What is Digital Transformation?
February 25, 2024

“I think we need some immediate wins. We need a digital transformation.” I hear some version of this statement at almost every customer meeting followed by some excitement, many suggestions, some questions and eventually blank looks. The ‘to do what’ part is often missing.


A recent meeting went the same way. There was talk of productivity improvement, revenue enhancement, the relative merits of Jira vs Asana vs Google Sheets were discussed. But when I asked each stakeholder to describe what they thought DT meant, how they imagined their department and their wins would look post-DT, no one had an answer. Worryingly, everyone seemed to be looking at the CTO for a response and a plan for their department and for the business.


Therein lies the challenge: a digital transformation should not and cannot be a tech initiative. Focusing on digital for the sake of digital will not transform your business.


That seems illogical but it isn’t. The digital aspect may be part of a transformation but in my experience, it isn't defined by it. Too many businesses think it's about automating a few processes when it’s actually about changing the way you think about your business, your processes, your product, your customers, your environment. It's about understanding your business challenges and digging into them to find out where they stem from. 


Analysing each step in the design to delivery and support value chain is the hardest part of any successful transformation, digital or otherwise. Skipping it is the reason over 80% of DT fail.


So the first few questions I ask my DT clients have less to do with technology and everything to do with business dynamics. How are customer expectations changing? How are ways of doing business changing? How will employees respond to change? Do they have the right skills? Does the company invest in them?


If they can't answer these questions, we take a step back to think about what the transformation is meant to accomplish and how it will deliver #growth.


This can be fun, fascinating or frustrating depending on the client. Whichever way it goes, I try to get a well-imagined, well-articulated vision out of the #leadership team and business heads. One that envisions a business that can respond effectively and quickly to changes in an unpredictable and unstable world. Then we work with each team or department to interpret the vision for their own purpose and bottom line.


Powering it all with the tools of technology, using automation and data to eliminate manual processing and improve reporting is the easy part. Which might not seem very transformational, but can deliver enormous aggregate #efficiencies for the end-user whether that's to management, employees or customers. 


In my experience, when businesses see DT as a quick win, don't define a goal for their business, don't plan the 'how' to achieve that goal or articulate how a DT will contribute to both, they're disappointed with the results.   #digitaltransformation

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