What Digital Transformation Actually IS About
By Roland Rust
After publishing an article about what Digital Transformation is NOT, a lot of people told me that I have the obligation now to explain what it actually is. I’ve done so over the last years, tried a lot of different definitions but I have to admit: with little success.
That’s my own fault, I know. I just couldn’t find the right words yet. So I posted an innocent question here on LinkedIn.
Digital Transformation: Who is able to give a definition of DX which an ordinary mortal can understand?
I don’t know what happened. I must have pushed a button.
See for yourself: http://bit.ly/2lSgxtW
Digital Transformation Happens. Right Now.
I think everyone in the discussion agreed upon the fact that digital transformation is a phenomenon that is happening globally right now. Open your eyes. It is all around us. Our world is transforming digitally. Smartphones, broadband, new services.
When I was a child people would use phones to call a place. A household, an office. You had to be lucky that someone would pick up the phone. Remember answering machines? Digital technologies finally got it right. People want to call people not places or machines.
Organizations hesitating to transform along with all that global change are facing massive problems. The most obvious problem is that they are being disrupted by non-traditional organizations entering their market and better satisfy people’s needs. Look at Uber, AirBnB, Netflix.
True digital transformation empowers people. We are not only talking about customers. In digital transformation everyone is joining in. By giving feedback on solutions. Delivering usage statistics automatically. It is important for people today to be part of the change.
Without creative, passionate people there is no transformation. And traditional organizations unfortunately have been creating working environments which don’t attract them. Creative, passionate people are entrepreneurs themselves. That’s why organizations are founding their digital hubs and innovation units in an effort to open up space for creativity.
It is important to bring together people from business units who have a deep understanding of the industry, IT people who have a profound knowledge of the existing IT landscape and engineers, designers, researchers. Without such cross-functional teams consisting of internal as well as external experts’ digital transformation will not happen in an organization.
Digital transformation changes the way we perceive the world around us. Technology has become deeply connected with our lives. Ten years ago we were fascinated about what we can do with technology. Today using technology has become a natural thing to do. What we care about now is how it feels like.
Remember those times when you would need a training course to be able to use a piece of software? Those times are over. That’s why digital transformation without user experience research and design is just not possible.
Any piece of technology which is not exceptionally well designed will just not be used. Everyone uses Gmail, WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn. Whatever digital product is launched inside an organization or to the public offering less ‘joy of use’ will just be ignored by us, the people.
Hand in hand with empowering people through digital technologies needs to come an organizational change. Rigid hierarchies have a tendency to slow down everything. Matrix organizations do better. But agility isn’t something that can be ‘applied’.
Achieving cultural change is definitely the hardest part for traditional businesses. They tend to think of digital transformation as an initiative of a limited period and budget. It’s not. Once an organization starts to transform digitally, there is no way back.
That’s also the reason why buying a successful StartUps will not transform your organization. StartUps are ‘born that way’. They don’t need to transform. In the worst case StartUps adapt the traditional business culture.
The digital era hasn’t started yesterday. A lot of organizations are digitized. They tried to exploit technology to enhance the way they do their business ever since. But very few were actually thinking about creating something new with digital technologies at their hands. Only the courageous and brave.
And courage and boldness were rewarded. Today we see companies that didn’t exist a few years ago tearing apart whole industries. That’s why digital transformation won’t work without reinventing business with all the changes in mind which everyone can see coming.
Have you seen car-sharing services in major cities recently taking over? Are you thinking of just giving up your car? No more cleaning, changing of tires, horrendous repair shop bills, expensive car insurance? You are not alone. Will this force insurance companies to change their business models? You bet it will.
In my personal opinion, technology goes last. Once an organization has wrapped their heads around their major challenges of their digital transformation, developing products or services is not hard to do. I don’t even think that “understanding technology” is important at all.
What is important though it to understand the effect technological change has on society, environment, and civilization? It is important to observe what’s going on around us and reflect upon it. If we are curious, we find others who are like-minded. That’s how StartUps are founded.
If you scroll through the discussion thread of my post which was supposed to help me to find a definition, you’ll find a lot of definitions along with links to blog posts, charts even comics. http://bit.ly/2lSgxtW
It is just a ton of great resources and I want to thank all those bright people for joining in and sharing their valuable knowledge.
Also I thought that discussion would be enough material to write a book on the topic. But then I realized it has been done already!
“Digital Transformation really just means being more adaptive to change itself.
It’s about using digital technologies and ways of working that have been brought about by the information age to understand the change that’s happening around an organization.
And it’s about to be able to react on it on a much more dynamic and rapid basis than organizations have ever used to be working before.”
More information about Roland on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rolandrust/