Digital transformation Vs. digital evolution

We explore what a digital evolution means for the future of your business

Today, we live and work in the digital space. And there’s plenty of benefits organisations can gain by ensuring they have a slick digitalised operation. Almost 80% of organisations surveyed by Accenture are concerned about competitive threats - in particular those posed by digitally enabled market entrants. From improving customer experience, to helping you stay competitive, when done correctly, digitalisation can be truly transformative. Whilst digital transformation is at the forefront of the business world, we are seeing a shift away from the phrase itself. Here we explore the emergence of the term ‘digital evolution’ as a more accurate way to express our business journey in the digital space.

Transformation Vs. evolution

Although the term ‘digital transformation’ means different things to different organisations, we can agree that it’s about much more than a single change to business operations. A transformation can be defined as ‘a marked change in form, nature, or appearance.’ The implication here is that change is one, linear step. A move from point A to point B. But that doesn’t match up with our experience of the digital space in or outside of work. Compare your experience of Facebook, for example, when you first created your account to how the software looks and functions today. With new designs and features, such as shoppable social, being frequently rolled out, we know change is constant - especially in the digital space.

Many people are then suggesting that the term ‘digital evolution’ is a better fit for the transformation space today. You might think that the terminology we use isn’t important. But it has a lot to say about the philosophy organisations undertake their digital changes with. Evolution can be defined as ‘a process of gradual change or development’. Whilst the phrase digital transformation can imply that there’s one destination or end goal in sight, ‘evolution’ suggests a sense of continual progression.

To bring about a true digital evolution means returning to the business vision and reimagining how it would look in the digital space. A common error in the approach to digital transformation is viewing it as a one-off project, rather than an ongoing journey. Using iterative ways of working, organisations are able to set incremental goals, taking steps towards a wider digital transition. From here, organisations can examine their processes, models and infrastructure to form a new digital ecosystem.

How did we get here?

Digital transformation was a more fitting term in the days of early business technology. Utilising new systems to increase efficiency and productivity made sense at the time. But it wasn’t part of a wider digital strategy. Many organisations are now faced with the challenge of reverse engineering their processes. They must invest in integrating disparate systems and channels to offer both employees and customers an efficient experience. The phrase digital evolution then does well to acknowledge the link between organisations’ past and how this impacts present and future operations.

Digital revolution

In an ideal world, a digital revolution would be extremely beneficial. We’d replace all existing software and processes with new and improved versions overnight. But unfortunately we don’t live in this world. A key component to the success of any digital transformation strategy is keeping it realistic. That means within the time and budget available to you. Organisations must find a way to deliver change and still operate as usual, bringing in steady revenue. The risk of a digital revolution is too high for most businesses. But the vision of digital transformation may be too short-sighted. Digital evolution then offers a happy medium: looking ahead to the technology changes of the future, whilst iterative processes in the present allow you to hit key milestones on your digital journey. In this way, you can improve efficiency, but still allow space to adapt to changes in the market without encroaching too much on every day business processes.

The future

To truly digitalise, organisations must re-engineer every step of their processes. Customers want speed and efficiency. So, the aim is to become API-driven with your front and back end in alignment. Going forward, humans and machine automation will be able to produce a seamless digitalised operation. Customers will then be able to access services simply and easily, whenever and wherever they are.

We’re all operating in the digital space now, and digital evolution acknowledges the process of continual transformation. Our digital evolution will never be complete, but embracing this means making incremental changes today whilst looking ahead to the digital landscape of tomorrow.

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