Digital Transformation… Snake oil by any other name

The term digital transformation has long lost any meaning and the ability for a sane human being to define it without getting into linguistic knots. Yes, I too was an advocate or is that proponent of the digital transformation, aka DX. But, today I stand slightly hung-over - truth be told I am sitting and paying dearly - and converted. My belief is any business selling digital transformation is selling snake oil. There I said it, day-old Dutch courage in tow.

So coming off my high-horse I will try to unknot myself, and convert myself into someone whose viewpoint is well understood. A lot of businesses sell digital transformation, these range from system integrators, the large consultancy firms, telcos, etc - they list it on their websites, in whitepapers, in videos, and in extreme cases their name carries. the promise of. transformation. The Wikipedia definition of digital transformation is

Digital Transformation 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
Reading that, it is pretty conclusive that business evolution has been wrapped in a 'DX' bow and presented as something new that companies must have. When in actual effect transformation is a key component of business longevity, whether it is a printing press or a steam engine they all must transform to maintain relevance and survive.

In the vast majority of businesses, transformation is as routine as a restaurant changing its decor, or a company outsourcing its manufacturing to China. The typically unsaid message delivered in the digital transformation message is the seller views themselves as more transformed than the buyer. From this lofty vantage point, businesses are turned into test subjects of how to do their business better, by someone with less expertise in their business. One must digitally transform themselves, but should never buy a digital transformation message.

To the business owner out there grappling with transformation and how to stay competitive, the best thing you can do is know more about your business, your industry, and your people than anyone else. Knowing those 3 things will empower you to purposefully evolve your business to take advantage of new tools; just as changing from a rotary dial to a push-button phone enables you to dial triple the numbers and not break your finger! To take advantage of the transformative digital tools you must know your business better than the digital experts, they only bring a piece of the puzzle.

A coconut cannot compete with a stone - Swahili proverb