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  • John Welsh

What is digital transformation?

Updated: Aug 13, 2018

There are seven key attributes to which any company should aspire, according to Ashley Friedlein, and why only a few of them have much to do with technology.

I'm often asked the question "what is digital transformation?".


My response is to listen to an interview of Ashley Friedlein, founder of econsultancy, on the Browser Media blog which I have posted and summarised the first ten minutes, both below.



The key attributes of a digital company (1:11)

Friedlein describes digital transformation as a "company's journey towards becoming a digital organisation...a digital business being one that has two characteristics, firstly it focuses on the customer experience, irrespective of channel, and, secondly has a digital culture."

He then lists what he thinks are the seven key attributes fo a digital culture (1:47).

  1. Customer-centric, irrespective of channel

  2. Data-driven

  3. Makers and doers - build-measure-learn

  4. Transparency and openness

  5. Collaborative

  6. Learning culture

  7. Agile

Is it the internet that has transformed the way we do business (2:45)? Or is that too simplistic?

"Yes, it is broadly the internet", argues Friedlein, where the connectivity of IP protocols has brought about the change in business models and accelerated globalisation.

  1. The internet and associated technologies such as mobile

  2. Big data

  3. Data driven marketing

  4. Connectivity of IP protocols

  5. Globalisation

Are companies forced to deliver digital transformation (4:34)?

"Not necessarily," replies Friedlein listing a number of jobs - doctor, vet, nurse, cleaner - where digital may play only a small part until the arrival of AI. "But for most large businesses, international ones, even some niches ones selling internationally, then yes, it is both an opportunity and a threat."


The four key steps (6:45)

Digital transformation is not for one team or any one part of the business. It is instead a change for all the business touching every element such as finance, HR and logistics. It must, therefore, be led from the top by the CEO.

  1. Strategy - new business models, identifying new markets, pricing and new operating models

  2. People - talent, skills, training, mindsets, ways of working and thinking

  3. Process - rhythm of a business becoming less linear and less static and more agile and iterative

  4. Technology - underpinning the entire business

Types of talent (9:57)

Key to any digital transformation is the recruitment of teams to deliver - a hybrid talent both capable of understanding customers and a "geeky, stat-level nerd".

  • In the past - T-shaped talent - broad-based, soft skills (such as communication, working in teams) matched to deep specialism (data scientists, analysts, technologists, marketers)

  • Now - π-shaped - broad-based skills matched with deep specialism but the latter parallel to an equal depth of creativity, insight and empathy.