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When “digital transformation” first entered the business lexicon, it was an amorphous concept to many. There was no single route to get you there—no numbered list of steps to follow, no boxes to tick along the way—and no common notion of what “getting there” meant. Each company’s transformation would be different, and the rules would constantly change.

Hindsight

But with every passing year—and especially the last 12 months—the definition of digital transformation, and the path toward it, has become clearer. For 2016, most of the predictions were in some way related to digital transformation—an uptick in cloud migrations, an intensified focus on customer experience, improved collaboration, heavier reliance on data and machine learning, and an increase in Windows 10 deployments (and the subsequent shift to more frequent technology updates).

Experts predicted that businesses would continue a steady shift toward the digital future in 2016—and they were largely spot-on.

Greater focus on customer experience

Customer experience was top of mind in 2015, and was expected to become even more important in 2016. As predicted, companies were customer-obsessed in 2016—customer experience requirements changed rapidly, with social media, analytics, and new devices and technologies continuing to reshape the landscape. Many organizations, including our own, responded to this change by adopting formal customer experience approaches and putting them into practice. (See “3 Ways to Improve Customer Service and Tech Support.”)

Smarter collaboration, and increased reliance on data and machine learning for decision-making at all levels

Although improving collaboration has been on business leaders’ wish lists for a few years now, 2016’s tech advances made smarter collaboration a reality. In a recent blog post, Jim Tate, Vitalyst VP of Product and Portfolio Development, explained how products like MyAnalytics, Editor, and Teams from Microsoft, and G Suite from Google, use a mix of technologies to change how work is accomplished.

Increased cloud adoption

Almost every publication predicted that cloud adoption would increase in 2016. Although migrations to the cloud did escalate over the last 12 months, businesses are still struggling in a few critical areas, most notably, user adoption. No matter how big an investment you make in the technology, the return you see will be based upon how well people embrace it, and how proficiently they can use it. To achieve success—with any initiative, big or small—business leaders need to adopt a human-centric approach.

Increased Windows 10 deployments

The most recent figure from Microsoft has Windows 10 running on 400 million devices. That’s up from 207 million at the end of March 2016. Microsoft’s latest operating system begins the company’s transition from issuing version-to-version operating system upgrades to delivering them in incremental streams. It’s the start of a new way of working—changes to critical elements of applications now occur more frequently, which means business leaders need to increase user adoption efforts.

Although the path toward the digital future became clearer in 2016, business leaders need to resist the urge to flip the autopilot switch. For 2017, they should focus on user adoption, which is an integral part of the journey.

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