Welcome to The Week in Digital Transformation, our regular round-up of the most interesting news, research, and developments from the front line of the digital revolution.

This week has seen Argos win the title of the first UK retailer to adopt voice commerce, plus the publication of two illuminating sets of research on digital transformation, by Gartner and Nintex, respectively.

And our latest key to digital transformation is digital twin: read on to find out what it is, and why it’s so important to the oil and gas industry.

Argos launches new voice service on Google Home

Is voice the future of commerce?

The past few weeks have seen a fierce debate spring up in the digital industry over this question, after a report by The Information revealed that just 2% of people who own an Amazon Echo smart speaker have used them to make a purchase – per Amazon’s own figures.

But one major UK retailer is boldly throwing its hat into the voice commerce ring anyway – sort of. Argos announced this week that it has launched a service on Google Home smart speakers which will allow consumers to check product availability and make a reservation in their local store using voice commands.

The service will also work with the Google Assistant on smartphones.

In an interview with the BBC, Argos chief executive John Rogers described Argos’ approach to adopting the new technology as “dipping a toe in the water”.

“This launch is step one and I don’t expect to turn on the app and suddenly double our sales,” he said.

“But I expect people will use it and experiment with it – and if we can make it a seamless process, you can see why people would want to use it.”

Rogers’ comments to the BBC also highlight that Argos is aware of the importance placed by customers on its traditional print catalogue as a means of browsing items. This time last year, Argos experimented with removing the iconic doorstep-sized catalogue from stores in order to “test demand” – and was met with immediate backlash.

It seems that the retailer has shelved any thoughts of phasing out its print catalogue, and instead is making sure that the catalogue is integrated with any new digital channels that it might adopt, in order to provide the most intuitive shopping experience for customers. As Rogers told the BBC:

“We still distribute millions of catalogues to people’s homes. We all know that the catalogue on the coffee table, as a means of browsing, is really good – and it’s hard to replicate with today’s technology.”

But it’s quite possible to imagine a prospective Argos customer browsing through the print catalogue on their coffee table, choosing a product, and then seamlessly placing a product reservation via the smart speaker perched on that same coffee table.

As long as that smart speaker is a Google Home, that is.

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Gartner: Only 20% of employees have the skills needed for digital transformation

Ensuring that their workforce is equipped with the right skills is one of the biggest challenges that typically faces a company undergoing digital transformation, with employers searching for ways to attract the right new talent, as well as to upskill their existing workforce.

So many will be dismayed to read the news this week from research by Gartner, which reveals that 80% of employees “lack the skills needed for both their current role and their future career”.

The research, presented at Gartner’s ReimagineHR conference in London on Thursday, also found that 64% of managers do not believe their employees can keep pace with future skill needs.

Gartner’s proposed solution to this is threefold: identifying skills shifts in the market and determining the most pressing skill needs across the organisation; motivating employees to understand how they can personally grow by developing these skills; and providing quality development experiences to accelerate skills development.

Together, these steps are thought to build employees up as “connected learners”: an approach which Gartner has found can make employees eight times more likely to be high performers, as well as increase their skills preparedness by 28 to 39%.

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94% of decision makers say their digital transformation efforts are delivering valuable ROI

Anyone for more stats on digital transformation? Intelligent process automation company Nintex also released a study this week, The State of Intelligent Process Automation, which contains some interesting findings on digital transformation progress within US companies.

The survey was conducted amongst more than 450 decision makers and 650 line of business employees at US-based companies with a minimum of 250 employees.

It found that although most companies are still in the early stages of digital transformation, 94% of decision makers are already saying that their transformation efforts are delivering valuable return on investment.

While this is extremely encouraging news, the study also found that this recognition of digital transformation’s importance and impact doesn’t always filter down effectively from the top. Nintex found that nearly half (47%) of line employees at the companies surveyed had no idea what digital transformation was, or whether their employer had a plan in place.

Other barriers found to be hampering digital transformation within the companies surveyed included a lack of interdepartmental communication (cited by 35% of respondents), and insufficient training for line of business employees on new technologies (32%).

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The key to digital transformation in the oil and gas industry: Digital twin

This week, we’ve got another candidate for the ever-expanding roster of keys to digital transformation. This is when a single idea, technology or innovation is held up as the single most important element enabling digital transformation to take place – often within a specific industry, sometimes in all industries.

World Oil magazine recently published a piece explaining why digital twin is key to digital transformation in the oil and gas industry. Digital twin is the name given to a digital replica of a physical asset, process or system, which is used for data analysis and monitoring, enabling companies to catch potential problems before a failure occurs.

Gartner has featured digital twin on its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies for the past two years, highlighting its perceived importance as a transformative technology (though, hype cycles aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be).

World Oil expounds on the “unprecedented real-time insights” offered by digital twin in the oil and gas industry, while also exploring some of the downsides, such as making sure the digital twin’s engineering information and process data is kept updated at all times, in order to avoid decisions being made based on dangerously inaccurate information.