One of the major preoccupations for companies globally as they look to the future, is how to embark on and achieve ‘digital transformation’. It’s a term that’s used constantly in the media, recurring in articles around the latest platforms, apps and software – even analysts are focused on it, with IDC predicting that 2016 will be shaped by digital transformation.
Digital transformation is considered the next step in the global adoption of digital technologies, after digital competence and digital usage. It is taking advantage of the digital literacy we’ve achieved as a society, and leveraging the new opportunities created by the technological and digital evolution.
The problem, as CTOs and CMOs make big investments in technology and initiatives focused on digital transformation, is that there are a number of challenges. In addition, the focus of many companies when it comes to digital transformation, may be misguided.
IDC outlines the major challenges in this area as availability, capabilities and business needs being the biggest related issues IT leadership will face. The bottom line however, is that many businesses are really struggling to work out where to start with this transformation and are just looking to digitize everything – this for many is a mistake.
Focus on transformation
The issue is that there is arguably too much focus around the ‘digital’ element, and not the ‘transformation.’ The paradox of digital transformation is that it has less to do with the new technologies themselves, and more to do with the overall improvement and efficiency of an organisation.
It is an extremely common misconception that digital transformation is all about ‘going digital’, forcing everything to be digitalized or all about developing new apps and tools. Organisations should instead be focused on changing perspectives and transforming through new ways of thinking enhanced by the technological and digital literacy we have achieved. It is also about a much more holistic and systems-thinking driven approach in which data leads to new knowledge, and provides insights.
Transformation starts with humans
Digital transformation is not a skill or responsibility in the hands of CMOs, COOs, CTOs, etc. It’s a process led by the technological changes we have been subject to in the last few decades that is deeply transforming our lives and experiences as individuals and humankind.
It’s not surprising, then, that the discourse around digital transformation is more often than not connected with the reflection on customer experience. The data collected about how people interact with a brand, a service, or a product from a digital transformation perspective should lead to a deeper familiarity with ecosystem in which the individual moves. This data also leads to a better understanding of how each change and variation we introduce into the whole system – a new product, a new touch-point, and even a new employee at the customer centre – can affect one’s lived experiences.
This level of reflection should also be directed internally, at the organisational level.
Technology as an enabler
The key for organisations here is the ability to leverage technology to take advantage of the ongoing relationship they are establishing with the existent ecosystem of services, people, processes, policies, and strategies. Understanding these relationships is the first step to transformation, as digital can then be leveraged to refine that ecosystem to be more responsive to the needs, values, and expectations of those being targeted (which may be customers, employees, suppliers, etc.).
To aim to become a truly digital organisation is for many a false prophet as the focus of this change is not on technology as key and sole driver, but rather the new emerging relationships between people, technology and the whole ecosystem of interactions, and how these relationships can support a better ‘real world’ and ‘real-life’ exchanges.
Before organisations look to make big investments in platforms, apps or other new technologies, they must begin the digital transformation process with an understanding of how technology is affecting people, and how people are experiencing technology. It is only by delving into that relationship, that they will gain the necessary understanding and perspective required to adopt an active culture of change – this is crucial as without buy-in across the organisation, any transformation will be hindered greatly.