Digital transformation (DX) is not a new term, but in a world that loves memes and buzzwords, it does return from time to time associated with various developments, trends and “revolutionary” new products. Most descriptions of the term stress its pervasiveness and potential impact on all aspects of business.
As with all popular trends, it is prudent to assess these claims with a critical eye. Is DX a meme, a bit of marketing hype, or a legitimate trend with the potential to affect fundamental changes in how businesses operate?
As someone who spent many years representing a large asset owner (i.e., a potential customer), I have always taken a somewhat skeptical view of perceived or promoted trends. I suspect that I was not alone in this. Ultimately, it is up to each asset owner or stakeholder to determine which of these answers fits their need and situation.
To make an informed determination, it is important to understand the full scope and potential implications of any legitimate trend. Just as with other trends, digital transformation must be viewed as being about more than digital products and services; it must also be about the processes that create, enable, manage, and deliver them. These are often the elements that ultimately determine the pace of change. Depending on your perspective, this can be viewed as a source of stability, or organizational inertia. In many cases, the truth is that digitalization may lead to more of a continuous evolution that a true transformation.
Increasing the pace of change or adoption requires much more than provocative or compelling statements of potential value. A skeptical business world needs real examples that they can use as the basis for extrapolation to their own situation.
Mark Twain is often credited with the quote “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody is doing anything about it.” This quote could easily be applied to the adoption of trends like DX. Talk and debate take us so far, but what we really need are practical examples, in the form of case studies. Ideally, they should be shared by end users, without the promotion of specific solutions.
The annual ARC Industry Forum provides an excellent venue for such sharing. The February 2018 event will examine DX and other trends in the context of industry, infrastructure and smart cities.