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Guest blog
‘Digital Transformation’ and the dangers of jargon

The first time I remember seeing the term ‘digital transformation’ written on a brief during my digital agency days, it was for a major global financial firm in 2010.

Despite the rest of the brief asking only for a new website, the pitch panel included the entire senior executive board as well as the CEO. This was a strangely senior panel for a large, but fairly standard, website. Just a few years before, the same pitch would have been attended by IT Director and Marketing Director at best.

So what changed so quickly for this financial firm?

2008’s housing market crash in America triggered a global recession and the firm’s bottom line was now hurting. So like many other companies, the senior execs had decided to turn to ‘digital transformation’ to stretch budgets, find new customers, and generally solve decades’ worth of indifference to technology and outdated ways of working by building a new website. They weren’t entirely sure, but they knew they needed to do something.

What quickly became clear to me was how many other organizations were trying to implement major innovation programmes without fully understanding the costs, complexities, or company-wide implications. Basic answers to core questions were being skipped over as huge investments were made, and in some cases lost as projects failed and staff bailed out.

Real digital transformation means to be more adaptive to change

Real digital transformation isn’t about getting your company to use a specific set of new technology; it’s about your company’s ability to react and successfully utilize new technologies and procedures – now and in the future.

For most, this includes adopting processes that allow your company’s leadership and staff to investigate, experiment, and strategically employ new technology on an ongoing basis.

In other words: Digital transformation is something you only have to do once 

New gadgets, new networks, new capabilities – everything new in our digital age poses equal threat and opportunity, and like a boxer in the ring, the company that can react quickly with concentrated force wins the title. The company that ducks and dodges the punches without a proactive strategy is only delaying its inevitable defeat.

The average company today though is nothing like a boxer. The average organization is stuck in its ways, isolated, slow to react, and bogged down by old processes. It’s locked in a state of slow decision making thanks to hierarchies that have enlarged over time, creating internal silos of people and processes, with complex approval processes that make it difficult to reach consensus, let alone pursue a collective goal.

Real digital transformation is about breaking down these barriers, removing the constraints imposed by outdated logic, and leveraging technology to create new revenue streams, drive down costs, and enhance the user experience.

Like a boxer going through rigorous training, successful digital transformation begins with a series of small changes that accumulate until the organization can cope with bigger demands.

When training – or transformation – is finished, neither the boxer nor the company will behave, look, or move the way it did at the start.

Digital transformation is your company’s Rocky moment

Training starts with me on April 24th at LCP's DC Conference and depending on your fitness, in a few months, you’ll be ready for your first match.