Q&A with Sherif Kozman – What does digital transformation mean now and for the future?

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Established almost 20 years ago, Extreme Solution was one of the first technology consultancy firms in Egypt, during an era when the internet and digital technologies were very much in their infancy.

As their name explicitly describes, Extreme Solution are a tech firm that provide organizations with a myriad of tech solutions ranging from software and web development, information technology, cloud solutions and most importantly, digital transformation.

Since their onset, Extreme Solution have had clients from across the Middle East and the USA and are also a Google cloud and G-suite partner.

When COVID-19 hit, they were perfectly placed for the global rush to online and digital services and wasted no time in helping businesses manage the sudden transition.

Additionally, Extreme Solution headed to the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic. Having already been a partner and member of the PathCheck Foundation, a non-profit created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Extreme Solution was on hand to provide technology solutions to governments and local communities for COVID-19 contact tracing.

Business Forward sat down with Extreme Solution’s founder and chief executive officer, Sherif Kozman, to discuss everything digital transformation, what it means now, and what it means for the future.

In layman terms, what is digital transformation?

In simple words, digital transformation is a process [of] changing culture, business processes and workflows to meet changing business and market requirements using technology and digitalization.

In a nutshell, digital transformation [is] leveraging technology to disrupt traditional industry and business practices [aiming for] delivering higher business value.

Is digital transformation important and necessary? If yes, why so?

In a world that is rapidly changing in every aspect of society, the organization’s ability to respond to changes in the market has become a requirement, not a luxury. In today’s reality where services are instantly served and products are having same-day delivery, corporates must transform the way they operate, how they perceive service delivery in general and engage with clients. This can only be accomplished through digital transformation and embracing new tools and processes to do work with technology as a cornerstone.

What are some of the main disruptions that digital transformation has caused for the global economy?

I would rather break up disruptions into enablers and accelerators, both of which had a huge impact [on] the digital transformation landscape and probably for the foreseeable future.

Enablers cover a broad range of advancements in cloud computing, mobile computing, IoT [internet of things], AI [artificial intelligence], blockchain, big data and predictive analytics, as well as business process automation. All of these have enabled businesses to tap into untapped opportunities and business models that were not easily accessible before.

[At] the same time, accelerators have pushed the pace of transformation forward. Global events like COVID-19 have changed the way we go about work and life [such as] the rise of work-from-home [and] the need to adopt new ways of delivering services under new life conditions.

Both have contributed [to] putting digital transformation plans center stage which in turn had huge impacts [on] customer experiences, improving operational efficiency, and improving overall ROI [return on investment] which have led to increased revenue.

What disruptions do you predict will happen in the future?

After 2020 and COVID, it is abundantly clear that a lot of organizations can carry on doing business as usual. Change is not coming. Change is now and organizations must adopt digital agendas to survive and thrive. Every market is currently going through a disruption phase and inventing new ways to operate and deliver value. The older or more traditional [the business] is the more disruptive [the] impact [will be].

Will more people lose jobs with digital transformation? Or will it be a net job creator?

My opinion is that digital transformation is a mandatory change within an organization that wishes to cope with the present and future. I believe such change will redefine jobs and roles in ways that ensure that business is more efficient. This redefinition will remove some old roles that are not fitting while creating new ones and this will enable the workforce to gain and learn new skills that are needed within the new reality.

Sherif Kozman, founder and CEO of Extreme Solution

 

What other concerns and anxieties do people have with digital transformation? What are some of the myths and misconceptions?

Digital transformation is essentially a “change” and every change comes with fear of the unknown and possible regression to “what we know is better.” This might be one of the common issues with digital transformation. Cultural resistance, change management and not understanding that this change is a journey and not a one-off project are amongst the other common issues that would hinder any transformation effort.

Lots of companies are undergoing some sort of digital transformation, but according to a BCG report, almost 70 percent of digital transformation programs fall short on achieving their objectives. This happens for various reasons, some of which are fueled by misconceptions and myths such as “digital transformation is only about technology” or “transformation is a one-off project that will be done in isolation.”

What are some of the legitimate ethical concerns of becoming more digital?

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” Spiderman said. Power in today’s definition is data. Data has become the currency of the modern world with terabytes and petabytes of data being exchanged daily. This raises ongoing issues and questions around privacy, data security, access and digital citizenship. Yet while concerns will remain, concerns drive communities to find answers and innovate new solutions to address them.

What responsibilities do we need to carry and uphold during this transition period?

There is no definite playbook for organizations to undergo transitions and transformation. There is no one-size-fits-all but there are guidelines and principles that can increase odds of success for a digital transformation strategy which need to be upheld by everyone in the organization.

This would include leadership [being fully committed to] change; understanding that transformation is a journey that takes time [and it] is change and change is hard; change starts with culture before tools; [and] technology is a vehicle for change, not the goal.

What is in store for the future for Extreme Solution? And for digital transformation in general?

Extreme Solution marks its 20th anniversary in February 2021. For 20 years, transformation and change have been the only constant. We are in a continuous learning and improvement process to ensure we are delivering true value to our partners and customers.

Our global partners include Google Cloud, Itopia, Hycu and others. Each of those providers fill an important piece of the transformation picture in which Extreme Solution carefully tailors according to each organization’s needs.

As digital transformation advocates, we are ramping up our task force and technology partnerships with multiple global technology and service providers that share the same vision to help our customers get on the transformation journey better equipped and ready to respond to market changes.

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