Digital transformation means change

Claudia Leurink van Universal Media

Digital transformation, according to Wikipedia, refers to the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. Digital transformation may be thought as the third stage of embracing digital technologies: digital competence → digital literacy → digital transformation. The latter stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support the traditional methods.

Wow. So that’s what it means. No longer enhancing traditional methods. Adapt or die. But how to do so in a traditional environment most people work in? Most industries as we know, are still based upon old business models. Banking, Telco, Travel, Media. You name it. Companies in these industries find it very hard to transform their business. So every now and then a disruptor comes in and changes an industry. We all know the Ubers, Tesla’s, AirBnB’s and WhatsApp’s. But when are we going to see a fundamental change in the traditional companies? Or: are these companies not able to make fundamental changes because they simply don’t know how to make money based on new business models. Should we just stop what we’re doing right now and start up new companies with the knowledge and know how we have based on new technologies, society, benefits and needs.

Why would Mercedes even bother in investing in the technology of a selfdriving electric car when Google and Tesla are way beyond? What’s in it for Vodafone when WiFi and a smart phone is the only thing consumers really need to communicate? Do these companies even have the resources, the technology, the budgets and the right people to make a fundamental change and change the industry? And more important: how do you find the right people to work for you, if ‘everyone’ wants to work for Spotify, Booking and Tesla instead of Sony, Thomas Cook and Toyota? Old industries have to make their industry and their products or services sexy again. Work on new business models. Give their workers the opportunity to work on innovation and transformation instead of globalization and consolidation. As a company you have to be part of the transformation instead of the victim of change. Even better: try to lead the transformation!

Think big. Start small. Start your own transformation today. Change the way you look at the market, your product, the environment. One of my favourite marketing professors Theodor Levitt said it already in 1960 (…) when he published his article Marketing Myopia: “companies should stop defining themselves by what they produced and instead reorient themselves toward customer needs.” No one before had so aggressively and practically made the case for centering companies on customers, and his ideas continue to shape marketing practices even today. So you see: old ideas still work, are still good, you just have to reinvent them and transform them in today’s world.