Tue 1st Oct 2019

Is Digital Transformation New?

On the one hand, the answer to this question is obvious. “Yes, of course it is. We’ve never transformed around digital technologies before”. That answer is almost certainly correct in answering the specific question, but the underlying question is more about whether the process of a business transformation is new and, if it isn’t especially new, does Digital transformation offer new challenges and opportunities that previous transformation types didn’t?

Business transformation is as old as business itself. New ways of working, new types of technologies, new customer expectations, new working practises, new markets and many other changing business variables have been in play since human being first started trading with each other. Businesses have evolved constantly in order to stay relevant and in business. Businesses that didn’t transform, didn’t last long in the face of constant change. If you don’t keep up, then you slip behind and, eventually, you become outdated and go out of business. There is a cruel, relentless logic to this ongoing process – evolve or die (it’s a process that mother nature has been imposing on all life since day one).

So is Digital Transformation any different to the “Iron Age” or the “Industrial Revolution” transformations? We would argue that, despite the perceived current pace of change and the complexity of the technologies involved, that, really, the underlying challenges that the current change presents, and the steps that a business should adopt to embrace them, are no different from those faced previously by businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Change is a constant and changes to the business landscape are no different. So, what does a business need in order to be able to adapt to such change and embrace it? Probably the most important thing is to have an agile culture … that is to say that the business is “wired” top to bottom to be able to change how it does things in a rapid fashion. The level of business agility that a business has can be the difference between profit or loss, or, in the most extreme cases, between survival or going out of business.

In the following series of blog posts, we’ll look at what being agile means for a business and how a business should look to become “agile” across its operations.