Bulletin 13 July 2018. Digital transformation redux: when a useless term proves useful

I find myself drawn back into the term ‘digital transformation’ as I am starting up two projects on the topic right now (more about both very soon). As I’ve said before, the term is not very good. However, and as I am learning, its very existence serves a purpose. 

First off, however much organisations may want to look liked they are emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis, the reality is much more mundane. Given that even the smallest changes take a large amount of time, this should come as no surprise. 

As anybody working in a big company knows, large-scale change just doesn’t happen. It can’t, any more than humans can trans-substiate and re-appear somewhere else. What can happen is either making existing things work better, or enabling new things to happen separate from the old. 

In these contexts, digital transformation starts to sound a little bit like the allegorical lipstick on a pig. If it’s not wholesale change, is it really transformation as such? Well, no, but yes. The term may be inaccurate, but its purpose remains. 

What the heck is he on about, I hear you say. Ah, I reply: based on the raft of interviews I have recently had the ‘pleasure’ to work through on the topic, I can confirm that at least some enterprises see it as important. 

Why? Because in these organisations, conversations involving the term ‘digital transformation’ take a different tack to those about specific technologies. Even with disagreement about what it might actually mean, or whether it can be delivered upon, digital transformation is accepted as meaning business, not technology change. 

As a result, the conversations lead to topics such as customer experience, business value, models and so on, rather than integration, scalability, operational management and other such more tech-y topics. 

I’m not going to lie, I still don’t like it. But it is a boon that technology-related strategies and conversations can put the business, and/or its customers first. If it has to be called digital transformation in order to achieve this, I’m all for it. 

Thanks for reading, Jon

P.S. No articles this week (did I say I was starting up two projects? 🙂 )

Bulletin 13 July 2018. Digital transformation redux: when a useless term proves useful

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