A2Z Blog

Digitisation Vs. Digital Transformation

This blog in brief

A2Z Cloud Limited’s CEO, Lucy Beck discusses the concept of Digitisation and Digital Transformation and discusses the difference between the two in this deep dive on the topic. 

Digital Transformation – Are your feet on the ground or is your head in the clouds?

For all my working life I have been hearing about the paperless office, the transformation of working lives because of “computers”. Indeed I have benefited from “selling the dream” for approximately 32 years from being at IBM when they launched their first PC, through Desktop Publishing to Purchase to Pay automation.

I have even had one of my first clients track me down 25 years later to thank me for “transforming his life” (I got him into Macs and digital page makeup in late 80’s), but whilst I love all things tech, and truly believed in what could be achieved, I was always frustrated that even major projects for companies like Dixon’s (aka DSGi and Curry’s) and TXU never quite delivered the ultimate goal despite their clear success.

Digital Transformation

Why? Because it was just so challenging to bring about the radical change that was required to make these type of projects really fly and capitalise on what the tech could really deliver. That was until Covid-19.

Suddenly and in effect overnight there was the massive need, and therefore motivation to affect a truly radical change and the technology to support that change in an incredibly tight timescale. It was a case of adapt or die.

Businesses that were ‘bumbling along quite nicely thank you’ and had never really made the effort to look into the future to what might be had to grasp the nettle and get on with it. Some have grown wings and are flying, others are going to disappear and become fading memories. Primark anyone?

As I read an article in the Guardian by Howard King, “Businesses don’t transform by choice because it is expensive and risky. Businesses go through transformation when they have failed to evolve,” and boy has the pandemic forced us to evolve!

So as I consider “what the heck is Digital Transformation?” and google it I get blind sided by all the technical and economic jargon by people with far more intellect than me, I rapidly come to the conclusion – this is nonsense. Digital Transformation is a Mindset change and anything related to technology in the context of that mindset change is simply the enabler.

What I mean by that is simply putting in a cloud based CRM with some process automation, while increasing productivity is not transformative. It is “digitisation” of your existing process. Ordering 500 laptops and moving all your staff to home working within 48 hours, and totally changing your business model from B2B to direct to consumers the following day – now that is transformational!

The fact that you had a cloud based CRM, a modern internet based telephony system and one or two other critical pieces like collaboration tools, and instant messaging simply meant that you had the tech in place to support such a radical shift in your business model.

So although an important element of digital transformation is your choice of technology, in our experience at A2Z Cloud it’s usually more about more about shedding outdated processes and legacy systems – the mindset change – than it is about adopting new tech.

So how and where do you start if you don’t have a compelling event like Covid-19? How can you ensure you have the correct selection of Lego blocks that can rapidly be reconfigured overnight, to cope with the next sidewinder that comes along, so you can radically change your processes over night, should the need arise?. Better still, how can you plan rather than just react?

There are several approaches to digital transformation. Our favourite is a process-led method. With this method you draw a picture of what you are trying to achieve. This picture gives a clear illustration that will fundamentally shape your interactions with customers and staff. You will be able to easily re-define how you go to the market.

Critically, we don’t try to do everything at once. We use a series of micro projects, that when combined form the whole. By taking this approach we can very quickly disassemble the various components and then reassemble in a different configuration to experiment if a different approach produces a better outcome.

Using interactive tools such as Skore that focus on “what” happens at each point and helps you to visualise the impact across functional and business boundaries, has the added benefit of enabling you to start measuring some form of return on investment. After all, if you can’t quantify the benefit, why are you starting on the project in the first place?

For me just implementing the technology has never been sufficient. Technology needs to be specifically tied to managing key performance indicators at a strategic OS operational level such as revenue growth, customer life time value or acquisition cost, and business process efficiency.

Having a series of projects that can be bolted together has the added benefit of protecting your investment. It works because you are constantly getting immediate business value or killing things that don’t work.

Although IT will play an important role in driving digital transformation strategy, the work of implementing and adapting to the massive changes that go along with digital transformation falls to everyone. For this reason, digital transformation is a people issue.


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