What is digital? — A layman’s perspective

I am into digital consulting. My dad (retired, career banker) often wonders what I do for a living and every now and then asks me this question .. “What is Digital?”. I am still in search of that definitive answer..

Meanwhile, Sample a few we have debated but found unconvincing..

  • Technology View: Many tech companies define Digital in some form of technology. For example Cognizant classifies Digital as SMAC. Cisco does a little better and terms “Digital as a means to drive relevant experience through web, mobile, social and video”. While both interpretations have merit, a pure technology view doesn’t do justice to the concept. Newer technologies will emerge over time; leading to newer frontiers of digital solutions. For example — NFC technologies shaping fintech, IoT reshaping agriculture. All still very “digital”, without direct linkages to SMAC
  • Business View: McKinsey positions digital “less as thing and more a way of doing things”. I like the positioning (due to obvious reasons). However the positioning is tailored towards enterprises. I would go with this definition while explaining digital to potential client, but found it too esoteric for my dad’s liking. After all “creating value at new frontiers” is too much to handle for a retired banker

My going answer these days is “Digital is about re-imagining the way we work and engage with each other by applying technology”. Incidentally in the process there are opportunities improved customer experience leading to newer business models / improving outcome on existing business. By no means digital is tied to any specific technology stack.

For Example — When my dad started his professional career in a public sector bank, “month-end close” used to be a big deal. They would manually sum up all accounts to publish the balance sheet, income statement and cash-flow statement. Over time things became better when calculators came by. Even better when his bank installed windows PCs running MS Excel. By the time he was about to retire, the bank he was working in was fully “digitized” with a core banking system in place.

Reflecting back, for most part of his career, the bank was adopting technology to automate manual task. Business processes mostly remained the same, things got incrementally faster and easier. However in the journey there came a tipping point (after core banking) which forced them to think beyond automation and re-imagine the way they conduct their business and engage with their customers. Which opened them to newer avenues for customer outreach, product innovation, product placement etc.

Hope we can settle the debate this time. Fingers crossed….

Btw, now a days he has dumped his old calculator and getting a hang of Siri to help on his monthly budget calculations.

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