Why This CEO Does Not Believe in Digital Transformation

digital transformation enterprise

I recently asked people on LinkedIn to explain how their companies are trying to achieve meaningful organizational change. Most said with “greater efficiency” through “digital transformation” — with technology as the way to realize those efficiency gains.

The drive to transform is an honorable one. Unfortunately, too many companies are fixated on the wrong goals. Technology is a means to change an experience — implementing new technology is never the goal.

In the past, larger companies that I worked for pursued change through “innovation initiatives.” But with the promise that technology makes our lives easier and more productive, corporate imperatives have become more specific — with technology playing a leading role.  

Companies are being forced to rethink how they innovate, and technology is at the core of achieving better outcomes for customers and employees alike.

That is why the most common type of organization-wide change discussed is the so-called digital transformation. Yes, I said “type.” This is because I do not believe in just one form of transformation. The scope of what it takes to enact true change for customers and a company is much broader than just introducing new technologies.

This is because analog is still just as important as digital. Human interactions matter and that has nothing to do with artificial intelligence, blockchain, or autonomously driving cars. In a world ruled by human thoughts and emotions, technology is just another tool to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. Digital is not an end game.

Our team at Aha! has been talking about these issues with our enterprise customers. These conversations form our understanding of what many companies are going through right now. And we have started defining it in new terms — described by us and inspired by the ways we are seeing our customers take on the future. We call it “enterprise transformation.”

We believe there are actually three major types of transformations to deliver meaningful impact in any large enterprise: digital, solutions, and data.

Your company may be like most others working to incorporate new technologies — this is wise. Or your team may be investing in the data needed to identify better outcomes. Or you may be coming at it from a Go-to-Market focus, looking deeply at how you serve customers more holistically with solutions.

Enterprise transformation does not require embarking on all three types simultaneously. Every company is unique in its strengths and challenges. However, all organizations that are trying to transform in a meaningful way must put experiences at the core of their goals. These companies understand that technology is just a tool to get there. Focusing on capabilities, projects, and technology alone is not enough for true innovation.

True enterprise transformation requires a different mindset today versus the innovation projects of the past, as you can see in the table below. Your investments and actions must revolve around customers rather than whatever technology makes possible. This is a fundamentally different approach to innovation for company and product builders than what took place even five years ago.  

Yesterday Today
Goal Capabilities Experiences
Approach Technology Solution
Organized by Projects Outcomes
People Analog Digital native
Teams Silos Cross-functional
Development Waterfall Agile
Releases Semi-annual Daily
Purchasing Formal sales No hassle
Accounting Assets Expense
Feedback Councils Everyone
Control Vendor Customer

To truly delight customers over and over, you have to continuously solve the problems that people face in an elegant way. This takes work. It demands a holistic outlook. And it requires a real commitment to what I call The Complete Product Experience (CPE).

So what about those three types of enterprise transformations — digital, solutions, and data?

I will be writing more about enterprise transformation and what it requires in detail. With all three types, product managers are in the best position to understand what customers actually want. Product managers are the builders of new experiences and processes — they are leading organizational change from the front.

So let’s stop talking about all transformation as simply digital. In today’s dynamic markets, what companies really need to take on is an enterprise transformation.

How do you define digital transformation?

Read more about enterprise transformation.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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  1. Logan Vadivelu

    Digital transformation is not just about technology, its an enabler for an organization to go through a process to reinvent itself to completely change the way it operates and serves its clients. And, enables its employees and senior management to accomplish the goal of transforming the organization.

  2. Terry Bennett


    The ultimate goal of ‘digital transformation’ is the growth & sustainability of your business. Period.

    Customers have changed. They know more about your company, your pricing, your quality, etc than ever before. They have the capability to easily compare your offering with similar ones around the globe, order from anywhere, and get delivery to their home or office – perhaps even in the same day. Technology enabled that…and it also has changed our societal culture. Businesses have to respond to that or suffer the consequences.

    It’s unfortunate that the term ‘digital transformation’ has in the minds of some become just a technology play. And I would suggest that calling out 3 types of transformation (digital, solutions, & data) certainly doesn’t simplify things. The transformation that is required involves culture, business models, etc. Again, it is about transforming to grow & sustain your business.

    You might be interested in my article – http://www.institutefordigitaltransformation.org/digital-transformation-its-about-the-business/

  3. Emily Swearingen

    I stumbled across your company from searching for a remote job. I absolutely love your philosophy and the methods you use to create solid workplace environments. I feel if every business utilized your formulas and ways of thinking, the majority of workplaces would thrive in a much happier & successful environment. I would love to work for your company but I do not have any qualifications for the current jobs you offer. Thank you so much for writing & sharing amazing blogs that people can truly read and implement in their lives easily. Sincerely, Emily

  4. AO

    What do you think about telemedicine and informatics allowing innovative exchange of data? It is fragmented because of cost, platform agreements and end users not using platforms to its ability or efficiency but it is improving. UHC is very digital but besides innovation they’re trying to create corporate culture ambassadorship that is starting to trickle through some 80’s style management. It takes time to trickle. They do have many work from home but not from anywhere since it is still controlled with a workforce mngmnt similar to the UPS guy handheld ticker and any other locations require preapprovals. How else do you get solid work from such masses?

  5. Daniel Walker

    The relentless pursuit of big data without knowing what to look for will lead many companies to a dead end. Big data and cloud mining might work for real data companies but that doesn’t mean every one should be having it as their focus. Its the .com bubble all over again.

    Ive been involved with systems which can pin point your location within a supermarket to find what you are looking for but no one ever stopped and asked “wouldnt the locals shoppers already know the stores lay out?” We were just obsessed with over thinking the solution that needed a bigger problem that really was not there.

  6. Chris Geiser

    Processes and people are the most important piece of what is being termed as digital transformation. The tools and technologies are enablers in allowing those people and processes to serve the customer and add value to the business. Our teams use aha.io to help our clients visualize that transformation over time and create the plan for making it happen.

  7. walter eaton

    Oh good lord. Many companies that are product driven and successful don’t need to be lead through the nose by Information Technology. All that does is enable them to send their blue prints to china faster.

    The on prem products and services we were told we needed 15 years ago we are now told we need to pay to migrate it to the cloud, because the cloud is better because….it’s the called the ‘cloud’. and without the cloud we wouldn’t need dual internet connections in case one fails and that keeps engineers in employeed configuring all that infrastructure that moving to the cloud is supposed to lower ROI with by getting rid of it. Don’t ask…just do what we tell you.


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