Sunday, May 26, 2024

What is Digital Transformation? “Just a Buzzword” No More

Everyone knows the cautionary tale of Blockbuster, whose board members talked a good game but famously failed to anticipate the pace of the shift to video on demand.

Nobody wants to be the new Blockbuster. But there’s still a strange ambivalence persisting in many organizations when it comes to taking the necessary steps to futureproof business models. Why is digital transformation so difficult to drive?

Partly because the phrase itself has become ubiquitous to the point of meaninglessness. It’s a buzzword. It’s a business imperative. It’s the future. But it’s not clear what “it” is.

As IDC discovered recently, this kind of confusion may be one of the reasons digital transformation isn’t happening quickly, in Canada at least. According to IDC, 67% of Canadian businesses fall into the “digital resistor” category.

That’s not exactly surprising for a famously cautious country, but the impact of that caution is starting to be felt. We are starting to see more and more examples of how digital resistors are falling behind. Business is changing with incredible rapidity, and more and more functions are being automated, equalling either more efficient processes or lower labour costs, sometimes both, for those who invest early and ahead of their competitors.

“We’re starting to see the signs of digital transformation in manufacturing,” a Canadian CIO told me recently in an interview that will be published in full next month on @b2bnewsnetwork. “When you’re benchmarking yourself and coming up significantly behind the business processes of your competitors, it’s a dangerous position.”

Some of the common reasons expressed by executives for not tackling digital transformation:

  • it’s big “we have other critical customer priorities to tackle”
  • it’s expensive “it’s hard to rationalize the expense involved when outcomes are so uncertain”
  • it’s unclear “we’re not really sure how to get started”
  • it’s a hot potato “nobody wants it in their portfolio”

Once upon a time, these were sufficient reasons for waiting. That time has come and gone. Technologies being used in businesses now like AI and big data are such enormous competitive advantages that firms not making the investment now may never catch up, simply due to the pace of change. This is one of the main reasons why forward thinking organizations are investing in talent, startups and centres of excellence around business model and business process innovation.

There is one benefit to being a laggard: you can learn from those who went first. Over the next year we’ll be sharing some of the most interesting digital transformation projects in Canada from the perspective of the CIOs who led them, and showcasing design and implementation models that have made projects successful. We’ll be looking for you to help us identify those projects and nominate the most deserving too. Some patterns of successful projects:

  • they originate out of an initial vision that is spurred by a current problem within the organization
  • they are modular and collaborative
  • they are able to overcome silos by being overseen by strong executive partnerships in finance, technology and operations, among others
  • they turn IT from a back office cost centre to a core, integrated business function

Digital transformation is no longer just a buzzword, and we look forward to putting real meaning behind that phrase in collaboration with some great partners over the next twelve months. Stay tuned!


Feature image source: Wallpaper Rocks



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Jennifer Evans
Jennifer Evans
principal, @patternpulseai. author, THE CEO GUIDE TO INDUSTRY AI. former chair @technationCA, founder @b2bnewsnetwork #basicincome activist. Machine learning since 2009.