Anita Brearton: No More Digital Transformation?


Is it time to retire the term “digital transformation?” Anita Brearton, CMSWire contributor, says yes in this Q&A with Managing Editor Dom Nicastro.

When we write from personal experiences, that’s a unique perspective no one will have. Ever.

CMSWire Contributor Anita Brearton does just that in her column earlier this year on digital transformation. From where did she draw her inspiration? A bathroom at an airport.

“The reality is that for most companies, digital transformation has come from the ground up, department by department,” Brearton wrote. “Sadly, there’s no switch to throw; it’s all incremental. Companies have been making great strides in technology adoption and evolution.”

Check out our Q&A with Anita on her digital transformation:

What Is Digital Transformation Anyway?

Dom Nicastro: Hey everybody, Dominic Nicastro here, CMSWire managing editor, with one of our CMSWire contributors, those who come from the trenches and give us all their infinite wisdom on our website, Anita Brearton. What’s going on Anita?

Anita Brearton: Hi, Dom. Thanks for having me. This sounds like we’re gonna have a fun discussion. 

Nicastro: We are. We’re just going to empty the tank here on all things digital transformation, because that’s your latest article on CMSWire, talking about the very subject of hmm, is it time to just never say digital transformation again? I mean, that’s the thesis of your article, right?

Brearton: It is, it is. And it’s funny, because if we say yes to that, then it cuts off other inspirational ideas for writing articles. I’ve written so much about digital transformation over the last few years. But yes, I think we’re at a point now, where I think that terminology needs to be retired.

Nicastro: Especially since we were using it long before COVID too. I mean, I remember our past DX Summits, our conference that CMSWire puts on in Chicago, where we had it in Chicago, now it’s virtual. I remember these practitioners actually talking about digital transformation back then, 2015, ’16, ’17. I mean, it was out there. And now, to me, it’s like, and I think you mentioned in the article, this is acceleration. It’s not transformation. I mean, it’s not transformation, this has already happened. We’re accelerating now.

Brearton: Yeah, it’s really interesting, because when I started writing about digital transformation, you know, what people were talking about, at the time, were these big corporate initiatives, like somebody was being given responsibility for digital transformation. And I think for many, that made it too big of a mountain to climb, and too daunting. And people weren’t sure what that actually meant to people getting wrapped around the axle. Do we have to have AI to consider it digitally transformed?

And really, at the end of the day, what digital transformation means is bringing technology, more and more technology, into the business, to make processes more efficient and automated, and using technology to create innovative customer experiences, right? So if you approach it from that perspective, then you realize, well, we’ve been doing this, right?

Marketing is, like, the best example, right? We’ve just bolted up marketing with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tools, the average marketing departments using as many as 250 tools at one time, technology tools to acquire and engage customers. And marketing is always trying to innovate in that last moment of how they engage and where they engage. And they’re using technology to do that.

But, you know, when you think across the rest of the corporation, I mean, you know, outwardly, we’re seeing all the signs of digital transformation: go to the airport, you don’t, you can check in yourself, you can even print your own luggage tags; you know, you can Instacart your food, you’ve got QR codes for restaurants, right? So we’re seeing, you know, evidence of what used to be called digital transformation.

So I think, kind of talking about it as this big behemoth thing, it’s doing everybody a disservice. It’s really, you know, technology is here to stay in the corporation. Yeah, I can’t think of a job in the corporation that doesn’t require technology. So it’s really more about technology, strategy, acceleration. How we introduce, how we connect, you know, who’s in charge of it, all of that. So I don’t think we need to talk about digital transformation anymore. I think we’re all digitally transformed. And if we weren’t before the pandemic, we certainly are now.

Related Article: Is It Time to Retire the Term Digital Transformation?

Getting to the Technology Source of Truth

Nicastro: I know. One of the points you make in the article, too, on CMSWire, is organizations, despite all the influence of technology, they’re having trouble finding an actual center of truth, like with their technology stack, like why is that? What are you seeing out there?

Brearton: So I think one of the things that’s really interesting is because of how technology has been brought into the organization. So it’s at the point in time at which we started to introduce technology that was kind of at the same point of time that SaaS was being introduced. And so all of a sudden, you know, we can pay for things in $10 chunks every month and $50 chunks for a lot of technology. And so people have kind of not run amok because it was not ill intentioned, but people have grabbed technology to help them improve things and do things better, or try new things. And that has been very distributed.

And so corporations are now saying, hmm, we have all this technology, we’re spending all this money on this technology, are we getting a return for our investment? And they have no way of looking at that because they don’t have a source of truth. And so they don’t know what they’ve got in their basket. And, you know, and a lot of technology today, in order to realize the value of it, it needs to connect to something else. So if it has not been connected to other platforms, then they’re not seeing the value of what they’ve paid for.



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