January 12 2018. Digital transformation – when specificity becomes too specific

First off, thank you to all who have engaged in conversation since I started sending out my hand-carved newsletters. I have had some long chats and big reads on GDPR and Blockchain in particular, on both of which I shall be following up, as well as feedback on layout and so on. On a specific point of GDPR, consent, opt-in and so on with regard this very newsletter, I believe I am in good shape given how it is only going out to people such as you, with whom I have an ongoing dialogue or have done business with in the past. As ever, if you don’t want to receive this informational bulletin (I will never sell you anything), please let me know or click on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking, and writing, about digital transformation. It’s not that I think it is all bunk, but rather, as the Irish adage goes, “If you want to get there, don’t start from here.” A little definition can go a long way, but sometimes it can get in the way — we’ve all been in meetings (if you haven’t, you are the lucky one) where more time is spent trying to define some term, than actually getting on with making things happen. Case in point is digital transformation, which seems to spawn more discussion than any ‘technology trend’ of recent times. This does beg the question of whether something can really be a trend, if nobody can agree what it is… but that’s for another day. 

As I send this out, I wonder if I should be commenting on the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws. I’m not sure I can add much to what has already been said: people are patching their systems like crazy; you should update your mobile device when requested; and everything based on Intel chips will run slower for a while, until they are replaced or someone comes up with some snazzy firmware tweak (which will mean more patching). Otherwise, the world will continue to turn. 

If you’re looking to ‘do’ digital transformation, read this first

Meanwhile, I’m not sure there’s any such thing as digital transformation – as in, you can’t just walk into WalMart and buy it; neither is it an architecture, nor an approach, nor even a philosophy. However, it’s certainly got people talking. I set out my reasons why it isn’t a thing here: in summary, terminology matters not a jot but the propensity to change is fundamental:

1. It’s all about the data — the term is just an ill-considered response to what we knew anyway, that we are in the information age. 

2. Technology is enabling us to do new things — to continue the Sherlock-level insight, this really is enabling breakthroughs. Who knew?

3. We tend to do the easy or cheap stuff — trouble is, these breakthroughs happen just as often because we are lazy, as driven. 

4. Nobody knows what the next big thing will be — is where the varnish starts to peel. Won’t we just have to ‘transform’ again?

5. That we are not yet “there”, nor will we ever be — which is enough to lead any strategist to breakdown. This gig will never be done. 

6. Responsiveness is the answer, however you package it — so our focus should be on ability to change. Common sense perhaps, but it isn’t happening. 


On the upside, there’ll still be plenty of jobs 

A good example of the digital hype and in particular, point 4 above is how we’re all going to be out of jobs (yes, everyone, from manual workers to lawyers, according to the University of Oxford). Here’s a summary of 10 reasons why nobody should worry about whether they will have something to do in the years to come:

  • Because decisions are more than insights. 
  • Because we have hair, nails and teeth. 
  • Because we ascribe value to human interaction and care.
  • Because we love craft. 
  • Because we value each other and the services we offer. 
  • Because we are smart enough to think of new things to do. 
  • Because complexity continues to beat computing. 
  • Because experience and expertise counts. 
  • Because we see value in the value-add. 
  • Because the new world needs new skills. 

The bottom line is that even as we automate certain manual activities, we lose neither the desire, nor the propensity for work (or indeed, value exchange between us). We have evolved such that we see work as necessary: we derive satisfaction from doing it ourselves, and sharing the fruits of our labours with others. Will jobs change? Well, yes, but how does this differ from the past 50 years? 

Oh and finally, don’t even start me off on monetisation



In other news, I’ve been getting this MailChimp thing up and running – any feedback welcome. I don’t recommend anyone looks at the latest piano vlogs (they are painful) but they are a point in time which I hope to move beyond soon! I’ve been writing a bit of poetry, largely as a way of getting the creative juices going first thing in the morning – you can check the latest on my Facebook page

Thank you to all my subscribers. Any questions or feedback, let me know.

Until next time, Jon

January 12 2018. Digital transformation – when specificity becomes too specific

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