Is Digital Transformation Still Relevant in 2020?

For years, the term “digital transformation” has shaped the way brands approach their marketing plans. What’s beyond the digital transformation?

Source: ojogabonitoo / iStock / Getty

Have you been undergoing a digital transformation for a decade or more? If so, you’re not the only one. I recently spoke to a chief marketing officer (CMO) who expressed his frustration with the ongoing narrative around digital transformation. He noted that his company had been in some form of digital transformation for over 10 years, and although the landscape continued to evolve, he felt like the transformation from analog to digital had mostly been accomplished. When I asked him what was next and what he saw over the horizon, he wasn’t sure. If your marketing leaders are struggling to address what comes after digital transformation, here are some ideas to consider.

The First Step: Digitizing

In many ways, the term “digital transformation” arose from the fact that organizations were largely moving processes from offline to online. Whether related to a workflow or a customer-centered experience, creating a digital counterpart was often time-intensive and resource-heavy. In some cases, organizations are partially online—but increasingly, there’s less and less bandwidth and opportunity for companies that have embraced some level of digital engagement.

The Case for Digital Optimization

As the CMO I spoke with noted, the conversation around digital has never really stopped. If anything, it has become more complicated. There are more channels, more digital platforms, and more underlying technology than ever before. When a company takes those critical initial steps to bring its processes and customers online, the next step is often digital optimization. Digital optimization is the phase in your development when you focus on streamlining workflows, dialing up critical aspects of the digital customer experience, and making sure your online and offline experiences deliver the same level of customer satisfaction.

The Future of Digital Innovation

If digital optimization focuses on the process of streamlining or fine-tuning aspects of the digital experience, another exciting frontier is digital innovation. We live in an age when entire experiences or workflows only exist digitally. The process of innovation isn’t just focused on a more effective way of bringing an offline process online, for example; it’s also about imagining entirely new ways of interacting, transacting, and connecting. As new digital tools give us broader access to data, a wider global reach, and the ability to iterate and create without the costs and constraints of physical infrastructure, transformation is giving way to innovation as we create new approaches to doing business.

If you’re still using language around digital transformation, you’re not alone—there is still a place for this conversation in many companies, and these terms describe what’s happening. But if you’re beginning to wonder how long the digital conversation will remain static before you need to find new language and new approaches, there are important conversations and exploration that are happening in the market that can help inform your pathway forward.