Digital Transformation, like Innovation, has become an overused buzzword that is losing its meaning. Whoever created the Wikipedia page for Digital Transformation defines it this way:
“Digital Transformation (DT or DX) is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.” — Wikipedia
This definition is too focused on technology as the source of the transformation instead of the transformation being driven by the needs of customers and employees. In my view, technology should always be seen simply as a tool to help achieve the desired human-centered transformation.
Too often the SaaS and Cloud vendors co-opt the true practice of digital transformation by trying to claim that a shifting from on-premise software to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is somehow a digital transformation or that going to the Cloud is the secret to everything that troubles your organization.
None of this of course is true in and of itself.
This definition of digital transformation from EnterprisersProject is a bit closer to the truth:
“Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.”
But, even this definition doesn’t go far enough…
Number One Reason Your Digital Transformation May Be Doomed to Fail
The primary reason your digital transformation will fail or take much longer than you expect, or possibly even than you can fund, is the failure of the organization to put the customer and the employee at the center of its data model and to be able to construct a fully-linked and coherent picture of every customer and employee’s body of interactions/transactions/experiences across the enterprise.
When you lack this ‘single source of truth’ and this ability to connect everything together, you greatly increase the chances that your well-intentioned digital transformation will fail or will be abandoned when you run out money.
Defining What Successful Digital Transformations Look and Sound Like
Successful digital transformations are human-centered transformations empowered and accelerated by the proper use of technology in support of the desired experiences and outcomes. You can’t have a human-centered transformation without a human-centered data model. You also can’t have a human-centered transformation without a holistic understand of what information customers and employees are looking for, what information you have, what they want to do using your digital infrastructure, what they can do with your digital infrastructure, and where the gaps are.
One of the many tools in the Change Planning Toolkit™ is a series of worksheets that help you explore these foundational questions for a successful human-centered digital transformation.
While you can improve the organization through a judicious use of technology in absence of a consciously designed human-centered data model, you cannot digitally transform the organization without doing this difficult work.
The disruption that many startups attempt against the incumbents is achieved because they start with a human-centered data model. Their approach leverages technology where appropriate to add value and remove friction from the human-centered design of their customer experience instead of trying to force customers to use new and often disparate technology experiences. It is a subtle but important distinction. We must be careful not to let the servant become the master.
So, what is driving your digital transformation?
Do you need help creating a human-centered design?
If so, contact me.
Image credit: Pixabay