Facing constant disruption, organizations are leaning on their technology strategies in the pandemic, overcoming internal and external challenges as they adapt. Modernization efforts taken prior to the crisis paid off, delivering more agility and insights as businesses focused on survival.
A "digital mindset" was crucial to Align Technology's digital playbook from the beginning, said Chief Digital Officer Sreelakshmi Kolli, speaking Wednesday at the Forbes CIO Summit Virtual Series.
For the company behind the Invisalign system, the concept of a digital mindset combines embracing agile methodologies, following a DevSecOps model of development and continuous integration and testing of code. This strategy lets teams prioritize solutions that help customers, Kolli said.
In a moment of crisis, tech leadership can prove its value by delivering new business models to the company or improving existing ones. AI and cloud deliver essential data insights and help tech executives accelerate processes across their company.
"This mindset shift is not just for the technology teams, but it also needs to be embraced by the whole organization," said Kolli.
AI impact for scale
Digital transformation is most successful when taken on as a companywide initiative instead of an IT-centered strategy. This is also true of AI initiatives, which are more likely to deliver business impact when led by CEOs instead of just the CIO.
The importance of having data sets to fuel AI is already clear to organizations, said Chad Meley, VP of marketing at Teradata, speaking on the panel.
"What's less understood is the importance of data integration and reuse of data," said Meley. "AI and [machine learning] are particularly adept at finding patterns from seemingly unrelated sources." Finding ways to connect the dots between different data sources helps mature a digital strategy.
When looking at successful AI adopters one common thread emerges, he said: the ability to have a multiple of AI and ML initiatives taking flight inside the organization.
"It's not like one big bat and it pays off," said Meley. "You really have to put in a foundation that's going to let a thousand flowers bloom, versus having just a multitude of data pipes, one per initiative."
In the wake of the pandemic, the marching orders for AI initiatives inside the enterprise deals with direct business outcomes. Projects must prove they can deliver business value to the organizations, quickly returning the investment of platforms and technical resources.
Align Technologies' modernization roadmap began by evaluating where its technology stack was more amenable to cloud engineering practices. The company identified custom apps that could be lifted and shifted to the cloud, or platforms already leveraging SaaS tools that could provide an agile atmosphere.
With modernized apps, data structures and governance to deliver personalized experiences and a cloud infrastructure acting as a backbone, the company leveraged its technology strategy to deliver new business models.
An example of that process was the My Invisalign patient app, a hub where consumers find information about the product, find a doctor, and schedule an appointment, among other features.
Earlier this year, the company rolled out a set of virtual solutions on the app, a "timely" addition according to Kolli, as the pandemic kept customers from leaving home for non-essential reasons.
"These virtual solutions help the doctors provide continuity of care," said Kolli. "You can schedule video appointments with the patients, you can track progress of the treatments, make adjustments if necessary. All of this shows the power of a digital platform."
The pandemic placed the customer-company relationship under pressure, with leaders relying on tech to help them secure the relationship before brand loyalty begins to fade.
"The end result for all of us was, instead of just the individual silos of teams trying to do their work to deliver a solution, this was like the whole team felt that they were together, involved, and good decisions were getting made," said Kolli. "Everybody cared for each other's work."