PA Consulting: How to move from digital at the edge to Total Digital

The digital future is here. Technology is transforming our lives and no-one is turning back. How will your business prosper in this digital world?

PA - How to move from digital at the edge to Total Digital

If you’re hoping this is a question just for technology companies, it’s not. This is a profound shift to a future where everything is hyper-modular, software-controlled, connected and data-rich. This means every company in every sector needs to think of itself as a software, analytics and security company, behaving like a digital-age technology player.


Weighing up your digital options

In a world in which established players have legacy constraints, new entrants have the advantage. Unconstrained by highly-coupled monolithic architectures, they put modern digital technology into everything they do. So they’re naturally more adaptive, more efficient and in a great position to seize the opportunities flowing from the digital-age.

If you’re an established player, it’s less straightforward. You know legacy technologies are hindering your competitive advantage, but reshaping your business around a modern digital architecture is daunting. Should you make a single, bold leap, or take it step by step? When should you go for it? And how fast should you move?

The answers depend on many factors, such as your competitive environment, your appetite for risk, your budget and your existing technology. Before you decide how far and how fast to go, it’s useful to understand some key differences between legacy systems and modern digital architectures.


Legacy systems vs Total Digital

Legacy architectures are typically built around a few large monolithic systems, each made of tightly coupled applications. There’s one system for CRM processes, one for billing, and so on.  You can’t easily and affordably change these systems or the way they’re connected to each other. It’s easier in the short term to push more functionality through them, but this creates complexity and further rigidity.

Modern digital architectures are completely different. They’re built modularly, from thousands of micro-services, each one fulfilling a specific action. These modules are connected by software, which can be rewritten quickly to create new configurations.

Such an architecture has a number of advantages. The first one is agility. It’s easy to reconfigure these modules to accommodate new products and services. If you want to add order management functionality for a new product, for example, you can simply link a new order management module to the whole.

The second advantage is that you can automate thousands of requests, rather than dozens of processes. By stringing together use cases, and keeping interfaces simple and flexible, you can even create zero-touch processes. These let customers choose a product, generate an order, make a payment and track their order, all without any manual input from your business.

The third benefit is that you have a platform that lets you provide services via an internet connection. You can use this to give customers access to your platform – think Airbnb or Asos - or to deliver services – like Netflix and Spotify. You can also collect data from your products and services as consumers use them. So you could offer new propositions like helping homeowners manage energy use or airlines optimise fleet maintenance.