Digital Transformation. You’ve probably heard that phrase thrown around quite a bit in recent times. And you certainly wouldn't be alone on this. Our Head of Digital Strategy, Stephen Gillespie, is here to explore why these words have been robbed of their meaning.

One of the lowest impact headlines I have ever written, and apologies for that!

‘Digital’ and  ‘transformation’ are two words that are banded around an awful lot together. Often in business speak and in terms of programmes of work, application or software development.

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And with good reason, digital truly has transformed the business landscape. Not more than a decade ago every local cab company had a name that was a collection of A’s (AA Cabs, AAA Cabs, A1 taxis). The reason being is that they would always be the first listing you would find in that category in the Yellow Pages. For private hire cars, like many other things, the Yellow Pages owned the long tail business until Google transformed the industry. They created a rather nifty application that removed the need to store and use a thick alphabetic catalogue. Twice the size of the average laptop.

Today you simply type in your requirement and Google does the rest. It considers the popularity of the various suppliers, their locality and proximity to you. The number of other people who chose that supplier and how carefully they have built their website, so that the page you are being prompted to visit will open quickly on your mobile. Convenience was a key component of Google’s innovation.

And you know what doesn’t impact it so much? The letter it begins with. The business name has absolutely no relevance to the results they give you.

As a historic anomaly if you type AAA Cabs into Google you still get some results. But ultimately if you need a cab in any major city in the world, you probably just reach for your phone and look for the Uber app. It really is remarkable that a cab company beginning with a U (one of the last letters in the alphabet) could be so quite so successful. But Uber’s position is, as a result of digital transformation. Think for a minute on the industries transformed by Google and Uber’s innovations. You will realise that a minute is really not long enough.

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Entire industries have been created off these two innovative applications. And the wider repercussions of two discrete apps will continue to be felt in areas such as the automobile industry, public transportation, marketing, and how we view our careers in the gig economy

Not all technologies have truly transformed the world in the way that these two have.

But technology does transform markets – and organisations. Transforming the way services are delivered, the way margin is acquired, and the way customers are engaged.

Our work for Eason ensured they could compete in an industry which had seen massive transformation. However, to create this change successfully,  required the involvement of the entire Easons business. The paradigm had shifted and as an organisation they needed to look very carefully at how they sold books.

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Owned by the IT team, the project required deep engagement with marketing and trading, but touched the entire retail network to facilitate ‘click and collect’. This created Eason’s second largest retail outlet on their web platform, second only to their flagship store in the centre of Dublin.

Prior to engagement with the business, they needed to ensure great engagement with customers, because when Eason challenged the conventional wisdom, this needed to be done on sturdy footings, developing new checks and balances along the way.

The rethink cut as deep as fundamentally reimagining what customers needed from the Irish bookseller. When sacred cows don’t hold as much value as they once did, they are not sacred any more. As a result of rethinking their place in the lives of consumers and developing a sales platform which delivered this aspiration, Eason’s has seen revenue uplifts of as much as 75% in one year alone.

Digital transformation at best is the rethinking of the way business is conducted, redefining the interactions that consumers require and developing fresh ways of creating the consumer interactions which keep your business healthy. This often requires the commitment of the entire organisation.

Sometimes when I hear the words ‘Digital Transformation’ I fear it is a phrase that is applied to a complicated piece of development. This does not do justice to truly insightful, transformative work. As for the cheapening of the word awesome, well that ship sailed long ago, there is no saving the profound gravitas of that word, but hopefully you get my point.