Digital has become such a buzzword over the last 3 years. It seems like every bank, shop, even your local chinese takeaway, is looking at how to go digital or ‘digitise’ their business and ‘ways of working.’ This permeates beyond the common social media presence and having ‘an app for that.’ It’s extending into internal back office as companies seek to digitise their own systems. So today we are seeing not only typical front office functions such as customer service, contact centre, web etc taking on digital change programmes, but also back office departments including HR, procurement and legal. Everyone is getting on the digital bandwagon in an attempt to digitise and keep up. The reasons most often cited are:
- There are a new wave of digital natives, who only want to engage using digital and who only know digital as a way of living. They’ve grown up with technology and they want to… wait for it… “engage” with us in the same way.
- We need to disrupt our business model to become the Uber of our industry and digital disruption is the means to do it.
- Consumers are digitally empowered and their always-on connectivity means that companies serving them must mirror this change in customers expectations and demands.
- Our competitors are doing it
- We need to create a frictionless experience across all our channels. Digital is a way to help us achieve that. If we can mirror existing physical channels onto a digital platform, we’ll also be able to streamline and reduce costs.
But let’s stop and backtrack a second. What is digital? If it’s becoming more agile, less process driven, more experimental and customer focused – then perfect! However a common definition of digital is: social, mobile, cloud, technology and analytics, which I’ve never truly gotten on board with. I think of those things as ways or components of ‘doing’ digital related stuff. The definition I go by when describing digital is the process of continuously improving a business to create valuable processes and deliver a vision of customer experience that uses new technological advances to make dealing with brands easier and faster. The reason I like to define digital as such is because the truth is that technology is a relentless force. New waves of innovation are occurring every year and at a fast pace. These innovations will continue to push businesses, industries and markets forward as they continually test existing business models and for this reason, “digital transformation” is actually just going to be continous improvement. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as digital disruption, but to be honest if you’re still trying to digitally disrupt five to seven years from now, it’s likely to mean you’ve a hopped on a delayed train that you think is yours. It’ll be a bit like your Aunt finally getting high speed fibre optic broadband in 2017. She’s excited, you’re happy she’s finally got it, but it’s been around for so long, it’s a bit of an anti climax.
Let’s take an analogy of a microphone. Using the common description above, digital becomes the microphone (the way of doing something). But if digital is the microphone then where is the song? If an organisation has nothing to say or doesn’t know how to sing a tune, then “doing digital” and putting resources, time, effort and money into building better microphones won’t amount to very much. So it’s time we work on the song, work on the output and the melody we want people to hear and love. It then becomes a process of continuous improvement rather than ‘digital transformation’ – which is never a once and done activity. It’s a way of life now and should no longer be compartmentalised.
So yes, I think it’s time we dropped the ‘digital’ mic and maybe go a cappella.