Part I – Typewriters for Bloggers: A Digital Transformation Analogy

Part I – Typewriters for Bloggers: A Digital Transformation Analogy

This is the first blog in a multi-part series designed to educate and inform on the concepts of digital transformation and industry 4.0. I am doing this for a few reasons but primarily two central ones; first, these terms are incredibly important for companies to understand if they want to remain competitive, and secondly, it seems obvious that confusion and misunderstanding of these concepts are the cause of many failed attempts to embrace their benefits.

These terms closely relate to each other and they are applicable to any industry, not just the tech economy. If you’re not embracing them in some practical way, frankly, it’s highly likely that your company will become irrelevant or completely lose its competitive advantage over the years to come. As such, its worth understanding the concepts beyond the superficial and misleading level.

Over the next short series, I seek to explain what digital transformation and industry 4.0 is all about. I will discuss what a successful transformation process looks like, the various benefits you are likely to gain, and how to avoid the pitfalls that create failures in over 70% of the attempted transformations.

So… lets start by separating the two concepts and focus only on understanding digital transformation.

Digital Transformation is More than Just Hype

Digital transformation can seem confusing and hard to understand. Why? because if you google “Digital Transformation” you will most likely find yourself assaulted on the first page or two with ads using different definitions in order to sell you products or services in that sphere of influence. This is where the confusion starts and its really annoying. The term is important right now, its in vogue, and most people are interested more on hype than understanding.

I find this also tends to be a Tech trend; merging concepts together into an industry-specific hype journey to sell products and integrated services in a way that sounds super complicated and mysterious. It totally sucks. Especially when good concepts and benefits are made abstruse because of jargon soup. So, lets steer clear of definitions for the time being and develop an understand of the concept by way of analogy.

Analogy: The Typewriter and the Word Processor

I present to you a simple analogy for understanding digital transformation—blogging via typewriter vs word processor.

The typewriter employs an entirely mechanical process to record a desired output, in this case a blog post. To write the document, you would press each key in order, and in each instance it would then use a lever to cause a hammer to punch an ink ribbon against a piece of paper to record the blog, letter by letter. Each time I press a button, the outcome is logged on the paper; permanently.

Using a typewriter is obviously faster than hand writing a blog, but the output is immutable, unchangeable over time. If I discover, as I often do, that I have misspelled a word or created a grammatical faux pas, I am likely in trouble. I am going to have to start all over to correct the error. I can’t change the physical output after it has been created, and there is also no guarantee that the second attempt wont result in a similar terminal error. People are great at making mistakes.

If blogging were my job, this medium for blogging would, and does, cause me to suffer a loss of productivity.

Now consider the same blog being written on a word processor. The input is the same, I press buttons in the same order, but now, in lieu of levers smashing a physical output, the letters are stored digitally as 1’s and 0’s. In this format everything can be manipulated, changed, altered, or deleted after the fact. Nothing is permanent until, and this is the important part, I choose to make it that way. Now, not only can I correct mistakes, but I can also review the document with various programs to change its style, substance, and grammar. I can also choose a different medium of output; email, social media post, printed paper, etc. This dramatically empowers me, the blogger, to exponentially extend my audience reach.

The Importance of Digital Transformation

The method for capturing data about any particular process is important and you can rest assured we will cover this a little later in our series. For now, understand that the process of digital transformation is simply taking some physical real-world process and giving it a digital foot print. The reason we do this is no different to the reason we write blogs on a word processor and not a typewriter; to create an output that makes us more productive and that we can do more with.

Typewriter

The inevitable outcome of not embracing digital transformation should also be pretty clear right now. If you stay the same and your competitors become dramatically more efficient or are able to customize their products and systems in ways you can not; your going to lose. You’re using a typewriter, stop it.

Just as I could not compete as a blogger by stapling my typewriter posts on street boards and lamp posts, if you’re not innovating with digital transformation you will eventually lose. Good news, it’s very simple to get started once you know what the hell people are talking about when they say “Digital Transformation”.

Now I hope you do.

Make sure to follow A4 on LinkedIn or Twitter to keep up with my upcoming blogs – my goal is to bring your #DigitalTransformation and #Industry40 awareness to the highest level!