I have lived and breathed Digital Transformation for nearly three years. In that time, I have developed over a dozen roadmaps, written a multitude of organisational impact reports and offered numerous supporting business cases (with fully itemised recommendations and cost/benefit/risk audits on them all). I’ve also witnessed the adoption of the term Digital Transformation for virtually any digital related strategy (transformational or not). Indeed, it has become an almost meaningless term, with so many definitions, variations and misunderstandings; it’s borderline dangerous.
The term has become a bandwagon that finds its way into pretty much every consultant's chat.
Part of my issue with the term is that it is trying to describe, in just two words, a set of processes, actions and interventions that are intrinsically complex. However, at their heart, they are simple. They are inherently non-digital but technology-based, predominantly people focused but process oriented.
Euan Semple, author of ‘Organizations Don’t, Tweet People Do’, agrees. He says:
“Digital transformation straddles existing silos – human resources, communications, marketing and, yes, technology – but they all need to be part of the solution,”
- Euan Semple
Although 'doing what it says on the tin' is a catchy statement, much like the phrase from Ronseal’s ads, 'digital transformation' has become overused. “Like so much, it has been turned into a thing, oversold and it has ended up as a damp squib,” says Mr Semple.
I agree wholeheartedly. Hence my assertion that we should kill off the term and instead use something that is more useful and descriptive of the reality of what it is to deliver a 'Digital Transformation' project; namely organisational evolution. Outcomes are so much easier to define than the process of doing it, I find.
Undoubtedly, digital is the big disruptor, it touches every part of every organisation. BUT - it is the people and the culture that actually deliver the evolutionary change, NOT the technology. EVERY organisation, indeed EVERYONE in every organisation has a responsibility to embrace this disruption. But, will business leaders embrace new business strategies?
“People talk transformation, but they only want to tinker,”
- Euan Semple
Semple argues that most chief executives are not standing on the burning platforms that would make them jump. While most companies and organisations understand, only too well, the threats of competitive nimble disruptors, they become paralysed because they are often very creative and prescient and can see the possibilities, but are historically predisposed to not destroy an existing business model that still makes money. They are also pushing against decades of risk-averse culture, change-resistant staff and, (for the public sector especially) a political environment that is totally against being seen to fail.
Much of our work is, therefore, supporting the Business As Usual focus whilst gearing up for the evolutionary journey that they MUST go on.
The final challenge is that every organisation has to do something to embrace the technology that is disrupting every single sector and every aspect of every activity. Renee Tsielepi, Agile Transformational Leader and Coach/Consultant at Transcendence Ltd, believes that many leaders are in the dark about what they have to do to begin the process. Tsielepi notes: “The same will happen [today] as in the Industrial Revolution. Those not adapting and embracing the changes will be displaced by some level of automation.”
To conclude, the theory of evolution is as strong in organisational evolution as it is in natural selection...
"It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives;
It is not the strongest that survives;
But the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself."
- Leon C. Megginson's summation of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1963)
If you’re interested in our Digital Transformation (or Organisational Evolution!) services, you can find out more about our work via the recent case studies we have included at the bottom of the page. You can also get in touch with us via the contact form below.