Due to my job and interest for the topic I read a lot on digital transformation. I also have the chance to talk to senior managers about this topic.
I noticed that there is a misunderstanding as to what digital transformation actually is. In fact, most authors, writers and individuals focus on what digital transformation does and not on what it actually is. It is not unusual for most people to define digital transformation as social media, as the software used, as the platform, as increased interaction. But this is not what digital transformation is.
When dealing with digital transformation in an organisation it is important to have a common definition that encompasses all the aspects of what digital transformation actually is. That means not only focusing on the technology itself, but also on the enablers of such technology. Therefore, considering also how it changes the way an organisation operates.
One of my favourite definitions of digital transformation is Clay Christensen’s “The transformation and reinvention of the resources, priorities and processes of a company in order to be fit for purpose in a digitally empowered world“. As you can see it considers technologies, but it also focuses on the elements that allow to bring technology into action: resources (e.g. people, culture, skills, culture, behaviours).
This is not a universal definition. It describes what digital transformation means in that specific organisation. What I like about it is that it considers the technology, the enablers (culture, practices, processes) and the trigger (people’s raised expectations).
This is why I smile when most people tell me that digital transformation is … (put any definition of what it does!) and that only engineers and IT people can do it. The executes and senior managers that have this belief usually make the mistake of focusing only on the technology itself, on its implementation and leave out an essential part: without people (the enablers), a change in behaviours and organisational culture very likely the new technology is not going to achieve the expected ROI.
Why? Because the organisation failed to focus on adoption and use of this technology. You can have the best and most powerful software, platform, etc. but if your employees are not going to use or don’t know / want to use it you are not going to go that far.
When embarking in digital transformation I strongly advise my clients to start from the definition of what digital transformation is for the organisation and to consider all its aspects: technology, enablers and triggers. Leave one out and you have a two legs table that cannot stand on its own.