How will businesses of today evolve into digitally native businesses of the future?

Jonathan Parsons
May 16, 2023
min read

Businesses today

At large, most businesses today leverage a significant part of their operational staff in the actual execution of their business operations. As demand scales, so does the need for operational headcount, resulting in an increased need for governance and management of the teams that are being employed in day-to-day operations. Across operations, additional roles for error checking and error recursion streams remove mistakes that humans make along the journey. Make and check relationships exist between parties to drive further compliance improvements and ensure all employees are acting on behalf of the business’s best interest. Many of these processes are unnecessary and exist as risk mitigation measures for the variability and errors that are introduced as a result of utilising human execution in the processing of business operations. This is exacerbated in execution roles, where businesses of today are under exceedingly large pressure to drive scale and cost reductions, resulting in these roles becoming more and more stretched where employees are expected to deliver more value in shorter and shorter time frames.

The average business today has in some part (with the advent of covid) digitised basic aspects of its business operations, such as digitising manual paperwork activities, that were not able to be processed when everyone was working remotely. This resulted in manual forms being converted to digital forms, with information now digitally tracked in SharePoint lists and collaborative cloud spreadsheets for further workflow automation and triage. In many organisations, this alone has accelerated their operations, in some cases by 20-30% exerting increased pressure on the manual bottlenecks with business operations. However, while some of these transformations have happened in parts, many are still completely manual, facing more pressure to deliver, reducing time and opportunity for upliftment activities that digitise and transform.

Businesses of the future

In the future, businesses focus on digitising their core value chain in its entirety. They track every transaction from the moment they make a sale, all the way through to the point that an invoice is sent. They are able to service customers in real-time, scaling their operations to millions of customers in the blink of an eye. They interact digitally with other businesses, contracting dynamically for materials and services in the most efficient way so that they are able to create value for their clients and customers at a fraction of the cost that services cost today. Leveraging AI and automation, they’re able to make decisions, predict markets and understand how to dynamically allocate capital for the most optimal return at any point in time. In these businesses, humans are uplifted from being “cogs in the machine” to driving higher value roles – such as customer success managers, product management, and data insights engineers. Roles today and in the future are becoming exceedingly focused on building the systems and processes that deliver value and augmenting these with client and customer-facing roles to ensure these systems maximise value for their intended audience.

As you may have already guessed, there are already digitally native businesses that exist today. Because of their incredibly high efficiencies, they generally scale quickly to multi-trillion dollar market capitalisations. These are the likes of Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. All of which are significant employers in the industry, with Microsoft for example, employing around 220,000 people on average in 2022 with the aim of adding an additional 70,000 post to expand further operations. The roles that they hire for, however, are driven by higher value-adding activities which further drive improved satisfaction for their employees by engaging them in higher value-adding initiatives.

The digitisation race and technology today

Every organisation is currently in a race to digitise and transform themselves with the goal of being the first to offer a digital version of its service. By winning this race, the rewards of capturing an increasingly large share of the market is significant. They have significantly reduced operational costs and the ability to sell services to as many customers as are willing to buy. This in turn provides them with increased revenue, larger marketing budgets and deeper wallets to drive further outreach initiatives expanding their customer base in an accelerating fly-wheel effect.

In the past, the cost of leveraging technology to automate the last mile of operations did not quite stack up, resulting in businesses being able to deploy large-scale ERP and CRM systems but unable to justify the cost of driving complete digitisation of every single business process. The technology to provide AI decision-making capability to drive automated decisions of actions through digitised workflows was also not quite ready for cost-effective large-scale custom deployments.

Today cognitive services have improved dramatically from what was available only even one year prior. The cost of building and running highly integrated workflows has decreased substantially, both from an operational aspect (running the solutions) and the actual capital cost of creating the solutions (design and development). The resulting combination of both of these factors has now made it more cost-effective than ever to digitise the last mile of a business’s operations.

Optimal digitisation approach

Some organisations have decided that instead of digitising themselves from the inside out, they have created an entirely separate digital business that competes with their existing manual operations, understanding that in time this business will gain further market share chipping away at it’s existing company’s manual business. For the purpose of this article we won’t be discussing this approach, but elaborating on the approach where businesses choose to digitise themselves from the inside out.

Other businesses establish internal teams (which are referred to as centres of automation/digitisation excellence) with the goal of having this team operate as a mini-digital factory to continually prioritise automation and digitisation initiatives, and then assigning developers in an agile fashion to opportunities that yield the most impact. Impact is defined across a range of priorities from hourly benefit, through customer experience improvement.

Read more about the 47 Management Practices for RPA-Enabled Services here.

47 Management Practices for RPA-Enabled Services

They focus on a dual automation strategy approach – the core technical automation team focused on digitising complex end-to-end solutions, creating digital libraries and re-usable functions, and wrapping applications in custom APIs that can be exposed for future workflow integrations.

Alongside this, operational staff are upskilled to become citizen developers and subject matter experts mapping and defining in detail their current operational workflow for further automation and digitisation. Technical champions work with them to help them utilise centrally built assets in the form of plug-and-play workflows allowing them to rapidly automate quick and simple work processes at the click of a button.


Businesses today are under significant pressure to transform themselves into digital native businesses of the future in order to operate at significantly improved operational efficiencies, whilst still being able to dynamically scale and flex to market demand. Those that manage to digitise themselves first will gain a significant market share over businesses that follow the status quo. The most successful approach to digitisation is a hybrid of a well-defined centre of automation/digitisation excellence, combined with subject matter experts and citizen developers that aid in making the last mile of business automation economically viable.

Jonathan Parsons