What is Digital Transformation?

The world of business continually generates new buzzwords and “digital transformation” is just another one of those. First, ditch the word “digital”. Everyone has a different idea of what digital means (including me). When a word has so many different interpretations, it stops being a useful word, so let’s drop it.

Transformation for organisations is simply change. Change is business-as-usual these days. We all know what change is. We’re not idiots. So why all the recent fuss? (see exhibit A below – search interest for “digital transformation” from Google Trends)

Digital Transformation on Google Trends

Transformation is where an organisation changes its products, services, structure and operations. The word “digital” is often added because the purpose of the transformation is to be more relevant to our highly connected, rapidly evolving society.

Transformation is natural

It’s clearly important for organisations to be able to adapt. Alvin Toffler (writer and futurist, famous for popularising the term “information overload” in his book Future Shock in the 1970’s) puts it well:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Transformation can feel like a daunting, impossible task. Many commentators and specialists seem to delight in making it seem more complicated than it really is. It’s not. Transformation is in our nature. As individuals we make decisions, change and move forward all the time. Sometimes it’s the way we organise ourselves into businesses that can make collective adaptation difficult though.

Some guiding principles

The trick is to START. Transformation doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing exercise. Do something. Maybe start with yourself: understand digital lingo by reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts; hang out with some techies; join an organisation like the MTA.

LEARN from success and failure. Simply make notes of what works and what doesn’t. Share this information with other people in the organisation that might care.

ACT on what you learned. There’s no point creating an all-singing-and-dancing dashboard or custom data puke if it doesn’t inform what you do next.

Understand that transformation is a WAY not an END. If you’re doing it right it will never be finished, it will become the way your organisation continues to adapt to a changing world.

Start small

Starting small is often more realistic and accessible than trying to architect a Grand Plan For The Future. Remember, the future never arrives.

A good starting point is to PLAY with technology. Try something new and have some fun. Play with some friends. You can’t begin to consider the implications of a new technology for your organisation until you know what it’s like. You’ll never find that out by going to conferences or reading reviews.

EMPATHISE with the people your organisation serves. While most organisations will have profit-related objectives, the purpose of the organisation is commonly to serve other people outside the organisation. Who are they really? What are their lives like? Why might they be interested in you? What are they trying to do (their Jobs To Be Done)? How do they use technology? What might you do to make their life better?

EXPERIMENT with what you already have. You don’t need to trash everything your organisation already has. You probably already have a valuable set of assets and you’ll certainly have people with ideas. Try to image what a startup would do if they had access to the people and assets you already have. Take one of those ideas and run a small test. Use the Scientific Method because it works.

Digital Transformation and the Scientific Method

We’re on a mission to simplify the whole notion of transformation with an accessible, modular approach. Why not find out a bit more about our practical and accessible transformation workshops?

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