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  • Writer's pictureDean Anthony Gratton

Digital Transformation: More than a buzzword it’s a shift in thinking

How do you know you’ve successfully executed your digital transformation strategy for your business and customers?

Digital transformation is a relatively new term that I'm wrestling to come to terms with and I want to share with you some key facets that, I feel, uniquely qualify its meaning. Let’s not forget, it’s yet another industry buzzword that potentially confuses en masse, if you’re not fully armed with the facts.

For example, if you ask 10 people what digital transformation is, you invariably receive 10 different answers. Likewise, we can even ask business leaders, thinkers and thought-leaders, where each of them will have an adaptation of a definition that suitably reflects their business strategy and whilst, this is typical, it inevitably leads to confusion across businesses and industries.

Understanding the three ‘Ds’

I’m sure most of us have already been wrapped up in digitising our respective worlds over the last few decades or so and now we have to digitally transform! You see, we have witnessed the analogue telephone make the shift to digital; likewise, our mobile phones have made a similar shift and, of course, our TVs have seen an enormous shift from the aerial plugged-in units taking pride of place in the corner of our sitting rooms to the slim Internet-enabled digital smart TVs we see today.

So, before I discuss digital transformation, I want to explain the three ‘Ds,’ which are often used interchangeably and incorrectly, that is, ‘Digitisation,’ Digitalisation’ and, of course, digital transformation – these, for me, are three very different terms.

What is digital transformation?

Firstly, digitisation is the process of creating a digital representation, that is, the bits, nibbles and bytes of physical things such as documents, photographs, sound and so on into a digital form that can be processed by an electronic device (or computer) - such items may have been scanned, for example; secondly, digitalisation is where businesses have created new business operations and processes to harness the use of these digital things, in turn, creating new and varied business and revenue opportunities; establishing robust and efficient business processes and models and, to ultimately, streamline the cost efficacy of the business.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Digital transformation is the profound realisation and acceptance of digital technologies to empower business activities, processes and their associated models. Moreover, it’s an all-encompassing empowerment of your entire business life-cycle and represents a transitionary step from digitalisation. It affects all employees, from the postal worker delivering parcels to the home; identifying the receiver and acknowledging receipt of goods to the back-office recognising that the goods have been received and perhaps starting the warranty process; after care and other ancillary services are also invoked, ensuring satisfactory customer service with follow-ups (is just one such example).

Awaiting the new technological change

With this in mind, we might question whether digital transformation is an evolutionary caveat to digitalisation or perhaps the result of a shift in thinking? You know, that all embracing shift to accept the inevitable change in business processes and operations and how technology does affect all aspects of our life, both from a personal and workplace perspective. Personally, it’s not limited to business and industry – as individuals we have also embraced the digital change.

In fact, Millennials today are eager to embrace this new change. In one such study by Hitachi Consulting Millennials were identified as the group that have altered our shopping habits and are awaiting an ever-greater technological shift to, not just enhance their shopping experience, but to make the whole experience immersive where, for example, personalised push notifications are sent to shoppers to alert them to special offers and new ways to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in retail are readily available to allow consumers to try before they buy in a virtual sense. These innovations are already being trialled and will no doubt soon be rolled out.

How do you know you’ve succeeded?

But I think there are some thought-leaders who have pushed the rudimentary notion of digital transformation somewhat astronomically. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, for example, sees things a lot differently and we should, as thought-leaders ourselves and innovators, take a leaf our of his book (no pun intended).

“If your customer base is aging with you, then eventually you are going to become obsolete or irrelevant. You need to be constantly figuring out who are your new customers and what are you doing to stay forever young.” — Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder

Bezos typifies innovation in digital transformation and continually disrupts what we ordinarily perceive to be the ‘norm’ across business to business and business to consumer sectors, demonstrating with tireless energy that this is something we should largely embrace, tweak, make better or adapt.

But one final thought I have for you, when you look back in say 5, 10 or even 20 years, how do you know you’ve successfully executed your digital transformation strategy for your business and customers? How will you measure your success?

Originally published in Hack&Craft.


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a technology influencer, analyst & futurist 

I dispel the rumours, gossip and hype surrounding new technology

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