What is digital transformation?
At the end of the day giving a specific defintion of the word digital transformation means doesn't really matter. You could sit a bunch of people around a table talking about it, agreeing on it, and still have very different pictures in your head.
We would, however, argue that digital transformation is something everybody is talking about, but only a few responds to. The reason for this lack of execution is probably that the subject is quite intangible. From ancient times through industrial revolutions right up until today - improvements and transformations have mostly been something physically and comprehensible.
“At first, you had a shoemaker. Then came along a machine, making shoes ten times faster. By the time an even smarter machine appeared, making shoes even quicker than the first one. It's all super easy to understand. Then some decades ago came along the LEAN-initiatives, implemented to reduce time and resource waste in production. Still quite easy to grasp. But the digital revolution is special since its often hard to imagine for oneself what it is", says Rasmus Bertram, Co-founder of and CEO in Whyyy.
On top of the diffuse concept of digital transformation, we have companies and organizations born and raised in a time without the existence of digital devices at all - which off course makes it that much harder to understand, what it is.
...it’s about solving problems
“It appears to me that some tend to consider digital transformation as something massive. A bomb dropped at the company, altering everything. It doesn’t have to be that. You can easily break it into smaller pieces easy to digest. You can even turn it into some kind of journey”, Rasmus Bertram says.
He suggests you sit down and try to figure out what is of most importance to your organization and how you can achieve it.
In fact, digital transformation is the same as every transformation. You do it to increase competitive capabilities, become more efficient, achieving better use of recourses and securing the company future. Changes could affect both profitability, efficiency, and expenses. Previously the holy grail could be doing things the LEAN-way. But now technology allows us to do things differently once again – performing a digital transformation.
“I suggest you forget the term for a moment and take a plain look at your company and its problems. Identify where your organization is faulty, defective and causing delays. Digital transformation is just some kind of tool – a hammer – which you can choose to solve some of these issues”, Rasmus Bertram says.
Find your level of ambition
At this point – three minutes into the article – we still haven't become more specific on what digital transformation is. And the point is that's it's entirely up to your own level of ambition. You do not at any point have to climb the stairs to the top level. Digital transformation could be an ambition of scanning all company files to make them accessible digitally. For others, it might involve changing the business model to focusing on selling digital products or services.
“A business is put into the world to do business. And you should at all time evaluate how you can make a better profit, product or service. A lot of companies have been afraid of opening the box of digital transformation, basically because they don’t understand digitalisation”, says Søren Nielsen, co-founder of Whyyy.
To him, what companies are afraid of approaching is, in fact, a gold ore waiting to be exploited.
“Executives often prefer to buy some off-the-shelf-solutions, but what they really should is to get some guts and try to reach their target whatever digital means necessary. They should ask themselves: ‘dare we, or dare we not?’”, says Søren Nielsen.
The generation-experience paradox
When initiating a digital transformation at any level in an organization, yet another peculiar fact unveils itself. Just like the digital revolution differs from prior industrial revolutions by being something difficult to comprehend, it also turns the traditional experience-hierarchy upside down.
Previously in organizations, it made somewhat sense having these hierarchies based on experience. As one of the oldest (and most experienced), you were in a strong position. Your words weighed the most. But right now, a lot of the information companies need, they will find among the new and young employees.
“They have a much better understanding of what is possible or even required. It could potentially alter the way you organize companies because it invites to great teamwork between generations. It’s exciting to see how companies and organizations will handle this in the years to come”, Rasmus Bertram says.