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Understanding digital transformation versus other technology change is more important now than ever before

By 29th July 2021March 27th, 2024No Comments
A woman and a lightbulb behind her representing our digital transformation blog

This blog is based on our webinar: Digital transformation vs IT transformation from July 2021. Watch the recording or sign up to our other webinars for insight and inspiration on our webinars page.

Effective digital transformation unlocks future business value

In just two years the Covid pandemic has turned the world upside down. Organisations have had to rapidly adapt to remain relevant, with those that haven’t lost by the wayside. Home working is now widespread. Online shopping is more popular than ever. Organisations and people exist, and are required to operate, in the digital realm much more. It’s shown digital to be an essential part of the mainstream. In essence, the world was forced into a new normal.

If  organisations are to survive and prosper in this new normal, they need to reimagine strategies and operations to unlock future value through digital technology. Empowering people to innovate and harnessing organisational data through AI and automation is no easy task – especially if organisational understanding and attitudes towards digital transformation remain rooted in the near past.

By reappraising our approach to business change, we can benefit from recent societal changes, unlocking true organisational potential and growth.

The evolution of digital

A telephone and mobile phone representing an IT transformation

If your organisation is to change and harness the potential of digital transformation, knowing which stage of the human-digital context we’re in is useful. Digital has existed in the societal consciousness for a long time. In fact, there are three ages of digital – we are in the third.


Representing the largest shift in terms of technology and societal psyche, digitisation was the phase in which we changed from analogue operations to digital. Think after the second world war as computers, digital industries and economies, and digitised processes developed and altered how we interacted. It could be argued that this phase represents the single biggest learning curve for people as the change between analogue and digital was so vastly different. Or was it?


In this phase, digital technologies are widespread. For example, businesses, homes and schools have computers, international banking is digital, and mobile phones are increasingly popular. Much of the advances made in the digitisation era evolved. By now, people were using ever-present technologies to do things faster, to increase efficiencies, and expedite organisational processes. The fundamental difference between this phase and the next is during this phase, processes largely remained the same and technology was used not for change, but for speed.

Digital transformation

We’re currently in the digital transformation phase. Technology and technological process is ubiquitous. Indeed, some people (Millennials, Gen Z) don’t know a world without it. Almost everyone has a super-computer in their pockets. Online transactions are in the billions a day. Pretty much everyone uses technology. The key difference between this and the digitalisation phase is that technology is so advanced (5G, device capability, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc) that it empowers people to completely reimagine the way things are done, instead of just speeding up old ways of working. And because people can reimagine strategies and operations; done properly, digital transformation offers huge potential for creating new value for your organisation. And it’s this feature of creating future organisational value that sets digital transformation apart from say, IT change.

Characteristics of digital transformation versus IT projects

You could be forgiven for thinking digital and IT transformation are the same – each is about process, governance, culture, people. There are however, fundamental differences. Being able to identify both enables you to pursue the right kind of programme to create new value.

A diamond and report box representing digital transformation

Digital transformation

  • Digital transformation is a holistic approach to organisational operations and strategy change
  • Everyone in the organisation is part of it
  • Sponsors and champions exist throughout the organisation
  • Reimagines processes through data-led and automated methods
  • Creates future value for your organisation
A tool box and money being cut representing IT transformations

IT change

  • Looks at a subset of organisational operations and strategy 
  • Commonly led by the IT department 
  • Operate on a top-down sponsor model (CIO leads the project for example) 
  • Updating old tech for cost reduction is a key objective 
  • Internal productivity / speeding up existing processes 

At the heart of digital transformation is a programme that takes the time to understand what people – internal or customers or both – want and need from the change. And done well, a digital transformation develops future growth by understanding the needs of the audience and tailoring the approach to match. This people-centric, bespoke approach is important as people increasingly expect high levels of digital savvy and integration in all aspects of their lives.

Why people are so important?

Two hands with puzzles representing creating a digital transformation

People-oriented digital transformation programmes have increased in frequency not only because the types of technology have changed, but primarily because the people using them have changed. The generational demography of the workforce is considerably different in this age of digital, to previous digital eras. Most of the workforce are Millennials and Gen Z. They’re digital natives and haven’t known a world without technology. As such, the majority of your people – employees and customers – are used to ubiquitous and ever-changing technology and expect to see ever-improving solutions in the workplace as it’s what they’re used to at home. For a long time, IT departments have said you can’t expect to have the same technology in work as you have at home. But people do, attitudes have changed.

Your employees and customers no longer have blind brand loyalty. If you’re not meeting their digital needs, they’ll simply go elsewhere – a new employer or a new supplier or provider. And how they choose the new is often digitally, through social media, with decisions based on their lived experience or the experiences of people they know and trust. They want an easy experience – buying, learning skills, internal process etc. should be seamless. And seamlessness means everything is connected using new technologies to its full potential. So how do you make sure you’re delivering the digital transformation people want and expect?

How do you deliver a digital transformation programme?

Truly delivering a digital transformation programme instead of an IT change project takes time and investment. Understanding the differences and the importance of a people-focused, holistic approach is essential. It’s also critical to understand how digitally mature your organisation is. By assessing your organisation’s digital maturity using data already available, you gain actionable insight and behavioural analysis.

Image states: understanding ther differences and the importance of people-focused, holistic approach is essential. It's also critical to understand how digitally mature your organisation is.

Inform’s digital maturity assessment takes around 30 minutes and gives you a set of achievable recommendations that will work with your people and help you reimagine strategic goals and unlock future value. Our data-led maturity assessment also enables you to benchmark where you are on a scale of other organisations, and can be used with our to deliver digital transformation. By applying a rigorous, scientific approach and analysing your current organisational digital maturity, you can plan to deliver a digital transformation programme for your people.

Get in touch to find out about our people-focussed approach to digital transformation and how it can help you reimagine your organisational operations and strategy, and ultimately create future value.

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