How many times have you heard or seen statements such as:

  • We’re No 2 worldwide in Digital Transformation
  • We’re helping the <sector> in their Digital Transformation
  • We’re the leading practitioner in Digital Transformation

When I suggested that Digital Transformation is a meaningless statement…

I’m not sure what it means either

…was the response of a Sales Director in a leading tech consultancy. It’s a little surprising that if we don’t know what it means, but we use it all the time? Perhaps that’s a little unfair as it’s defined in several ways depending upon the context. This comprehensive article, provides some useful examples.

Perhaps we should just dissect the term and see what we find.


How many people actually know what digital means? If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that it meant expressed as a discrete number*, as opposed to analogue (a continuum). But, unsurprisingly, nobody says ‘we’re going to replace our analogue customer service by…’.

*Or precisely, according to the OED:

‘Of signals, information, or data: represented by a series of discrete values (commonly the numbers 0 and 1)’

It is really synonymous with being ‘on the web’. But ‘web’ has become an unfashionable term and ‘we’re going to move our business onto the web’ sounds so noughties. We needed a new phrase and Digital Transformation happened to fit the bill.


Transformation has come back into vogue, it was popular in the mid-’90s, as it plays to CEOs needs. Few CEOs are happy to lead with a strategy that says ‘we’re going to evolve’ or ‘we plan to make incremental improvements’, even if that’s what the company requires. And as a consequence Digital Transformation became the de facto phrase, somewhat meaningless as it is.

Does it matter?

My only concern is that by giving this undefined process a moniker, it becomes something special. And consequently, something that we decide to hive off into a separate department, rather than part of the core business.

If we want an honest conversation, perhaps we should see Digital Transformation as just transformation. You and you and your leadership should see transformation as business as usual. If you don’t, another company will, as this article The battle is for the customer interface so clearly points out.