So What the Hell is Digital Transformation?

I’ve been Googling around all day looking for a definition of Digital Transformation. Here is what I think the Digital Transformation is all about:

1. There is no single concrete definition. Digital Transformation means different things to different organizations.

2. Digital transformation is being forced on enterprises who failed to evolve. We would expect leaders like Amazon to disrupt the business landscape and laggards with no vision see their markets challenged by innovators.

3. Laggards woefully underfund internal change such as investing in customer care or sales force management methods.

4. Digital transformation Is not about technology. Instead technology is a vehicle for implementing change. The real focus is on creating customer and stakeholder value.

5. Engage the business units and their staff to drive and support change. Keep hammering away why change is necessary.

6. Never underestimate the power of the status quo.

7. Find out from your existing and potential stakeholders, how your customer touch points can service them better and what technologies align with customer expectations.

Engaging a consultant to guide you on the journey would be a good first step. You will need to develop strategies and tactics to achieve your goals.

8. Find out how your competitors are responding to change. What changes impact the competitive landscape. Your company may be doing OK now but a year down the road it could be a whole new ballgame.

9. Using the feedback from step 7, find a way to disrupt your competitors or new ways to optimize the experience.

10. Be seamless and agile. Adopt the Nike slogan “Just Do It”.

11. Communicate that failure is expected.

12. Develop customer journeys and remove barriers to exceptional sales and service experiences.

13. Develop new ways of computing return on investment (ROI) where in the transformed world money flows through a network of value generating systems.

14. Determine if you are focused on optimization of the business rather than a radical change. Optimization is not transformative.

15. Develop or acquire a new business that does something that you currently do not do.

16. Think of new ways to promote your brand in channels your business currently do not use.

Update September 2020.

The reports an Everest Group study indicating that 73% of digital transformation projects failed to deliver business value and 78% failed to meet business objectives.

Doing nothing would have achieved better results.

Reasons for failure include:

  1. Lack of up-front commitment
  2. Failing to take an iterative sprint approach 
  3. Inadequate resources to scale projects

Nothing new really – number 1 and 2 are the same old reasons that have been present since the first IT project in the early 1950’s.

Corporate IT change is complex where projects requiring the integration of Salesforce with a mainframe hosted customer database is a twelve month project regardless of methodology used to develop the system.

Lost in the Digital Transformation concept is that IT does not lead the business. This is the job of the executive, Marketing and Sales. All IT does is to provide a corporate service akin to accounting or human resources.