Here we are, in the second half of 2017 and 'digital transformation', as an industry term and practice, is mainstream.

Virtually, all digital agencies and consultancies are offering services and solutions, of various flavours, under this digital transformation umbrella. Most now recognise that it's much more than just a technological and business transformation; it also encompasses many human aspects including mindset, behaviours, beliefs and culture.

It's a fast growing industry, which the innovators and early adopters have been involved in for some time; in fact, for a good number of years.

Question: Has anyone transformed yet? Has anyone actually reached that light at the end of the tunnel? 

It's an interesting term 'digital transformation'. It implies a changing of states, from one to another, which is misleading. The light at the end of the tunnel is perceived to be the point where the journey ends and you've finally reached that destination you've been striving for; free to bask in the glorious sunshine.

If you view the tunnel through this one dimensional lens, and believe there is a destination to reach, don't put a timescale on it. Because, apologies for being the bearer of bad news, you won't get there, you never will.

Technology will continue to advance, rapidly, and behaviour will also change, you will always be playing 'catch up'. There is no destination. Instead, you should move your focus away from the destination and to the pace of your transformation.

If I may, I'd like to propose you look at transformation in another way. Let's look at it sideways on. Take yourself out of the tunnel and view it from a disassociated persepective. It looks very different. That light at the end of the tunnel is not the sunshine. Yes, it's still something we should still be striving for, but rather than it representing a static end point, we should view it as a moving target, one we should try and keep pace with. You see, the light is actually the 'tail-light of technology' and all that it drives.

The Transformation Tunnel

To stretch the metaphor even further, it's the vehicle that's creating the transformation tunnel, and over the years we've done our best to keep it in sight and help the organisations we work for, or work with, navigate towards and through the zeitgeist of the day, and whatever label becomes the defacto term to give it.

Transformation is a continuous thing, it's a constant evolution, the rate of which is getting faster, day by day. Therefore, to be successful is about your ability to rapidly evolve. To adapt to the rapidly changing environment your business is operating within, how this environment is changing, and what you need to do survive and ideally, thrive. It's 'digital Darwinism'.

Standing still is not an option. Inertia is your worst enemy. The Boardroom that pontificates and procrastinates is doing a lot of harm. The competition, the ones who operate in an Agile way, happily testing, learning, building and iterating as they go, are the ones who are succeeding. They are able to move through the tunnel at pace, picking up speed, keeping that light bright and in sight, overtaking their competition and seeing them disappear behind them. 

They have recognised there can be no excuses for standing still. Whether it's the perception that legacy IT systems and architecture are too big and expensive to change; or there aren't the right skill sets on board; key staff retention is poor or there's a lack of vison and leadership; there is always a starting point. Each situation will be different, but think big, start small and scale fast....as fast as you can.

Karl Havard

Published 22 August, 2017 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a Partner at PA Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

23 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Anne Bienia

Anne Bienia, Senior Strategy & Performance Manager at Cancer Research UK

Really great post, thanks Karl. Maybe digital evolution would be a better term to use!

about 1 month ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks Anne. Agree with you about the term for today, although I can see a time in the not so distant future where the 'digital' label will become obsolete.

about 1 month ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Patrick Kaltenrieder, Senior Consultant Digital at Internetagentur iQual

I totally agree with both your comments. In my point of view the currently used terms are fitting to the topic.
Digital is currently true, because most business do have the digitization as most pressing topic.
Transformation is also ok, because if you don’t have a starting point and an end point then you are not able to assess the progress and your situation properly. This does not mean that the journey and the change is over, but that there is a need to set new goals or to adapt the current ones.

28 days ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.