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Digital requires a new mindset, a new way of working, but it does not change the basics. You must still align everyone with the organisation’s purpose and objectives. Digital, done well, is a new way to achieve your objectives faster and at lower costs.

Directors tend to fear digital transformations as they are not clear what they will deliver. My research confirms the need for greater clarity up front. I asked directors, ‘What do you find the most challenging about governing a digital transformation?’

Examples of what directors told me are:

  • ‘Establishing and tracking quantifiable benefits.’
  • ‘The clarity of the endgame … ’
  • ‘Being clear on the conditions for success … ’

Over 50% describe lacking clarity on the benefits of digital as being the most challenging.

The first step in getting this clarity is agreeing what Digital means for your organisation. Digital’ has no single globally agreed definition. Vendors take advantage of this lack of clarity by packaging a wide range of products as ‘digital’. Such an approach only adds to the ambiguity and confusion.

I recall when the term ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) was taking off. Every vendor was trying to say they had a SaaS offering. I was in a meeting once with a vendor that will for obvious reasons remain nameless. I asked a few questions to determine if their offering had the characteristics you would expect from a SaaS solution. The vendor could not show one of those characteristics, so we wrapped up the meeting and thanked them for their time.

The problem is this is not an isolated incident, and digital is no different. Today, everything is ‘digital’, everyone is ‘going digital’. And why? The term ‘digital’ helps sell products and services and helps organisations secure budgets. It’s as simple as that.

Organisations must take it on themselves to define what digital means. If organisations don’t define digital, we will continue to see investments made that fail to meet expectations.

I sympathise with executives and boards. Half the time the internal IT department cannot agree on the definition of digital. So, what is digital in the context of an organisation and their desire to ‘go digital’? The characteristics of digital are about people, how they interact, and how they support each other. Technology, or to be specific internet technology, plays an important role in digital, but acts as an enabler.

I define digital as:

Leveraging the internet to help organisations be more inclusive in how they innovate to solve customer problems.

How do you define digital?