What is digital transformation? In my mind it’s a few things – it’s a story, it’s a process, and it’s the overarching business challenge of our times.
The concept is connected to the economic upheaval we’re seeing not just from the utilization of the Internet, but from the reshaping and reimagining of business models as digital technology makes it possible to serve people in entirely new ways. If there is one perfect example of a company that encapsulated that, and shook an entire industry that was set in its business model, it is Uber.
I haven’t been able to sit through a tech conference keynote in the last three years without hearing the speaker raise the example of Uber. (And I’ve been to a lot of tech conferences). The example is often raised as a flaming torch of disruption, an ideal to aspire to and demonstrate that in the new 21st century economy, any new player could become a billion-dollar enterprise overnight if they have the right business model and a commitment to execution.
But Uber’s flame burns brightly as a warning as well. It’s a flame that the leadership of older, more established – or dare I say, legacy businesses – are simultaneously drawn towards yet find the light to bright to stare at for long. Uber’s story is always put forward as one of disruption.
Around the world, the established business model for personal transportation services in urban areas was standard. You’d either call a cab company and ask them to get a car to your location as soon as possible, or at a scheduled time. Worse yet, you’d walk into a high-traffic intersection flailing your arms and shouting loudly in hopes of flagging down a ride. Then you’d have to instruct the driver on how to get to where you wanted to go, often when you didn’t really know where it was. In the back of your mind, you always wondered if you were getting ripped off.
Uber disrupted that business model by putting customers first, and it accomplished that with digital technology. Suddenly instead of waving your arms in the street, you just had to tap an app on your smartphone. Where you were picked up and where you were going was all taken care of by the service, mapped out in a transparent manner for driver and passenger alike. A transparent cost estimation is given, and payment is made seamless as well. That’s what digital transformation looks like.
Stories of Uber are told again and again at tech conferences because it’s an archetypal tale. One that not only alludes to David vs. Goliath, but to the lazy ruler that’s clueless to his imminent dethroning by the dissatisfied mob. When you hear the story of Uber, you are either seeing yourself in the role of the victorious disruptor, or as the potential victim of that disruption.
If you see yourself as the disruptor, we want to hear from you for the Digital Transformation Awards. If you’ve looked at the tale of Uber as a cautionary tale and are now working to transform your own business to take a customer-first approach powered by digital technology, then this award show is made for you. Victims of disruption need not apply.
We’ve launched a new Digital Transformation section to share examples of Canadians that are committed to digital transformation at their own companies. We’ll also bring you guidance on the path towards digital transformation and trend reports showing how companies across all industries are heading down that path. Digital transformation is about re-invention of the business from the inside out. It’s something we know well here at ITWC not just because we write about it, but we’ve gone through it ourselves as we’ve transitioned from a B2B print publisher that sent out magazines to office addresses into a digital media content publisher that still puts journalism at the core of our service.
Join us in this trend and join us at the Digital Transformation Awards. Nominate yourself or another worthy candidate today.