Digital transformation is everywhere but what is all the hype about really?

Is it just another fad?

Let’s unpack this:

Digital transformation should rather be called “Digital Business Transformation”, as it is about transforming the enterprise from top to bottom. It is about transforming the culture, leadership, processes and people to meet (and preferably exceed) the demands of customers.  This is achieved through the use of innovation and technologies in the most efficient and effective way possible, whilst maintaining service excellence, agility and watching for new growth opportunities.

At this point leaders generally tell me that they have all their bases covered.  They have a Digital Strategy; or have just purchased ‘cloud’ or some other new technology and (my favorite) that IT will handle it, “no need to disrupt the entire business”.


Many articles and conferences I have attended like to bring up Kodak as an example of what could happen to an organisation if they don’t become digital, as if the problem with Kodak was as simple as the executives failing to realise that digital was the future.

The uncomfortable truth is that Kodak did invest in digital, they created the bi-modal business model which allowed them to focus on their traditional business and a digital business.  They also hired digital gurus and consultants to advise them and invested significant amounts of money in their digital initiatives.

So what happened? The challenge with digital is that there are many options to consider, many paths that one can go down and it is never easy to be sure that the path you have chosen is the correct one, or that your timing is just perfect.

Don’t think “we will not make the same mistake as Kodak”, or that “we know better now”, or that Kodak lacked foresight.  Digital transformation is really about remaining competitive in a market in which every industry is already experiencing changes at a rate never seen before and there is only one way to get ahead of the curve – we need to build companies that are flexible, adaptable and agile  – able to change direction when needed to avoid becoming another casualty.

customer focus

Customer Focused

With all the uncertainty and options available in the digital era, the generic recommendation is to understand your customer, and the more recent phrase is “obsessing about your customer”.

Surely that will ensure that you will be on track and your business will be saved?

Think about the meme’s on linkedin doing the rounds, such as “the lightbulb was not invented by continuous improvements of the candle”, or “if Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have responded – better horses”.

The truth is it is not as simple as asking your customers what they want, or giving them what they are asking for today. Tomorrow, the needs could be different. The demands could be different. The landscape could be different. Customers don’t know what is just around the corner – do you?


From a digital transformation perspective there are no easy answers. What we do know is that if you are not providing your customers with quality products or services, in the channels of their choice, and during the times that are suitable to them, then you will definitely fall behind the curve and will probably watch your customers march off to your competitors.

Also, If your business is not automating where possible and becoming lean, agile and flexible then chances are you will not be able to adapt fast enough and compete with the disruption that will occur in your industry.

And even then, you need to be carefully watching the changes in the landscape, (not limited to your own competitors or your specific industry).  You need to be constantly watching for new innovations, opportunities and disruptions.

If not, more than likely you will be no different from the many businesses that are finding themselves being disrupted and left behind with old business models, outdated cultures and discarded by the constantly evolving business environment.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how companies can evolve and transform, leave a comment below, I would love to hear about them.