The end of a year is always a time that I spend doing some reflection and pondering the “big questions” about my life, my business, and where I see everything going.
This year, one of those questions was, does digital transformation still matter?
When I first began talking about the need for digital transformation over 7 years ago, it wasn’t the buzzy, hyped up, and verging-on-meaningless term that it has become since. It was a novel concept that spoke to the need for organizations to take a wholesale and holistic approach to evaluating and changing how they applied technology to help their organizations adapt and compete in a changing world.
It was the logical extension of my IT-focused work that was manifested in my book, The Quantum Age of IT. It was rooted in the idea that organizations were now competing in the experience economy as technology had moved from being an enabler of back-office automation to the front-and-center driver of the experience that was increasingly driving customer choice and competitive differentiation.
The challenge, of course, is that technology is not one thing. It’s a complex and intricate web of interconnected technologies, methodologies, and frameworks that are necessarily different in every organization. Applying those technologies more broadly and in customer-facing ways just made that deployment, management, and leveraging much more complex.
Unsurprisingly, many organizations struggled with the nuance required to approach transformation in this way. And even those that understood the essence of the shift that was behind the buzzword still struggled with making it a reality.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that we are still talking about this idea of digital transformation all this time later. The question I was pondering was whether this was a lost cause or something that was worthy of further investment.
Embracing the Nuance and Complexity of Digital Transformation
Beyond its raw complexity, one of the reasons that digital transformation became difficult for most enterprise leaders to grasp and execute was that it defied simple definition.
It wasn’t a technology project that you could execute and check off your list.
It represents a fundamental shift in how you approach the function and practice of leveraging technology because it represents an even broader shift in how organizations function and compete in a technology-driven and experientially-focused market.
Necessarily, this shift requires that any authentic digital transformation effort address multiple facets at once. The technology, yes, but also the experience, the culture of the organization, the need for agility, architecture, and on and on.
There is no cookie-cutter approach because every organization must address transformation on a holistic basis — and every organization is different (or shouldn’t exist).
To truly embrace and embody digital transformation, therefore, demands that you embrace this nuance and complexity. You can’t attempt to simplify or hide it. You must acknowledge it in all its messy gloriousness and then set out to address it as one whole (although you don’t have to do everything at once!).
I believe this need to accept the wholeness of digital transformation’s complexity and nuance is what has held so many organizations back from truly addressing it. The question is and has always been, how do you tackle something so complex and nuanced?
Digital Transformation Demystified
The answer to that question is that there is no simple, single answer. Addressing something so complex and nuanced requires diversified thoughts, perspectives, and approaches.
To succeed, you need a toolbox chock-full of these ideas from which you can draw as you find the digital transformation path for your organization.
That’s why I am so excited that the Institute for Digital Transformation’s collection of Institute Fellows have combined their massive wealth of experiences and perspectives to produce a new book called Digital Transformation Demystified. (Disclosure: I am the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation).
Rather than attempting to give you one way to address digital transformation, it’s a collection of approaches, with each chapter addressing one aspect from the unique perspective of one of the Institute’s Fellows.
You can read this book cover-to-cover, or you can use it as a reference guide — or both! But however you use it, you will find in it the wealth of perspectives and approaches you need to approach digital transformation in all its nuance and complexity — and create massive value for your organization as a result.
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As we step into another new year, I hope you embrace the truth of digital transformation and its importance to you and your organization. Because if there’s one thing I realized during my thought exercise, it is this: digital transformation matters now more than ever.
Founder & Institute Fellow
Charles Araujo is a technology analyst and internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise, the Digital Experience, and the Future of Work. Researching Digital Transformation for over 10 years, he is now focused on helping leaders transform their organizations around the digital experience and to reimagine the future of work. Publisher and principal analyst of The Digital Experience Report, founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation, co-founder of The MAPS Institute, and author of three books, he is a sought-after keynote speaker and advisor to technology companies and enterprise leaders.