Are Digital Transformations Obsolete?


Are Digital Transformations Obsolete?

By Braden Kelley

Technology is not always the path to innovation, but it is easy to forget this.
It is easy to take shortcuts and not spend enough time finding problems worth solving and to not carefully define the right problem to solve.

Keep your eyes and ears, and all of your other senses, peeled for all potential solutions, not just the high technology ones.

Technology is seductive and marketers are skilled at making a technology-based solution seem like the easiest solution or even – the only one. But often, if we keep our minds open and our field of vision spread wide, we may notice low technology solutions that solve the problem either better or in more sustainable ways or in ways with additional benefits.

Digital Transformation Gets Disrupted

Technology providers corrupted the term ‘Digital Transformation’ to the point that the two words don’t mean anything anymore unless you spend five to ten minutes reeducating people on what a digital transformation actually is in the era of digital natives and continuous disruption.

Detractors might also say that digital transformations are obsolete because all transformations leverage one or more digital solutions to drive improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.

Just what is a digital transformation?

Wikipedia’s bad definition of Digital Transformation:

“Digital Transformation (DT or DX) is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.”

— Wikipedia

This Definition of Digital Transformation Gets Closer, But Still Isn’t Right:

“Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.”

— EnterprisersProject

So, let’s dig into what Digital Transformation really is …

A digital transformation is the journey between a company’s current business operations to a reimagined version of itself from the perspective of how a digital native would build the same business operations leveraging the latest technology and scientific understandings of management science, leadership, decision science, business and process architecture, design, customer experience, etc.

A digital transformation can only be successfully achieved if you put customers and employees at the center to create a human-centered data model and explore the intersection between what’s needed and what’s possible to simplify processes, reduce complexity, and to design elegant experiences.

The key thing to remember is that technology comes at the end, not the beginning, starts by making strategic choices, and focuses on identifying and building the needed capabilities to execute the new strategy.

Here is a quick review list of ten things to keep in mind for a successful digital transformation from my previous work:

1. Reimagine your business from a digital native perspective
2. A Human-Centered Data Model (customers & employees)
3. Put your customers and employees at the center
4. Identify intersection of what’s needed & what’s possible
5. Simplify processes
6. Reduce complexity
7. Design elegant experiences
8. Technology comes at the END – not the beginning
9. Start by making strategic choices
10. Build capabilities needed to achieve your transformation

Focusing on these ten things will help you overcome the fact that according to research by Michael Gale of PulsePoint Group that 84% of digital transformations fail.

True digital transformations are the largest change initiative or business transformation that you can undertake. Possibly you may want to engage in a series of smaller transformations instead, to train new muscles in your organization capable of eventually lifting the heavy weight of a true digital transformation.

While digital transformations are not obsolete, they do require careful planning and the use of tools more powerful than the traditional project charter and project plan, tools like those from the toolkit powering the Human-Centered Change methodology.

If you’re not sure what that is, grab a copy of book Charting Change and learn more here. The key to success lies in a more visual, collaborative way of working designed to get everyone literally all on the same page for change, transformation or innovation.


Braden Kelley is a Human-Centered Experience, Innovation and Transformation consultant at HCL Technologies, a popular innovation speaker, workshop leader, and creator of the Human-Centered Change™ methodology. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons and Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden is a US Navy veteran and earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on LinkedinTwitterFacebook, or Instagram.


By Braden Kelley

Keywords: Digital Transformation, Digital Disruption, Change Management

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