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Digital Transformation definition

Author's avatar By Alexander Clark 29 Jan, 2016
Essential Essential topic

Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace and many businesses are struggling to keep up.

In recent years, the introduction of 3D printing, intelligent robots and self-driving cars are all facilitating a technological change that is happening at lightning speed all around us. As soon as authorization has been passed, installation occurred, implementation process finishes and users are comfortable using a solution; predictably a shiny new thing appears on the horizon and the process has to start all over again.

Digital TransformationBruce Weinelt (Head of Digital Transformation at the World Economic Forum) highlights how industry “is being driven by a staggering range of new technologies that are blurring the boundaries between people, the internet and the physical world. It's a convergence of the digital, physical and biological spheres.”

But what is Digital Transformation?

"Digital Transformation” has had a variety of definitions, some useful, some vague and some far too complex. Here are a few, which will hopefully help develop your understanding.

In Cap Gemini define Digital Transformation as:

“the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises”

A relatively broad definition, which doesn't offer much insight into the implementation of processes or even how technology is used. It also neglects the outcomes of digital transformation, however it does act as a solid starting point to understanding the role digital transformation has.

Accenture refers to Digital Transformation as:

realigning and investing in new technology and business models with a specific focus on the customer experience”

Again, this is still a little bit vague, however by mentioning the investment in new technology further develops on the idea of the processes used to instigate digital transformation throughout a company.

The Altimeter Group have gone into more detail to define it as:

“The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

This definition further develops the ideas of the previous two definitions, by providing a more detailed understanding of the processes put in place to facilitate Digital Transformation. By highlighting that digital transformation aims to "effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle" this definition also identifies the purposes and results of digital transformation. Something the previous two, somewhat neglect.

Dave Chaffey recently wrote in “What’s Driving Digital Transformation?” a definition which again, is a little more specific:

"A staged programme of business improvements to People, Process and Tools tools used for integrated digital marketing to maximize the potential business contribution of digital technology and media".

In the same article, Brian Solis commented with definition:

The realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.”


Looking at all of these definitions it's clear that digital transformation is implemented through...

  • Investment and/or Realignment of new technology and/or business models
  • Whilst identifying the need for a change of internal processes to increase the efficiency and effect of the new technology/business models.
  • To reach a stage of being able to effectively contend against competitors.
  • By means of engaging with customers/increasing service quality and speed

What are the implications?

Simply put, it’s too tough to give a blanket answer. It varies from industry to industry, with transformations happening a lot quicker, perhaps with small increments, in certain industries e.g. Retail; compared to that of the industries where there is a monopoly , such as the Electricity and Gas.

One thing is for certain however, and that is that it's definitely something to be aware of, as it “is allowing us to do things we have never been able to do before. Suddenly we are able to do things in 20 minutes that used to take 20 days. The challenge for companies that are big is – how do you make sure that everyone involved in an organisation feels that there is a revolution going on?”.

Author's avatar

By Alexander Clark

A former member of the Smart Insights team, I’m always on the look out to collaborate with the finest minds in Digital Marketing. Currently working at Silverbean, I have a distinctive interest in all things outreach, content, strategy, and measurement. If you’d like to get in touch, you can do so through my LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. When I’m not planning new campaigns and content, I love playing the Bass Guitar and Drums (not necessarily at the same time) also racking up as many hours as possible on Football Manager and the Rugby pitch.

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What is it? Digital marketing definitions and glossary

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