My love-hate relationship with ‘digital transformation’

‘Digital transformation’ is a term so buzzy that no-one can quite pin it down; and while I think our industry needs fewer of those, not more, if you look closely you’ll probably find I’m guilty of using it in my LinkedIn profile once or twice… This is a love-hate situation. Here are seven things I’ve been mulling in relation to ‘digital transformation’.

  1. Digital is 10% tech and 90% human. Organisations talk about digital as if it is 90% tech and 10% human.
  2. Digital means different things to different people — lack of common understanding leads to commonplace misunderstandings
  3. Digital is not an ‘optional extra’ or an app bolted onto the side of the company strategy. We’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution — we’re experiencing a fundamental re-design of the way we consume, work and play. Digital is about the organisational system and how we think, act and collaborate.
  4. The effort that goes into ‘transformation programmes’ is usually met with an equal and opposite cultural force. Stalemate.
  5. No organisation transforms, but they do evolve. World-changing ideas generally emerge over time in increments, not sudden breakthroughs
  6. Traditional transformation programmes are often expensive, waterfall initiatives that treat people as objects that need to be shifted this way or that. They are not collaborative.
  7. In spite of my allergy to the term ‘digital transformation’, I do believe we don’t yet have good language for this stuff. So let’s evolve it from here. The client that talks about needing ‘digital transformation’ is actually saying, ‘we need something, maybe it’s an app, maybe it’s training, but we don’t quite know what or how to get there and bring our people along’ — and that’s a brilliant opportunity to start a good conversation…