What does digital transformation mean?

Portrait of Craig Turpie
By Craig Turpie

28 August 2018

You've probably heard the term, but what does digital transformation mean? We discuss how businesses are being disrupted and have to adapt to survive.

Pick a word, any word, and repeat it to yourself over and over again.

After a while it starts to lose all meaning, right?

The term “digital transformation” runs this risk, as according to Google Trends, it has significantly risen in popularity since early 2015. It’s become the catch-all phrase for companies wanting to evolve either their business model or operations to stay relevant in the digital age. But, even though it’s used in our business vocabulary on a daily basis, it’s actually genuinely understood by remarkably few.

What does digital transformation mean?

Great question, and one that many a digital consultancy has attempted to answer. Unfortunately, many of these answers are either too vague to be of any practical use or hone in on one particular aspect at the expense of the broader vision.

“It’s no longer the big beating the small, but the fast beating the slow.”

For a company to effectively undertake digital transformation, it needs to be willing to enact a fundamental change in how it approaches its customers and facilitates interactions with them. It also needs a cultural shift within the organisation itself to embrace change and challenge the status quo.

The specifics should always focus on developing a deep understanding of your particular customer base and the customer journeys by which they want to engage with your company’s services, whether that be offline and online. In fact, digital transformation should allow users to seamlessly swing from online to offline and vice versa to complete a task or set of tasks.

This approach forces a holistic look at the entire operating model of the company to imagine a new future state, which can be systematically reviewed to establish what needs to change and equally, how this might be achieved from a programmatic perspective.

Why do businesses need to transform digitally?

In the age of the consumer, any organisation you care to name is now experiencing dramatic changes in how their users communicate with each other, the companies they do business with, as well as how they generally send and receive information.

Ever-rising expectations of how digital services should work are also being set by global thought leaders, such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Airbnb, to name but a few.

This inevitably influences the kind of online experience your customers expect from your digital services, and if you’re not willing or able to meet that challenge, they’re going to take their custom elsewhere. If it’s not possible to do this, they’re likely to complain about it, often using their social media channels to do this.

Simply put, companies must adapt to survive. In fact, most businesses don’t transform by choice because of the risks involved – digital transformation means they have to.

Digital transformation comes with challenges

As with any large-scale business change, digital transformation presents fresh challenges to overcome.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is convincing people internally that such a transformation is even necessary. This is especially the case for older companies with a deep-rooted, traditional and insular company culture. Everyone needs to believe in the transformative vision for it to succeed and for them to willingly take part.

Equally, if your leadership team aren’t invested in the required change (or worse still are struggling to understand it), you’re not going to see the results you need.

The public sector in particular has to face the challenge of doing more with less. Even if the will and desire to change is there, a lack of sufficient resources to cover the costs of such a transformation makes it nigh impossible.

Public sector organisations also tend to be vast and complex, which makes implementing change that bit more difficult. They often rely on legacy technologies and outdated methods of data processing, which hinders change like moving to the cloud.

It also presents major opportunities

Despite these challenges, digital transformation also presents a host of opportunities.

For the private sector, the kind of business transformation that is required can often shed light on new business models, value propositions and revenue streams they may not have pursued otherwise. It presents a new way of thinking that can truly revolutionise the way they do business.

For the public sector, embracing digital transformation can lead to highly beneficial social outcomes and efficiency gains. Moving to digital-based services can be more cost-effective and also facilitate remote working that was previously unheard of in some public sector organisations.

GDPR is also a major consideration for all sectors. Digital transformation presents a major opportunity to streamline data protection procedures and ensure you are compliant with the strict guidelines. The public sector, in particular, holds an enormous amount of data that needs to be handled correctly. Rather than relying on physical records, moving to a digital service will help keep this information safe and provide greater reassurance to users.

We can empower your company’s digital transformation

At Storm ID, we genuinely believe that there’s no standard way to transform digitally.

Every company needs a unique approach to digital transformation that should be carefully envisioned and planned to ensure seamless execution. Our expert digital consultants can provide invaluable help and guidance on how to improve and evolve your digital services. Get in touch today to start your digital transformation journey.