Digital Transformation Automation: is there a new way?

Digital transformation is a term which is gaining significant traction within business circles. Many companies are trying to figure out how they can take advantage of the opportunities that digitization is opening up. However, digital transformation comes in many different forms and depending on the business a range of interpretations. 

Big software projects jump to mind when I hear digital transformation with buzzwords like artificial intelligence, machine learning, NLP, automation, and hyper-automation becoming more commonplace in discourse. So, it’s no surprise that the majority of companies big and small have their sights set on achieving this transformation. However, this drive to change and accelerate capabilities throws up its own problems. Where to start, how achievable are objectives and what does this mean in practice? Ultimately, how can your company implement digital transformation? 

McKinsey, the big software development services and consulting firm, recently published their recent digital transformation survey, Three new mandates for capturing a digital transformation’s full value. Within this survey, McKinsey identified what the top digital transformation performers within companies had in common in terms of achieving success. The below section identifies the critical factors.:

  • The use of digital tech to achieve strategic differentiation on customer engagement and innovation rather than cost efficiencies—and bolder digital strategies that are more likely to be successful than more incremental ones.

  • The development of proprietary assets, such as AI, data, and software, rather than a reliance on off-the-shelf tools.

  • A focus on attracting and developing tech-savvy executives and on better overall integration of tech talent into the organization rather than just getting new tech talent in the door.

In this blog, I will discuss the second and third points outlined by McKinsey. The development of proprietary assets and tech talent internally within companies. Additionally, I will discuss how Waylay allows companies to achieve full digital transformation via a non-traditional approach using a highly sophisticated business logic-driven application environment with a low-code heterogeneous workflow orchestration automation engine. In layman's terms what we call an Automation Operating System for the real-time integration of complex/diverse data flows.

If you are a big player, maybe build it all internally with proprietary assets and forget the generic off-the-shelf tools.

The reduction of off-the-shelf solutions and the development of proprietary assets within companies is an interesting finding, but also surprising with regards to the difficulties in the sourcing of tech talent crisis. What is becoming more common is discrete proprietary point solutions that do very specific tasks well aka highly vertically integrated end-to-end solutions. However, where they tend to fall down is flexible integration with other adjacent applications and data services. I believe that these points are very important to objectively interject and address what Mckinsey thinks market leaders have in common. Then, for non-leaders or companies beginning to embark on a digital transformation journey, moving from off-the-shelf to building proprietary software internally is expensive with a very high-risk profile. So what's the truth ? Is there digital transformation gridlock irrespective of whether you are big or small with some evidence of partial success ? 

In our previous blogs, Waylay often looks at the brass tacks of digital transformation and it's clear that projects run over budget, targets are missed, and project complexity becomes an overwhelming problem, which leads to project failure. 

To quote from a previous Waylay blog, “it’s not untypical to see $100’s of millions spent on digital transformation projects only to flounder. According to TechTarget, $1 trillion had been invested in digital transformation projects with the Boston Consulting Group estimating at least 70% of these initiatives fell far short of their original goals by March 2021.”

Reducing the use of off-the-shelf tools and solely focusing on the development of internal proprietary assets, such as AI, data and software, is a solution that may suit a small number of companies. However, as we also see these same victories are not comprehensively successful. So, therefore, from a Waylay perspective, we think the silent answer as to whether you want to build everything yourself or to do a hybrid using third-party applications, is to place the design of your automation engine (or Operating System) at the heart of your overall architecture as the most important first principle and then the probability of you always hitting the bull's eye in any project is very high. 

To follow, what is the most important question to ask, ‘What are your foundational design and architecture principles to ensure fundamental success?’ Derivative questions then might be: If you invest substantially in AI applications, which is a good thing, how are you going to operationalize and automate their deployment in your operations at scale? What is the collaborative tool to be used across different teams/functions to ensure rapid deployment in operations ? 

In our experience too often the easy part is building advanced AI and the hard part is deploying new intelligence at scale across diverse software systems, teams and in a lot of instances, across multiple GEO cloud’s with a multiverse of diverse real-time streaming connected assets. If you have experienced this level of execution complexity, it changes your core problem to an “integration of things”, then an “automation of things” and finally a people-led “orchestration of things”.

Companies want solutions, not problems, and the challenge of digital transformation is complexity: namely differing internal agendas, use cases for business units, use of system integrators,  pressure from management to speed up the race for full monitoring, visibility, analytics, and automation. Then finally digital transformation is supposed to positively impact your bottom line via efficiencies and better customer outcomes, not balloon your expenditure. So how can this be avoided? 

Below is an image that I have adopted to demonstrate the complexity of digital transformation at scale, where I use an example of people communicating. It starts off pretty simple but the more voices you add the more complex and impossible it becomes to follow let alone orchestrate. 

The Complexity Nightmare 

The complexity and challenges presented by achieving a successful digital transformation then intercepts the next headache, the current and looming shortage of technical talent and the battle to attain or upskill teams. 

Skill shortages - huge demand = huge vacuum 

Attracting and retaining tech talent is a straining issue for the majority of companies embarking on a digital transformation journey. This shortage of talent has led to spiraling wage inflation, skills mismatches, project failures and a crisis of confidence/trust. Global management consultancy firm Korn Ferry found that the talent shortage could cost companies up to $8.5 trillion in lost revenue by 2030. The talent vacuum examined within the Korn Ferry report “finds that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.” 

Arrival of a new trend: blending developers with subject matter experts; a differing approach to the skills gap crisis

The skill shortages forecasted for the remainder of the decade highlight the requirement and essential role of off-the-shelf solutions. A combination of leveraging external solutions, existing technical employees, upskilling and providing the tools and self-service options for subject matter experts frees organizations and can allow for successful transformation. Automating processes and workflows is a critical component of digital transformation. 

However, building everything from the ground up with hybrid skilled teams in all probability still propels you back into the realm of the mega project. So let's go back to the continuum of “off the shelf” springboard options with a simple question: When you pop the bonnet of your Porsche 911 ask yourself, can my team build this engine and then apply the same metaphor to building an Automation Engine at the heart of your digital transformation project. 

Addressing the skills shortage via off-the-shelf tools

Off-the-shelf solution providers can cut the complexity and can accelerate digital transformation. Why? Because it's what we do, our sole purpose is to provide companies with an easy, robust, scalable and cost-effective route to navigating the minefield of transformation. Why reinvent the wheel? That said there is a world of a difference between an engine in a Nissan Micra and that of a Porsche 911. So selecting the right vendor is critically important. 

At Waylay, our platform is a pre-built automation platform where the hybrid developer and SME teams build complex workflow automation in hours/days. We allow for seamless integration of “any to any” data sources from the different data things e.g. OT - IT. We stand for Automation made simple - for example the most complex thing users see is our low code environment which allows your organization to get results fast, free up pools of tech talent for more AI and ensure a more reliable digital transformation outcome. 

Don't get bogged down with complexity at Waylay we enable rapid build, scalability and in production in no time! 

Waylay enables full product build visibility to an entire team, technical & non technical 

The role of low-code and automation in digital transformation

Low-code automation is and will be a key element of digital transformation. To fully realize the power of digital transformation, you need to make sure that all of your systems are integrated, orchestrated and automated and that you have the right tools to monitor your business. You also need to enable your end users to engage with your systems in the ways that are most convenient for them, we refer to this as self-service. The ability for subject matter experts to make on-the-fly changes to processes, workflows and rules. 

Empower people! Human-powered automation 

One of the most important aspects of digital transformation is human interaction. Yes, automation can be a huge part of your digital transformation strategy, but automation is not everything people are ultimately the human brain and to monitor, tweek automation to differing scenarios. The key is to know when and what business processes need to be automated, which ones don’t, and how to implement automation in the right way. Subject matter experts need to be provided with simple - easy to use tools to develop solutions to get the job done fast. The best environment is one in which self-service can be achieved. 

Benefits of low-code and automation in digital transformation:

  • Increased business agility: One of the most important benefits of digital transformation is that it will allow your business to be more agile. Your company will be able to adapt to changing circumstances more quickly, enabling you to respond to new challenges quickly and effectively.

  • Better customer experience: Automation is key to delivering a better customer experience. Through digital transformation, you can make your customer journey simpler, faster, and more streamlined, giving your customers a better experience. 

  • Improved business performance: Digital transformation can help you improve your business performance in a number of ways. It will allow you to deliver a consistent experience, provide better insight into customer needs, and reduce costs across your organization. 

  • Improved performance across the board: Digital transformation affects every department in your organization. It can help you improve communication, customer service, HR, finance and more.


Digital transformation is the key to staying competitive in today’s business world. As the McKinsey survey referenced, the leaders in the digital transformation space are moving away from a reliance on off-the-shelf solutions to focus on proprietary assets. We think that is a good move in AI in particular. The trickier discussion is how do you dodge the underlying software infrastructure dependency for the operationalization of AI in the field ? I, for one, believe that Mckinsey terms of reference for the research finding above could be seen as myopic. Further this analysis finding’s suit the the biggest fish in the pond who have the unlimited resources to build things internally but for the vast majority of companies aiming to achieve a full digital transformation this is not an option.


Adopting an exclusively proprietary route is solutions development will most probably perpetuate big software without ever addressing how growing complexity of things gets simplified or revolutionized . The role of Easy to use - highly powerful off-the-shelf solutions, such as Waylay, provide a viable alternative. They are also low-code based allowing highly-skilled, mid-level, subject matter experts and along with developers to build PoCs, use cases, in production automation and rules in a matter of hours or days. 

Waylay was founded in 2014. We have the experience, knowledge and market-leading hyper-automation technology to expedite digital transformation. As a company, we are a horizontal platform, with solutions and customers in smart buildings, telco, industrial, energy, financial, field services, green energy, and many more sectors. 

Why waste years of development, only for it to fail? At Waylay we make automating simple, effective and scalable, all whilst saving vast sums of money. Don’t believe us. Check out our customers. Sign up for free. Get in contact with us. If you have a use case, we can help. 

About the author

Callum Donnelly is Director of Marketing at Waylay. Previously, Callum founded ParrotScribe, a voice recognition compliance startup. In addition, Callum was part of the founding team of the Ludgate Hub and co-founder of National Digital Week.