What is digital transformation?

Published: 17 December 2015

Digital transformation is changing the way we live and work today at an astonishing pace; from how we calculate taxes or keep track of our pensions in the public sector to contactless payment and smart home devices in the private sector.

It is a phrase that seems to be everywhere at the moment, but what is digital transformation?

Digital is something that can be quite hard to define; in its broadest terms it is any technology that connects people and machines with information or each other. Digital transformation is a wholesale change that touches every function of a business, which is driven by technology.

Digital technology is one of the biggest disruptors in business today and there are three key drivers of transformation: changing consumer demand, changing technology and changing competition. It can also significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency by providing simpler and more convenient services and products for the customer. It has completely changed the nature of work and competition; driving significantly higher profit, productivity and customer benefits when it is done well. 

The success of a digital transformation depends on senior management buy-in and a willingness to lead cultural change; clear direction and initiative from a strong digital leader is essential, but what makes a good digital leader?

  1. VISION – anyone leading digital transformation must possess vision and industry insight. They need to have the ability to see the ultimate destination, even if the steps in between are not so clear. 
  2. STRATEGIC – a clear digital strategy that is supported by leaders will help a transformation run smoothly. A tactical leader will bring the strategy into reality.  
  3. ENGAGING – employees need to be engaged to make the vision a reality. A large part of digital transformation is the culture change within the business. A tenacious leader will keep people on the journey as it continues to move forwards. 
  4. COLLABORATION – digital impacts the entire business and requires co-ordination, digital is everyone’s business. 

Digital is key to surviving and thriving as a company and digital leaders are in high demand with substantive market worth. Businesses need to consider their strategy in order to attract, engage and retain the right people to drive them towards the digital future we are already in.

Rebekah Honour is a specialist researcher in the Technology practice at Berwick Partners identifying, engaging with and placing senior IT leaders across public and private sector organisations. 

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