Buzz words – don’t you love them? No, me neither. So when I first heard the phrase "digital transformation", I cringed. So what is it? My research started with looking into the Fourth Industrial Revolution... When did that happen? What does it mean?
The gov.uk website states: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is of a scale, speed and complexity that is unprecedented. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies – such as artificial intelligence, gene editing and advanced robotics – that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds. It will disrupt nearly every industry in every country, creating new opportunities and challenges for people, places and businesses to which we must respond.”
Gulp... that sounded a bit scary, like some future dystopian world – are we going to soon live in a world run by robots? Did this mean my job will be replaced by artificial intelligence? Then I thought, hmmm, new opportunities and challenges. Maybe this could be an exciting thing! When do I get a flying car or bionic legs? But hang on, when will this amazing digital transformation happen and if it already has, why didn’t I notice?
The fact is, it’s been going on for years, right under our noses. We're surrounded by technology that uses artificial intelligence, we have Siri on our iPhones, Alexa in the kitchen, Tesla self-driving cars, drones, 3D printers, software that translates for us... the seemingly endless list grows daily.
Even back in the 1990s when businesses started using spreadsheets and word-processing tools, these soon began evolving so that companies could track sales and orders, so maybe this wasn’t something brand new, though perhaps things may feel like they are speeding up.
I wasn't yet closer to understanding "digital transformation" so I turned to my reliable digital friend Google and stumbled through more buzz words: "blockchains", "enterprise resource planning", "the internet of things", "predictive analytics"... hang on, this was just getting more confusing. "The internet of an endless rabbit hole" would have been a more accurate description of my research.
Then finally something clicked for me (see what I did there?): Digital transformation – the keyword was transformation. The digital side does play a part but that is just it – a part of it.
Really, digital transformation is just about using amazing technology to help a business or organisation transform and improve what it does – whether that is helping customers in a better way, or providing the employees with a better way of working. Whatever that improvement is, ultimately it’s about transforming that business or organisation to be more efficient, more productive, more effective, with some tech thrown in to help. Sounded good to me.
Really interestingly, I also found that without addressing the processes and people side of things, digital transformation is more than likely to fail – so not only do we need the tech investment, we equally (and maybe even more so), need to invest in our people as well. Yay, looks like the robots will still need us mortals to make digital transformation a success. And relax.
In March 2020 you may have noticed things changed quite a bit. For me, this meant running and converting our face-to-face classroom courses to virtual events. Over the years I had run a couple of very short courses virtually, but I was hardly an expert. Initially, yes last year's transition was tricky as I learned new ways of working digitally and creating new methods for achieving the same objectives, but at the same time it was really exciting and really dynamic… and you know what? I loved it! We had the same engagement, the same learning achieved, the same fun and – perhaps more importantly – the same great results for our customers.
My own work became digitally transformed and this new world quickly started to feel very comfortable; within a couple of weeks I was no longer a novice but actually felt at home. Things had changed but it felt good, it felt exciting and it worked!
I really like people and I also like to learn, which is a good thing because at QA we do too and our purpose is to help power the digital revolution through people. In fact, the Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness practice team I work in have our own vision, mission and purpose, which is completely in tune with the not-so-scary world of digital transformation. Makes sense now, right?