The term digital transformation is being bandied about rather a lot at the moment.
That’s fine – people often argue about words and phrases and what they mean and whether they are helpful.
Usually they aren’t perfect but do a job as a sort of shorthand that everyone has a broad – if occasionally divergent – understanding of.
However, if by transformation people are meaning making a lasting and sustainable change in the way an organisation works (which is how I understand it), then I don’t think transformation is what you really want.
It’s a bit like words such as disruption. Disruption is a good way of getting people to notice something – but it’s not always in a positive way, nor in a way that will convince people to come with you.
Transformation to me feels big, and quick. Maybe that is what organisations want. I don’t think it is what they need though.
Developing the culture of an organisation is hard work, and it takes a long time. For digital transformation to happen, it needs to be incremental and slow. It has to be given time to bed in, for the laggards to catch up, for everyone to be comfortable.
It also has to take place in small chunks, not trying to fix everything at once.
Remember, ‘digital’ is all about small changes, made responsively in line with the needs of users. Not frantic efforts to build giant edifices.
Organisations need to use the mindset, skills and tools of digital to make digital happen, otherwise it makes no sense, and just won’t work.
So, if you’re planning a digital strategy, or are in charge of digital transformation, make sure you start small, iterate, don’t promise too much, and don’t be tempted to go for big, flashy high profile activities. They might make a short term splash, but won’t change much in the long term.