Welcome to our last Week in Digital Transformation round-up of 2019!

This week, we’ve got a 2019 trends round-up from an unusual field: law. Daniel Newman makes his predictions in Forbes for the top seven digital transformation trends for the legal profession in 2019. We’ve also got another creative analogy for digital transformation as Tony Saldhana explains why the Cheshire Cat is the ultimate digital transformation guru.

Meanwhile, General Electric is spinning off its digital business in a bid to recover from a transformation attempt gone badly wrong, and we look at Singapore’s progress along the road to cloud transformation, and what more it needs to do to get there.

Enjoy, and see you all in 2019!

The top seven digital transformation trends for law in 2019

In these round-ups, we’ve covered digital transformation trends, case studies and research from all kinds of sectors: from government to education, farming to manufacturing, biopharma to airlines. However, one field that has been missing from our round-ups until now is law.

If you’ve ever wondered how digital transformation is impacting the practice of law, here is your answer, in the form of seven digital transformation trends in legal for 2019, by Daniel Newman writing for Forbes.

Some of the trends will be familiar from other industries: the advent of cloud and mobile, for example, is more or less a universal trend, but will still be revolutionary for legal teams, allowing them to access case files and legal documents anywhere and at any time. The potential time and efficiency savings are huge.

Likewise, Newman predicts that AI and machine learning will enable electronic discovery in legal cases, allowing lawyers to process the huge volumes of data available to them – from emails and texts to voicemails and electronic calendars – with much greater ease. “I anticipate this becoming a growing niche industry in 2019—with some firms even using AI to assist with decision-making in litigation,” writes Newman.

Other trends that Newman highlights are more particular to the legal profession, such as the emergence of virtual law firms. Newman predicts that in 2019, “we won’t just be seeing online legal services, as we saw last year. We’ll be seeing entire virtual law firms take flight.”

This would enable “legal powerhouses” on different sides of the country – or the world – to team up, eliminate travel time and costs, and offer a greater work/life balance for legal professionals in general (something that they of all people sorely need).

One trend that I found particularly interesting was that of lawyers spending much more time on social media. According to Newman, “more legal professionals are popping up on social media, and not just in traditional spots like LinkedIn.” Many of them are also opting to start up podcasts – a trend which may have been enabled by the time that lawyers are now saving with digital processes.

What can Alice in Wonderland teach us about digital transformation?

In past digital transformation round-ups, we’ve covered some unusual analogies for digital transformation. Two weeks ago we looked at the similarities between switching phones and digital transformation, and before that, at what the RAF can teach us about digital transformation.

But I think this week’s analogy wins the prize for the most unique: writing for the AI & Intelligent Automation Network, Tony Saldhana, former VP of Global Business Services at Procter & Gamble, writes about what we can learn about digital transformation from Alice in Wonderland.

Or to be precise, what we can learn about digital transformation from a specific passage in Alice in Wonderland, in which Alice asks the Cheshire Cat where she should go:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

The Cheshire Cat, as drawn by John Tenniel in the 1866 edition of Alice in Wonderland. (Public domain image)

“Lewis Carroll’s famous paragraph on the interplay between where you want to go and how you want to get there,” writes Saldhana, “has some of the best advice we need on digital transformation.”

He argues that the first half of the challenge surrounding digital transformation – where to go – is “setting the target correctly on “perpetual” or ongoing transformation … getting to the stage at which a digital backbone for your business and a truly agile culture underpin your business model”.

No easy task, of course, which brings us to the second half of the challenge: how to get there. It’s here that Saldhana’s argument seems at first to contradict itself, because he seems to argue simultaneously that you need to know precisely how to get where you’re going – and also that you don’t.

“The biggest insight gleaned from my research is that successful digital transformation takes highly disciplined, methodical execution,” writes Saldhana. But how does this tally up with the Cheshire Cat approach of “it doesn’t much matter which way you go”?

What I believe Saldhana is arguing is that you should be experimental and try different approaches, but be disciplined about it. To illustrate how this approach would work in practice, Saldhana draws comparisons with the airline industry:

“The timing is right for building discipline for digital transformation. Airplane takeoffs weren’t 99.999999% successful in the early days. A ton of hard work went into creating structure and discipline to ensure successful execution. The resulting checklist model has become a role model for other industries and has been reapplied in other high-impact areas such as medicine. It’s a worthy model to address the urgent issue of failed digital transformations.”

Saldhana also touches on something that has been a recurring theme in past editions of this roundup: the language used around digital transformation. Just last week, we covered arguments made by Mark Hassenplug, former principal at KPMG, for why “digital transformation” should be referred to as a “digital initiative” instead, to avoid the term’s loaded connotations while preserving its aims. Saldhana agrees:

“The biggest challenge in today’s world is the language related to digital transformation,” he writes. “The term has been coopted by every IT marketing person selling anything from an email upgrade to artificial intelligence. It’s a mess, but it’s not unexpected. Any powerful new concept will be hijacked. It’s our job as leaders is to cut through the hype and focus on the substance.”

General Electric is spinning off its digital business in a bid to stay afloat

And speaking of addressing the issue of digital transformation failure: General Electric, once hailed as a stellar example of how to move with the technological times, continues to serve as a stellar example of how not to do digital transformation.

We previously covered the story of General Electric’s disastrous digital transformation in our 5th October digital transformation roundup as a lesson in how to learn from digital transformation failure. This week, Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor of Light Reading, writes that General Electric is a “cautioning lesson in how not to reinvent a company with the digital era”, after the news that GE is spinning off its digital business, GE Digital, in a bid to streamline the struggling General Electric brand and make it sustainable.

The CEO of GE Digital, Bill Ruh, will also be stepping down from the company, and General Electric is selling off its majority stake in Service Max, a field management software vendor, for which it paid $915 million in 2016.

An announcement about the changes last Thursday stated that the newly spun-off GE Digital will “expand [the] company’s leadership in [the] IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] market”, and “sharpen the focus of [General Electric’s] IIoT portfolio to position the new business for future growth”. However, its foray into the Internet of Things didn’t go too well the first time around.

While General Electric was correct that the IoT and associated technologies would fundamentally change industrial equipment, its approach to digital transformation was overly optimistic and too broad, according to analysts cited by the New York Times.

GE Digital logo

Light Reading’s Mitch Wagner hopes that the demise of General Electric will help to counteract some of the misconceptions about the digital age – such as the notion that “every company is now a software company”.

“Software, the cloud, the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies are essential to business today — but that doesn’t mean every company is a technology company,” he writes. “Businesses need to tend to their core strengths, and use technology as means to an end, not ends in themselves.

“Mobile phones, the Internet, PCs, mainframes, trucks and cars, the telephone and electrical power, were all, at one time, new, and they quickly became essential to doing business, even for old-guard verticals that existed long before those technologies. But that didn’t make every company into a technology company in the past, and present-day advances don’t make every company into a technology company today.”

Singapore and the road to cloud transformation

We’ve covered digital transformation developments in Singapore in a number of recent roundups, from investment by Procter & Gamble into retail digital transformation in Singapore, to the state of digital transformation in Singapore and Hong Kong, to an Industry Digital Plan launched by Singapore’s government to help SMEs with transformation.

This week, Sriram Narayanan, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks, looks at Singapore’s progress along the road to cloud transformation in a piece published in Enterprise Innovation. As a nation, Singapore has always been ahead of the game when it comes to digitalisation, recognising its importance early and launching the “Smart Nation” initiative in 2014 to “transform Singapore through technology”.

But that hasn’t kept it from running into challenges along the way. Narayanan pinpoints security, privacy and infrastructure as some of the key issues facing public sector applications and services in Singapore. Here are some of his proposed courses of action:

  • While government systems can in principle exist in the cloud, as confirmed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a recent GovTech STACK Developer Conference, Narayanan believes that they shouldn’t be those that deal with personal information or critical data.
  • “For mission-critical systems,” he writes, “there should be air gaps, guarded rooms and Faraday cages for added security, and all stakeholders should collaborate to figure out how best to develop and operate them in a future when everything is on the cloud.”
  • The flip-side of Singapore’s tech-savviness is that it has accumulated a lot of technology over the years – which is now legacy tech. Thus, Singapore needs to take a second look at these systems and consider how it can migrate them to, or integrate them into, the cloud
  • “Ultimately, technology in the public domain should always be centered on delivering value to citizens, such as saving time and making it as fuss-free as possible,” writes Narayanan – emphasising that catering to citizens who are less tech-savvy is crucial
  • Singapore’s cloud transformation will take time, but “stability is key”. Unleashing the full potential of the cloud will enable governments to serve its citizens better and faster, save costs, seamlessly share information and enable the deployment of policies at a much faster rate.”

The key to the digital transformation of airports: IT integration

In our final “key to digital transformation” of 2018, Airport World reports on why the integration of IT solutions and operational planning is key to the successful digital transformation of airports in 2019.

“The coming years will be a completely different game for airport operators,” writes the author, pointing to automated processes and driverless vehicles as two innovations that will soon be necessary to handle the sheer volume of people and things in an efficient manner.

But as airport operators move towards the airport of the future – a topic we touched on previously in our 26th October round-up – they are experiencing difficulty shifting from legacy systems to automated processes.

The article author also highlights the fact that many airports still operate in silos – “something that future airports can simply ill afford”. We talk a lot about breaking down silos in the workplace, but it’s easy to see why an entire airport would be used to operating as a self-contained entity – and also why it’s extremely important to keep those lines of communication and collaboration open between international air travel hubs.

Photograph of Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, India

Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, India. Photograph by Sunnya343, available via CC BY-SA 4.0

For airports, emerging technologies such as AI, the blockchain and biometrics all have exciting potential – but these alone won’t solve the complex, all-encompassing issue of airport digital transformation. Instead, airports desperately need to integrate their IT systems with operational planning in order to make the kind of seamless, interconnected experience that passengers are used to a reality.

Most importantly, Airport World emphasises that the technology that will make the airport of the future a reality is not a distant dream – it’s already a reality. All that remains is to implement it.

“The solution that gives airport operators these capabilities are already here. It’s time to challenge the status quo of operating airports in silos and act to implement a solution that is highly modular, configurable and scalable.”