Paul Allen, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property & Technology at DLA Piper, discusses the importance of legal solutions for a successful digital transformation journey.
Digital transformation is not easy. As anyone who has read John Kotter’s seminal work Leading Change would know, bringing about any transformation, digital or otherwise, is hard work and fraught with challenges. Of course, digital transformation involves technology. A digital transformation programme might involve moving a set of on-premise IT services into a cloud environment; forming a data lake and procuring a data analytics platform to deliver better business insights; or deploying robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline back-office processes and improve productivity. But to think of digital transformation solely as a technology project is to grossly and dangerously oversimplify the challenge it presents. Digital transformation, a form of radical change that is being enabled by exponential advances in technology, is attracting the attention of businesses and governments the world over. As DLA Piper’s European Technology Index 2018 indicates, over 60% of organisations view digital transformation as an imperative. These organisations, have presumably seen both the opportunities that arise from digital transformation (Netflix is an excellent example) and the risks that arise from not doing so (nobody wants their own “Kodak moment”). The question for many then is not whether to digitally transform, but how to do so.
Digital transformation is more complex. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by the convergence of physical, digital and biological domains, and exponential growth in computing capabilities (particularly AI), brings with it a world of opportunity on the one hand, and risks on the other. Organisations need a clear understanding of what opportunities they are positioned to pursue and what risks they will need to address in order to find their own strategy for creating a compelling competitive advantage in this new business environment. As part of that process, a range of legal needs will present themselves for attention. Attending to these needs in a commercial and pragmatic way will help to ensure that the organisation is empowered from a legal perspective to successfully pursue its strategy.
Digital transformation involves many legal issues. The legal issues which require attention in the context of a digital transformation program will of course depend on the scope of the program. For a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ business looking to increase its digital footprint, it may be that the current lease for its premises need to be terminated. For a global financial services company looking to benefit from RPA, a sourcing activity will be needed to procure and contract with the RPA service provider. It may also be that human resource issues arise to effect redundancies resulting from the implementation of the RPA. For an energy company establishing a data lake and data analytics capability, a whole plethora of issues arise in relation to cloud-based contracting, platform procurement, data protection and other data regulations.
Just as navigating and delivering digital transformation requires a holistic understanding of what is at stake, so too does the development and implementation of intelligently aligned legal solutions for the digital transformation journey. With this understanding, it is possible to develop legal solutions that will support an organisation’s vision and strategy, and the associated change program required to deliver the transformation the organisation is working towards.
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