Digital Transformation: a catch-all buzzword.

December 18, 2018

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Managing Director

There’s been a fair bit of discussion in the industry press and on LinkedIn recently about how the phrase ‘digital transformation’ has gone the way of ‘innovation’ and other buzzwords in the tech industry. I want to clear up the difference between the phrase becoming overused and misunderstood, and the pursuit of digital transformation becoming obsolete. In short, the phrase digital transformation may have reached saturation point, but it by no means indicates that everyone has ‘finished’ doing it.

I have for years, ranted that digital transformation is meaningless, when assigned to a single department or person and parked as ‘their remit’. By leaving all the responsibility to one set of people, the message to the rest of the business is that they don’t need to change anything, consider an integrated digital future as “that’s the job of the digital department” and can continue with business as usual. That is the reason many Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) fail: they are not empowered for success by the business.

“The idea you can park digital transformation off in some department, or with a ‘Chief XX Officer’ is wrong. Unless organisations think about how these disruptions can affect their model, they are going to die.”

Mark Jenkins, Cranfield Business School

There is a nasty habit of CDOs being undermined by their C-suite peers - I could name some prime examples - and when this is allowed to happen, it’s a pointless role. True digital transformation is a business approach that only a CEO can own and for it to be a success, major changes to culture and behaviour need to occur. Hence need for HR, IT, Finance, New Business and all other departments to be involved.

Reason is a major partner for our clients in ensuring this doesn’t happen. Our belief is that the most effective way of transforming is by doing, i.e. more than a strategy or a statement of intent.

Reason’s Design & Strategy Director Michael Dingle has long espoused that to be successful in digital transformation, you need to start doing something somewhere, test, accept failure and iterate. Stop worrying about what to call it, stop putting it in a department and forgetting about them, and bring digital transformation into the everyday running of the business. Otherwise it won’t be your CDO that fails, it’ll be your business.

Get in touch if this resonates