Does digital transformation really exist?

I have heard the phrase digital transformation bandied around a lot around and it made we wonder what does it actually mean?

I suspect that we all having an image in our minds when we think of digital transformation.

Does the meaning of the phrase depend on our roles and mindsets?

So if you speak to a certain group of people in central government, particularly those with links to the Government Digital Service, they might start talking about the 25 odd digital exemplar projects. Here is their list of projects on a page labelled transformation.

If you talk to someone who works in communications their idea of transformation might be killing off press releases and having a longer term relationship with audiences based around engagement and outreach.

Some of my colleagues are interested in getting rid of paper in certain meetings and they see this as digital transformation.

Or does it relate to the collection and manipulation of data?

Are these all aspects of the same thing called digital transformation or totally separate changes?

What happens if we separate out some of these words and ideas?

What does digital transformation really mean?

Is it one of these phrases a bit like the ‘industrial revolution’ which first referred to a short period of say 1780 to 1825 but then got stretched back to cover tin mining in Cornwall centuries before; and went much further into the nineteenth century. How long does transformation take? One month, one year, one decade?

Is transformation just the steady migration of functions and services into an electronic format? In theory we could probably map this and see where it is heading next. Is this process a bit like industrialisation which led to the standardisation and mechanisation of previously individual, often manual labour?

When we look at say, the exemplar projects, are these much more than the application of business process management, (Lean etc) to functions in the aim of rationalising and making them more efficient using the tools available now?

When did digital communications start to be transformed? With the introduction of the morse code, radio, telephone, television?

I’m not sure that I know the answer to the question ‘does digital transformation really exist’.

However it would be nice if the real digital transformation could stand up and reveal itself while the imposters run away.

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Digital transformation

2 responses to “Does digital transformation really exist?

  1. I’m completely in agreement with you here Nick – there’s so much trumpeting about Digital transformation, but precious little agreement over what that actually represents. It would be a terribly sad thing if the opportunity for improvement presented by digital technologies in various forms were to be squandered by reducing this to just putting lipstick on pigs – just focusing on the delivery channels and user interfaces and not looking at end-to-end information and work flows, data-driven decision making, and so on.
    Our view here at MWD Advisors is that there is a frame you can put around Digital transformation; but at the same time, every organisation’s path is likely to be different, and we also hope that every organisation’s strategy for transformation is different (tuned to their own capabilities, goals, skills and environment).
    We’ve started to lay this out in a report called the Digital Enterprise Shift (see http://www.mwdadvisors.com/ec/digitalenterprise.php) – it would be great to get your feedback on that! We’re also working on some other research to dig deeper.

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