The secret to successful digital transformation? BURN IT ALL DOWN

This is Part One in a series on Digital Transformation. For part two, click here.

Firefighter aims water hose at burning wood shed in a farm field.

Companies tend to make a very big deal about digital transformation, paying potentially millions of dollars for consultants and teams to “come do it” for them. In the vein of websites, then e-commerce, then social media and most recently innovation, large companies know they need to engage in the next thing in order to stay relevant.

Let me clear something up for you quickly: digital transformation is not a complicated concept. It just means re-evaluating traditional ways of doing things that may have a digital solution. Even more simply put, it’s a 21st century business makeover. It’s by no means a new concept but it’s newly important as companies discover the cost and time savings of updating certain systems. It tends to apply to solutions that involve a technology element, but can also cover streamlining or redundancy reduction of analog practices.

The place most companies start is with a paperless initiative. This is the toe-dipping of digital transformation. Years ago we stopped printing as many emails (remember the email signatures with requests to save the trees by not printing?) but a truly paperless organization is a much more challenging undertaking and requires cross-organizational buy-in, as well as an overhaul and assessment of every single paper-based transaction within the flow of doing business. THAT makes it digital transformation, and it also makes it successful.

Old Apple Macintosh computer turned off.
Just because it still WORKS doesn’t mean it still WORKS for your company.

If your plan is to upgrade a few pieces of tech and let a few departments request modern updates to their systems, your digital transformation is a bandaid.

For impactful and meaningful change — and to compete with those poised to disrupt your industry — you have to clear the slate. Don’t try to salvage tech investments made in the late 1990s or leverage owned assets. Disregard your hangups and history and imagine that your company is just starting today. Use a beginner’s mindset and let go of assumptions. Maybe run a design sprint or problem discovery workshop to help forget the way we’ve always done it.

Burn it to the ground and start from scratch.

Next time, we’ll dig even deeper inPart Two: Why Empathy is Crucial for Successful Digital Transformation

Dana Publicover is the founder of Tiny Piñata, a consulting firm specializing in empathy-led user research, problem solving and product development.

sales experience designer. founder, Publicover&Co. author, Empathy at Scale

sales experience designer. founder, Publicover&Co. author, Empathy at Scale