There is only one type of transformation

Is there such a thing as Digital Transformation…really?

You have a kick 'A' digital strategy, you are noted as being a digital leader, you have a budget, a digital hub, some awesome tech being installed…but are you really happy with the results so far…?

Digital Transformation is touted as the solution to a burning platform – that of the maturity of technology against the painful inability of businesses able to keep up with, and take advantage of, a constantly changing customer expectation and need.

But what does Digital Transformation really mean in terms of delivery and outputs?  It’s safe to say that for the most part, Digital Transformation has the output of new, or updated technology within an organisation - ranging from a complete technology redesign, a move from legacy to cloud, or a specific new technology implementation (CRM maybe), all the way through to perhaps giving mobile devices to the workforce. Each one of these examples can and does get described as Digital Transformation – but is it just really transformation?  In terms of delivery there is process redesign that is often included, some skills training that is sometimes included, a communication campaign perhaps developed and of course a change programme that is hopefully implemented.

Digital Transformation can be whatever you want it to be, from building a website to complete business wide transformation that takes an inside out approach.  People will tell you that you are right, people will tell you that you are wrong, but who cares - the point is; that whatever kind of transformation is being delivered our customers still feel unfulfilled during and after - engagement levels are usually lower than anticipated, change continues to be a really hard slog, and projects and programmes continue to fail. So why?

Because we got it all wrong! When digital started it's rise to fame it was seen to be all about technology modernisation and process change. And thus, we’ve built up the global market (according to IDC digital transformation (DX) technologies will grow to more than $2.1 trillion in 2019) that is dedicated essentially to these two areas; technology and process, with one glaringly obvious omission – the people.  Yeah a few skills here and there and a change management programme to support your shiny new tech or uber redesigned process, is definitely in scope – but why still, is there that niggling feeling of something else being missing, a feeling deep in your gut just keeps saying we're doing this the wrong way?

People? Mindset? Culture? – isn’t that about being human beings with emotions, feelings, ideas? Yes, but that’s not got anything to do with the serious world of business right?


Our direction as a company over the last 4 years has led us to understand that we are not in the business of digital transformation, we are indeed in the business of we have defined as People Centred Transformation.

Realising that what people think, how people behave and the skills and competencies they possess - seen as a collective whole - is far more important to the success of any transformation programme – digital or otherwise. It has been a journey we've taken by breaking down our customer transformation programmes into those that have achieved outcomes versus those that have just outputted some numbers or delivered an on time - on budget programme. What we found, time and time again, is that any focus on people as thinking, feeling and reacting human beings somehow gets lost in a shroud of mystery and beliefs that such things belong in the world of 60's psychedelic liberation not in the world of process driven business and the world of transformation. So we've been on a mission; trying to get leaders, technologists, marketers, transformation experts and change managers to get more in tune with their human side and start focusing on change by names not by numbers.

We believe that People Centred Transformation is the only transformation that is needed, and we're proving it over and over with a growing list of customers who are making transformation about re-humanising business not de-humanising business. (I suspect that this is perhaps one of the success factors of Amazon and Tesla as they increasingly stand alone in terms of growth, progress and success on the global business stage).  Transformation must remain being people centred from start to finish and not start with a people focus then revert to a set of processes or a technology project because that's all we know.

If we understand what people think, how they behave and the skills they possess we can add context and relevance to why our business is in the situation it is in (culturally and financially). why our shiny new technology doesn’t have much engagement or workforce buy-in, and why our amazing new product doesn't seem to be resonating with customers.

People Centred Transformation can be defined by two simple design principles:

  1. That all people be considered equal. To be customer centric you must first be audience focussed - and treat everyone equal for the part they should play towards success. The worker, the customer, the supplier, the partner, the leader and of course increasingly the crowd.

  2. That transformation prioritises human mindset and behaviours. Skills training and job titles just don't cut the mustard anymore; we follow a simple three step journey that always considers behaviour and mindset before maybe putting someone in a room and giving them agile training: that three step journey is what we refer to as THINK, BEHAVE, ACT.

Following the People Centred Transformation approach will support and nurture the right behaviours and mindset (across worker, leader, customer, partner, supplier and crowd) to give you lasting success, it will give you everything you need to move your business forward whether it’s a speedboat or a Titanic – it will shift, I promise you.

So, do we ditch the process re-engineering, change management, technology transformation efforts and expertise – of course not. People Centred Transformation is your mandated parallel to anything that involves change or transformation. However, if you want to start what you think is a digital transformation don’t. Build a people centred transformation programme and do it right.

Back in 2014 we talked about the importance of people, culture and connectedness when making organisations adaptive and transformative. Our message is still the same and even stronger today than ever before: people must be at the centre of all change and transformation, as human beings and individuals not as guinea pig groupings or numbers on a process map - this is the gift that technology has provided us, the ability to serve the individual by name, not by number.

For just as we noted back then, even Andy Warhol said that it’s not time that changes things - it's people.

Welcome to the world of People Centred Transformation!

Digital FuturesMel Ross