-a-service.

What needs to be done next? 

According to Management Review at Berkeley, new opportunities will arise from digital transformation-as-a-service. To maximize those opportunities, they recommend:

  • Firms must look beyond technology and work to ensure a customer-centric, data-centric, experimental and adaptive mindset.
  • IT departments and other technology providers should more closely align with upstream and downstream services to enable seamless integration across different business functions.

It’s important to realize that we’re in the midst of a new era where tech investments are approached differently, combining both technology and services. Gone are the days of implementing technologies as patches. The new wave of technology investments must be determined by keeping user and customer experience top of mind. 

Propelling growth and broadening competitive advantages are organizational priorities. With digital transformation-as-a-service and a mindset that prioritizes a focus on incorporating people-benefits alongside technology capabilities, routes to such growth can be plentiful, and will ultimately improve both your customer and user experiences.


Author Nicole Blohm - Ricoh

Nicole Blohm

As the Director of Portfolio Architecture Nicole is responsible for developing a future roadmap of services offerings that enable Ricoh’s customers to digitally transform their end-to-end workflows while providing business insight and delightful customer experiences.

She holds several patents on behalf of her work with Ricoh for inbound communication management and digital services practices.

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