A recent report found that 94% of businesses said that digital transformation was high on their list of priorities and 51% said they’re moving on these priorities in the next month.
Yet a separate YouGov study found that 54% of employees either don’t understand (20%) or misinterpret (34%) the meaning of digital transformation.
When more than half of employees are confused by the meaning of a top business priority, there’s not exactly a recipe for success. McKinsey determined that 70% of digital transformation attempts fail.
Digital transformation has become a catch-all term that can mean anything and therefore frequently means nothing. Too often, it’s treated piecemeal. One department in an organization may think of digital transformation as a SaaS implementation and another as centralizing customer data. A recent headline on the digital transformation of Colgate-Palmolive cited TikTok videos.
Former P&G VP Tony Saldana frames some of the challenge this way:
“The term ‘digital’ is fuzzy. Real digital transformation, to be precise, is the rewiring of an existing enterprise so that your physical product becomes smarter, your go-to-market models become more digital, and your internal operations become at least two times as efficient.
“But it’s a journey of five stages, all the way from automating your typical accounting kind of stuff, which is stage one, through stage five, where not only have you changed your processes, people and other rewiring, but your organization culture becomes completely digital.
“Being extremely clear about what you’re aiming at and being very precise on what stage you are on that journey is the No. 1 issue that most companies face.”
Without clarity on what we mean by “digital,” there’s no way to drive “transformation.”
Here are a few related cartoons that I’ve drawn over the years.