Putting the digital into digital transformation

Written by on September 13, 2017 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

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In case you hadn’t noticed, the word digital is everywhere. We’re all digitally transforming or digitally enabling or embracing the digital economy (or not). There are those of us who hate the word because it seems oddly out of date – telecoms having ‘gone digital’ decades ago. We remember when digitalisation simply meant making information available online or in electronic format, or moving away from analog.

But a closer examination of the term reveals that there’s been what linguistics call a semantic drift. That’s a fancy way of saying the word has changed its meaning.

 In fact it’s now a buzz word and its definition is both handily vague and incredibly circular. It can be stuck in front of any other word to make a new marketable concept and, as such, it fills the semantic gap left open by forerunners such as ‘electronic’ or ‘internet’. Remember the days when everything was ‘internet-enabled’ or 2.0?

In short, digitalisation is no longer meant literally, but is used to convey modernity – that some new sexy technology will change or improve something. It’s frequently used in the following way: ‘The Apple watch is an example of digitalisation at its best where technology has taken an ordinary watch and introduced technology into it with phone capabilities, messaging and even internet capabilities’.

I won’t deny marketers their due. Take the word and use it dear marketers. It was more or less on the linguistic scrap heap after all. You have redefined it, recycled it, polished it. But please stop piling digital on top of digital to make a whole heap of digital nonsense. Take this shining example from the wordsmiths at Gartner: ‘Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business’.

In short, digital transformation is also the process of taking an innocent word and distorting it so that you can make your marketing work better. Please just don’t overdo it.

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Teresa Cottam

About the Author

About the Author: Teresa Cottam is the chief strategist with industry analysts and strategy consultants Omnisperience. She is an expert in BSSOSS and a judge of customer experience for the GSMA’s Global Mobile Awards. Teresa founded the company to focus on three core issues: improving operational efficiency, increasing commercial agility and delivering a better experience to customers. Teresa’s experience of a wide range of industry verticals, as well as deep telco experience, enables her to advise on both business level and execution strategies, and produce influential analysis on key industry trends. You can follow her on Twitter @teresacottam .

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