What is digital transformation's future?

The next stage of digital transformation for many firms is with the wider adoption of artificial intelligence (and more specifically human-centric AI).

A further innovation is with the adoption of prescriptive analytics. Value chains will be connected by a digital thread as digital transformation initiatives accelerate amid the ongoing pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation. Enterprises will need to solidify digital foundations and ecosystems to meet near-term demands while building long-term resiliency and flexibility. The digital thread will be key to accelerating digital transformation initiatives into the new year by uniting and integrating IT and OT data into a seamless flow of data. The digital thread of information will need to span the entire value chain - from market/customer insights to product design, to plant and end user - in order to deliver business growth, improve operational excellence and enable risk mitigation.

A key component of digital thread's success are digital twins. Digital twins will accelerate product development timelines, cut costs and reduce risk by virtually modeling and piloting the entire supply chain, from requirements collection and design to factory layout, capacity, scheduling, processing, manufacturing and servicing in the field.

Successfully leveraging digital thread and digital twins will be a key factor for success as manufacturers adapt to the new normal in 2021 - and benefit from it.

In 2021, the window will close on the digital transformation's competitive advantage. COVID proved digital transformation's value, and companies that don't tackle high priority business problems with digital now will see their competitors pass them by. Digital transformation requires a best-of-breed solution ecosystem

An ecosystem of technologies, solution providers and architects will be key for powering successful digital transformation initiatives in 2021. Organizations will favor open architecture platforms to unite the best features of various IT, OT and engineering technology (ET) solutions over leveraging a single provider with a narrower tech stack, which can have limitations and impede results. This allows for the critical flexibility digital transformation initiatives require, allowing teams to quickly implement solutions and drive results. What's more, by leveraging best-of-breed solutions and partners, businesses can create a closed-loop system to further improve outcomes by sharing input and output data across the ecosystem to continuously adapt to shifting conditions or constraints. By sharing information, organizations can minimize time, reduce effort and eliminate redundancy.

To help guide partner decisions, successful enterprises will adapt a collaborative development strategy, which includes:

Defining the purpose for partnering

Identifying the types of partners needed

Developing a partner management structure

Prescriptive analytics will be a key component for digital transformation success.

Advanced analytics are becoming mainstreamed as businesses increasingly collect and analyze data across their organizations, with 35% of U.S. manufacturers deploying advanced analytics in the past three years. For AI to have a significant impact across the value chain, prescriptive analytics will be the catalyst to optimize performance. Prescriptive analytics will become an essential piece for scaling AI within organizations, by leveraging product and customer data to advise AI models on how to improve processes, adjust production and increase efficiency. Prescriptive analytics enables constant improvement with an AI model by continuously monitoring and adjusting based on evolving conditions. Prescriptive models can then enable decision automation, where the models can take the best course of action based on prescriptions. Going beyond predictive analytics to prescriptive analytics will ultimately enable digital transformation success for manufacturers in 2021.

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