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Avasant’s Empowering Beyond Annual Summit, Transcending Digital, Considers What’s Next

Digital transformation is well under way. Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent automation, the cloud, and ubiquitous networking have made it possible to augment or replace people in nearly every business function. Technology is omnipresent in our lives and in our work. The digital age is here, but is it working? Deploying technology is just the first step. Integrating that technology into the enterprise and into the lives of customers should be the ultimate goal. We need to transcend digital, to take those digital solutions and make them work for people to create a better future. That is the theme for Avasant’s 2021 Empowering Beyond.

“Transcending digital really means going beyond technology to make a real difference in the lives of people,” said Kevin Parikh, CEO and Chairman of Avasant. “It signals the onset of a new area of human creativity and innovation.”

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“Transcending digital really means going beyond technology to make a real difference in the lives of people,” said Kevin Parikh. It signals the onset of a new area of human creativity and innovation.”

We have already seen one real-life example of transcending digital. The disruption from COVID-19 proved that we could use existing technology to reshape the way we work, shop, and live practically overnight. In the pre-COVID world, many business activities were done physically and in person—despite the fact that digital technologies already existed to allow much of this work to be done virtually. People still collaborated in offices in front of white boards. They flew to meet each other. Technology was device-driven, and the limitations of technology was what could fit on a desk, in the hand, and connect to the network.

The confluence of all of these technologies mean we do not have to work that way anymore. There is no need for a physical workspace. We are always connected wherever we go. And as 5G adoption grows and IoT becomes more embedded in our lives, we are no longer tied to devices. The technology becomes invisible and part of everything we interact with. It turns into a seamless experience where the technology fades and we as people and workers and customers are at the center.

It is this convergence of technology, solutions, and people that Empowering Beyond is all about this year. And it will drive business value not just as we transform due to COVID, but through upcoming decades, as enterprises take a sustainable and human approach to technology.

What does transcending digital look like?

It depends on the sector, but take healthcare as an example. Healthcare has often been perceived as a laggard in terms of technology that improves the patient experience. Building a digital experience with the patient-doctor relationship at the center could change all of that. COVID-19 made telehealth a necessity, as hospitals were forced to divert some patients in order to care for COVID patients. Telehealth, however, is really just a waypoint on the way to a greater digital experience.

Picture, instead, a reality where patients can receive real-time updates on their health. These solutions already exist today, even if full-scale adoption is limited. Chronic conditions can be monitored at all times with updates sent both to patient and physician. Advice can be sent directly to the patient. For example, a diabetic patient with decreasing blood sugar could be notified before the situation becomes urgent. If a patient has difficulty managing their condition, a report can be sent to a healthcare worker to arrange counseling or to change medication. Healthcare stops becoming a service that we seek out when we are ill, and instead, becomes a humanized, holistic approach to life.

“This is transcending digital,” said Parikh. “This is no longer about discreet technology solutions for a specific problem. It is a holistic approach to how technology and humans interact.”

And this is not merely about convenience for the patient. If fully realized, this approach to healthcare would revolutionize the industry and create new business value. Patient outcomes would improve significantly, as patients learned more about their conditions. Hospitalizations for chronic disease cost Americans more than $1 trillion per year (Chronic Conditions in America: Price and Prevalence | RAND). Personalized medicine tailored to specific genomes could open new pathways to drugs for cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases.

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The technology exists. The ability to gather and monitor the data exists. Internet of Things-enabled devices exist. Telehealth exists. This is no longer a matter of digital solutions. It is transcending those digital solutions and creating a meaningful human experience.

The retail industry is another example. The retail customer experience has been wildly changed by COVID-19. Customers have now learned they can literally bring everything they consume straight to their doorsteps. This knowledge changes the relationship between retailer and customer.

Because the friction of the actual purchase has been removed, to differentiate, the retailer must now become a trusted partner. Retailers become tastemaker, stylist, and a concierge rolled into one. Retail becomes omnichannel. Data must travel with that customer from online store to brick-and-mortar store to online chat to social media without any inconvenience.

Again, the technology exists. But the approach retailers have taken is piecemeal. To transcend digital, retailers need to a put these pieces together. “COVID has accelerated forces already at work in retail,” said Anupam Govil, Avasant Partner. “We see two trends—one toward cost control and agility and one toward more digitalization as we move toward touchless and frictionless retail. These two seemingly opposing forces have to work hand in hand as retail transforms for the post-COVID customer experience.”

As enterprises continue their digital transformation, they must look at the convergence of these technologies and look to craft more complete, more human experiences. It is easy to purchase one-off digital solutions to solve a pain point. But the true digital revolution is in transcending these singular solutions and rethinking our relationship to technology and the experience we want for ourselves and our customers.

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