Russell Skingsley

The Fear and the Fascination with Digital Transformation

Blog Post created by Russell Skingsley Employee on Aug 21, 2017

There’s little doubt in my mind that there have been two drivers in the current mania around what vendor marketers are calling ‘Digital Transformation’ or the rather less descriptive and even less appealing ‘DX’.


Having spoken to many organisations over the years, even before it was known as ‘Digital Transformation’, I have come to the conclusion that the motivators for such dramatic change are either fear or fascination.


The fear comes from the feeling that change is necessary because if you don’t change then some new upstart with an App and an Amazon account will destroy your industry.  The fascination comes from the feeling that there is something amazing to learn from this bright new visionary who is set on improving the world – with an App and an Amazon account.


From this starting point, the approach to digital transformation is formed and the seeds for success, or otherwise, are sown.  HDS recently sponsored some research with Forbes in regards to the subject and it was found that one of the key factors in success or otherwise for Digital Transformation projects comes from whether the project is embraced by the organisation as a whole or whether it had been relegated to the IT team to do. Sufficient to say it was the latter approach that almost always resulted in failure.


My feeling is that this could probably be traced back to the original driver of fear or fascination that gave rise to the dreaded or blessed Digital Transformation project.  In all likelihood if fear was the driver then someone handed the hot potato to the IT team as quickly as they possibly could. If fascination was the driver then chances are the lines of business were enamoured with the idea and truly wanted to make it their own, turning it into a project championed by all.


It seems to me that companies have seldom managed to transform as a result of fear, some people point to the demise of great logos of the past, I won’t list them here, but you probably have a mental list of them.  Was it a case that they were not afraid enough?  Many would suggest that they were so complacent with their success that they didn’t realise the barbarians were at the gate.  Was it that they did not have enough fear?


I’m not so sure.


Apple is often held up as the example of a company that has transformed itself a number of times emerging stronger every time.  They do not seem to fear anything and if you look at the great ‘Stevenotes’ of past Macworld events you can see the fascination for a future of possibilities and a willingness to be their own disruptors.


In the foundations of a Digital Transformation project one will generally find fear or fascination and I am sure one is much more likely to lead to success than the other.  Embrace change for the future, it’s fascinating.