Is the Use of “Digital” Redundant Yet?
By Betsy Burton
Is the Use of “Digital” Redundant Yet?
Not yet. But let me explain.
For some time, I have been predicting that organizations are going to stop using the “digital” moniker in front of everything. You know what I mean… digital business, digital economy, digital retail, digital marketing, etc etc.
This doesn’t mean that evolving your business towards a digital business or supporting digital technologies is not important.
But rather that it is going to become so pervasive that we won’t need to use the word in front of everything; it will just be business.
Why do I think we aren’t ready to drop this term yet? And when will we be?
Background on the “Digital” Moniker
Organizations have been using the word for at least 8 years. First, most people using the term were referring to digitalization or digitization.
Digitalization is the process of converting assets and processes to a digital format that a computer can read. This can include converting documents, sound, and video.
Later on organizations started to use digital business to refer to new business models that leverage technologies such as cloud, mobile, analytics, IoT and the Internet to reach their clients in very new in different ways.
We define digital business as a business model or models that are specifically designed to enable organizations to proactively reach, serve and support their customers and partners from their contextual perspective (i.e., their personal, physical and virtual context).
What makes digital business specific today is that organizations are taking on these models as their first and foremost way of supporting clients.
Is Digital Business and Digitalization Pervasive?
I’m sure many of you can remember when we put an “i”, “www” or web in front of words to signify Internet. Or when we put “e” in front of words to refer to the use of digital information and communication technologies to support business processes (e-business and e-commerce).
Over time, use of the internet and digital technologies became so pervasive that we dropped using these terms.
So, is digital business or digitalization so pervasive that we should stop using this term? I would argue no and yes.
Digitalization Is Pervasive
The use of digital to refer to converting assets to a digital format is pervasive.
While your CIO may be primarily focused on digital assets (data, content, cloud apps, portals, apps and web-site) and your COO may be primarily focused on physical assets, these are all your business assets. And they should be viewed as part of your portfolio of assets regardless of their physical or virtual state.
Therefore, in conversations with IT staff and the CIO, the term may hold some weight, but within the business, these are just assets.
Digital Business is Not Pervasive
If you consider any technology company, the concept of digital-first is pervasive.
And in fact, many of the leading companies today started doing digital business first. And all the current small start-ups today are doing digital-first natively.
But this isn’t true for many of the traditional products and services companies. Furthermore, the adoption of digital-first business models differs wildly by region and industry.
Digital business first is more pervasive in Northern Europe and in many parts of Asia than in the Americas. It is also more pervasive in retail, communications, and financial services than in healthcare, mining, and transportation.
Use of technologies that can enable business, such as mobile, cloud, analytics, IoT, etc. is pervasive. But the tough work of defining and supporting new business models that are designed with these technologies, plus AI, are not pervasive.
Even though we’ve been using the term for several years, I believe we’re still going to be using it for at least the next three to five years.
This is because many organizations have not really taken on what it means to be a digital business in terms of changing and transforming their business models.
Furthermore, we are finding several examples of new and emerging technologies such as digital labor and manager, where we need to distinguish between human labor and an AI-enabled labor force.
My last piece of advice is that if a technology or service provider or a manager or peer uses these terms, make sure you’re clear about what they mean.
Do they really mean the adoption of new business models, or do they just mean the use of digital technologies?
The differences can save you significant investments in people, business, processes and technologies.
Catch Jim LIVE on January 23rd, 2022 with VP of Research, Betsy Burton for a complimentary webinar on the
“Top Ten Technologies for 2023 and Beyond.”
This blog is a part of the Business Transformation blog series by Aragon Research’s VP of Research, Betsy Burton.
Missed the previous installments? Catch up here:
Blog 1: A New Blog Series on Business Transformation
Blog 2: What Are the Benefits of Supporting Business Architecture?
Blog 3: How Do Business Architects Gain and Retain Management Support?
Blog 4: How Do We Find and Recruit Great Business Architects?
Blog 5: Is a Charter Necessary to Start a Business Architecture Discipline?
Blog 6: Product Managers Can Make Great Business Architects
Blog 7: 4 Necessary Steps to Successfully Start a Business Transformation Effort
Blog 8: Developing an Executive Business Case Presentation for Business Transformation
Blog 9: How Do You Model Business Transformation?
Blog 10: What Is a Business Capability Model?
Blog 11: How to Develop Valuable Business Architecture Deliverables?
Blog 12: Yes, Meta Is Conflating Its Metaverse with AR/VR on Purpose
Blog 13: Business Transformation Change Management Requires Good Governance
Blog 14: Using Business Model Canvas to Express Future-State Business Model
Blog 15: How To Make Business Transformation Less Scary
Blog 16: Meta and Twitter: Examples of How Not to Do Business Transformation
Blog 17: TOGAF as a Business Architecture Framework Has a Core Flaw
Blog 18: Thankful For My Life Transformation Mentors
Blog 19: Transform 2022: Top Technologies Presentation
Blog 20: What Do You Do About Low-Code/No-Code Citizen Developers?
Blog 21: Practice Integration and Inclusion Not Just Acceptance
Blog 22: Define Positive Performance Metrics for the New Year
Blog 23: Calling All iPaaS and tPaaS Providers: It’s Globe Time
Blog 24: Business Transformation Lessons Learned from Salesforce
Stay tuned! We publish a new blog every week.
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