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David Burk

Why It's Called Digital Transformation

Newness Is Not the Same As Transformation


James Wynn of Stone Yamashita Partners did an interview in 2012, just about the time "digital transformation" was emerging as a concept, and told the story of Russell Brand, the English actor and comedian. Brand said his heroin addiction simplified life because he didn't crave new things all the time--new car, new house, etc.--he just craved one thing. He pointed out that we confuse newness with innovation.

"Specifically, the right way to think about innovation is transformation."

What so many companies are in need of right now is transformation. Digital transformation. I write about this frequently, but lately I've been working on making the definition shorter and shorter. Here goes.

Digital transformation is about increasing revenue and reducing expense by increasing the use of digital technologies and methods.


Digital Transformation Applies to Products and Marketing

For products, companies must think about how all products can contain a digital element or integration, hopefully with a sharing or viral component.

For marketing, organizations must be structured to create content. As legendary ad writer Howard Gossage said, "People read what's interesting to them, and sometimes that's advertising." Oh, and how about the stat that is two years old about how 70% of a buying decision is made online.


Digital Transformation Applies To How We Work

With a requirement that more and more deep expertise is required to manage just about everything we do now, systems of communication and collaboration are imperative. A client of ours has adopted a mantra: Transparency and Integration. They get it. You should, too.

There is no such thing as oversharing. As an entrepreneur many times over, I have always appreciated a small office space. Everyone hears everything and it means fewer meetings. Virtualize this with new communications tools (Slack, HipChat, etc.) or Project Management Platforms (Podio, Jira, etc.).


Digital Transformation Is Hard


Eggs get broken. People hate change. Hey, even plants hate change. Ever move a ficus?


The point is that digital transformation isn't like the old joke in which a fellow leaves his predecessor a note in the desk drawer that says, "Hire a consultant." It's a conscious and deliberate effort to avoid the "newness trap" and to grow into a business imperative of our time. A consultant can help (heck, call me), but hire a consultant to help you build it, not one to take it outside. You can ask an outside firm to model the behavior and methods to kickstart it; but you need to rebuild it. You need to make it better.


You can read the whole James Wynn interview here.



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