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Wrting the Book on Digital Transformation

Fix Friends Neil Perkins and Peter Abrahams have written a great book on Digital Transformation. Having worked with them on a couple of projects I know the breadth of their experience and the depth of their expertise, through so many projects. So the book is highly recommended.

This is an extract from their book Building the Agile Business through Digital Transformation on one of the key issues -

Defining digital

In this context of rapid disruption empowered by digital technologies, it

has never been more important to develop a common language within an

organization for what digital really means.

In fact, this is as good a starting point as any for digital transformation.

Ask a hundred people to define what digital is and you will get a hundred

different responses. Developing a commonly understood definition enables

the business to align around just that – a common understanding. Yet so

few businesses actually do this. Since digital is so broad, touching so many

areas of what we do, and since it blurs traditional boundaries between roles,

functions, departments, categorizations, having a common understanding

forms the basis for not only a shared vision and an inherently more aligned

approach, but also the foundation from which to create change.

Many definitions often focus on aspects such as content, video, mobile,

interaction, scale, ubiquity – in other words on what digital does rather than

what digital is. Yet the simplest possible definition is to characterize digital

in terms of binary code (ones and zeros). A method of getting information

from one place to another that is not analog.

In one sense this is helps us to get past the idea that digital is a mysterious,

amorphous, ever-changing thing that is impossible to grasp, and

instead frames it in the context of taking common needs, wants, actions and

delivering to them or applying them in a new way. Digital technologies are

radically shifting behaviours and reinventing entire markets, but that does

not mean that we should forget everything we know about great companies,

great products and great brands.

Yet if we are to form a useful, instructive definition we should take

account of more than the technical aspects of digital. It is often the case that

within organizations there is a disproportionate focus on the technology

itself (new technology for the sake of new technology), over all the enablers

that surround the technology, really bring it to life, and fully realize its capability

(people, behaviours, processes, skills, culture).

When the team that drove the initial digital transformation of service

delivery for the UK Government moved to do the same thing at the Co-Op,

they originated a definition that recognized that when done well, digital

means more than fundamentally redesigning services; it also means changing

the way in which we work:

Applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet era to

respond to people’s raised expectations.        (Bracken, 2016)9

Creating a single sentence definition for what digital means to your business

creates the platform from which change can be actioned.


1 Michael E Porter (2008) Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining

Superior Performance, Free Press; new Ed edition, ASIN: B003YCQ2O4

2 Philip Evans (November 2013) How Data Will Transform Business, TED @

BCG San Francisco, [Online]

will_transform_business?language=en [accessed 16 October 2016]

3 Clay Christensen on Disruptive Innovation, Clarendon Lectures 10 June

2013, [Online] [accessed

3 November 2016]

4 Ray Kurzweil (2004) Kurzweil’s Rules of Invention, MIT Technology Review,


[accessed 16 October 2016]

5 Proven Models, invention innovation diffusion trilogy, [Online] http://www.

schumpeter [accessed 16 October 2016]

6 Charles Handy (August 1995) The Empty Raincoat, Making Sense of the

Future, Random House, ISBN-10: 0099301253

Copyright material. Publisher: Kogan Page Ltd

How digital disrupts 33

7 Dave Snowden (July 2016) Cognitive Edge, … taken at the flood, [Online] [accessed 16 October 2016]

8 Clay Christensen (May 2012) How Will You Measure Your Life?,

HarperCollins, ISBN-10: 1633692566

9 Mike Bracken (June 2016) Co-op digital blog, What we mean when we say

digital, [Online]

digital/ [accessed 16 October 2016]

Copyright material.

You can save 20% if you buy it from the publishers with the discount code PHRBAB20

This extract from Building the Agile Business through Digital Transformation by Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham is ©2017 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.

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