Making sense of digital transformation - breaking innovation down to five essential senses

Neil Sholay Profile picture for user nsholay September 25, 2018
Five essential senses of innovation in digital transformation outlined by Oracle's Neil Sholay.

x-ray body
It’s not unusual for a business to compare itself to the human body. It’s a good metaphor.

Much like a person, a successful business relies on a range of senses to understand its environment (the market) and respond in the best possible (delivering what customers want). And, like the body, it then brings together the right systems and resources within the organisation to deal with change and jump on new opportunities.

This process has always been the secret to success, but in today’s age of customer-centricity the “senses” an organisation needs to inform its decision-making have evolved. Customers expect companies to understand them on a one-to-one level and offer them ultra-personalised, ultra-convenient, and ultra-secure experiences across every possible channel and platform.

So what are these senses? And how can they help businesses to better understand themselves and their customers and thrive in tomorrow’s market?

We’ve worked with more than 400,000 companies big and small, including many leading organisations that have reinvented themselves time and time again, and our experience has given us a clear vision of what matters most in this era of digital transformation.

The winners of tomorrow will be:


Your customers are people. It might seem like an obvious thing to say but a customer-centric approach also needs to be a human-centric one. With that in mind, consideration for what customers are thinking, what they want, what they need, what their challenges are, needs to be at the core of every decision your company makes. The same goes for your employees and employment models. A human-centric account to your people is paid forward as a human-centric approach to the people they serve.


The more connected your business is internally, the more quickly it can absorb information from the market and customers, ensure this data is directed to the right teams, and guarantee that it’s then factored into crucial decision-making. It’s also worth noting that the more inputs and data sources you have, the more complete your understanding of the market will be, and the better informed your strategies will be across the organisation.


The first step is to have all these data sources feeding valuable information into your business, but it’s just as important to make sure you can turn this data into insight and package it up in a useable form. It’s one thing to draw information from your various sense, but it’s how that information is processed that dictates your response – for instance, knowing to avoid a pothole up ahead while driving or bracing yourself for the smell of methane when walking by a farm.

Your people, your systems, and your processes should all be guided by this quest for insight. This is easier said than done for many businesses, but technologies like AI and IoT have now made it possible to turn raw data into valuable insight more easily than ever.


There’s no rest for the modern business. Customer-centricity is no longer just about your existing products or services. It’s about innovating constantly, finding ways to keep people engaged with new experiences. But you can’t do that with legacy systems that suck up hours of your time to manage, protect and upgrade.

That’s why companies will begin the move to autonomous systems – self-governing, self-repairing, and self-protecting technologies that free up more time for innovative thinking and intrapreneurial initiatives. This is an important point – the move to autonomous is not just a systems upgrade, it’s fundamentally new way of thinking about tasks and structures in the business.


Finally, as we leave more processes to automation and AI, customers need to trust that these technologies can fulfil their needs. In fact, trust will become a company’s most valuable asset. A business’ reputation and the way customers view its services will make or break its future, especially in a digital economy where transparency is so hard to come by.

Consider this example. You might trust a service that creates personalised greeting cards for your friends, but would you trust it to know what tone and language to use for each card? Would you trust that your personal messages remain private? The point is that for people to have faith in automated services, or for employees to embrace autonomous systems, you need to demonstrate why they should be confident in these and make that trust and security are considerations whenever you roll out new ways of working.

These five senses are by no means out of reach. In fact, many businesses are have already made significant progress on one or more fronts. From the hospitality sector (Meliá Hotels) to port management (DP World), an innovation mindset has resulted in quick wins in a short period of time and set these organisations on a path to further success ahead. The next step for these and other companies undergoing a digital transformation is to fully develop all five senses in a strategic and integrated way.

You can learn more about Oracle’s vision for the next generation business at our upcoming Impact Events in London and Manchester

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