It's not just digital and it's not only transformation

Alex Papanastassiou, Integration Manager at Emakina Group, Guest Lecturer at SBS-EM 20/12/2017 Innovation

Over the course of the past few years, we've been witnessing a growing interest in the impacts of digital on companies and on human societies in general. We see considerable attention on technology and tools presented as outside the realm of and independent from culture. There is also considerable focus on the idea of transformation and on the ways in which it can be achieved to help businesses and institutions remain relevant in what is often referred to as the digital era. However, the challenge facing companies is not just digital and what they need to succeed is not mere transformation.


 Find the French version of this article here.


Tools and technologies are part of culture, not exogenous factors

Therefore, science, technology, and engineering are an integral part of the culture and of our mental models about all aspects of our lives including business, strategy, and management. As a practical consequence, it is a profound mistake to think of digital technologies as exogenous to the systems they alter, first by merely existing in our minds as possibilities and then by becoming part of reality.


Digital brings about radical new ways and mental models

With such means being now easy for people to access and use we have the following major consequences:

  1. from access to practice as foundation of advantage
  2. (re)invention of activities with new ways of seeing 
  3. from captive markets to empowered buyers
  4. standardisation of interfaces between systems as a driver of freedom
  5. companies as networks and ecosystems
  6. business as uninterrupted flow of information 
  7. when offline becomes connected 
  8. the journey to evidence-based management


Transformation fails to capture what's needed

Transformation is linguistically associated with a change in shape or appearance and because it suggests a period of transition that is finite. Perhaps transmutation would be a more appropriate word considering the depth and the effects of digital, but whichever word one chooses to use the fact is that it is often applied to the organisations suggesting that they need to transform digitally, when in fact the prime transmutation is not that of the companies or organisations, but rather that of their economic environment.


This is more than just a digital era

Indeed, we speak of digital era because the scientific concepts, the technological constructs, and the technical artefacts belong to the class of technologies relying on mass processing and transmission of binary, however if we were to focus on the effects they have and on the possibilities they offer maybe we would be speaking of an economy of continuous flows. An economy where advantage stems from what one does with what they can access, not from the sheer fact of being able to access an asset. This is definitely much more than just a digital era.


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