Diary of Digital Transformation – Two complaints, Digital Transformation and tortured analogy from Swallows and Amazons.
Matt Riches
By Matt Riches

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Dear Diary

I start today’s entry with two complaints. The first is that unlike my previous ‘proper’ social media posts that were cumulatively read by two family members and a man called Ken (who was keen to understand whether I wanted to make an extra £500 per day from home) my previous diary entry was, in contrast, ‘reasonably well received’. I have, therefore, concluded that with the notable exception of Ken (who is both a man of integrity and a man who will still accept a cheque), the population of social media are simply sensation seeking voyeurs peering into my private pain for their own edification!

Secondly, not content with press-ganging me into authoring this journal, those shadowy figures who exercise editorial control over my private diary also added an addendum to my previous diary entry stating; ‘Stay tuned for Matt's next diary entry on the thorny question of what digital transformation actually is.’ So not only am I forced to bare my soul on a regular basis now, even my free will and freedom of expression has been stripped from me. What’s next? When this gets released will it contain the strap line ‘Stay tuned for Matt’s next blog when he discusses bovine yeast infections!’?

Now, as you are beginning to realise Dear Diary - and I’m not proud to admit this -  I can be somewhat petty. I would like to be able to say I am ‘belligerent’ or ideally even ‘defiant’, but unfortunately nature has not imbued me with the requisite courage so I must limit myself to trivial acts of non-compliance. As such I will answer a different question than that imposed on me… whilst also addressing the original question (as I said, I’m not that brave).

I will therefore cover two questions in today’s entry - the apparently ‘Thorny question of what digital transformation actually is’ (please note that I just inadvertently missed the ‘T’ off ‘Thorny’ and gave myself a laugh) and the completely free styled ‘Why is digital transformation important for businesses now.’ I should also mention at this point that the programme kicks off properly this week and that future installments will be a little less ‘theoretical’ and probably much shorter!

Right, without further ado – on to the first question ‘What actually is digital transformation?’

Now like all reluctant chroniclers, I generally look for short cuts so I can get this whole diary business over and done with in the shortest time possible. I therefore consulted Google for a nice quick definition of Digital Transformation - and came across this beauty;

What does digital transformation mean? The key is in an ugly word that "transformation" weakly implies: "fungibility." Fungibility means the ability for something to be changed. That's not the same as the ability to change something; fungibility is an intrinsic characteristic, not a force imposed by an external source. Transformation is the act of making substantive change; fungibility is the intrinsic ability to be substantively changed.

Now I have no idea what any of this means, but the phrase ‘fungibility is the intrinsic ability to be substantively changed’ sounded so brilliant I wanted to include it somewhere. But this nonsensical pap does serve to illustrate the need for a clearly defined definition - so here’s mine:

Digital transformation means looking at your organisation and exploring available and future technology to make the former run better using the latter’.

Now of course businesses have always done this, with obvious examples being computers, laptops, mobiles, e-mails and other technological ‘stuff ‘so the pertinent question (my second question) becomes ‘Why is digital transformation important for businesses now?’

I will admit that in terms of lessons learnt from Arthur Ransome’s children’s book Swallows and Amazons, the topic of Digital Transformation was possibly not front and centre of the author’s mind, written as it was 11 years before the advent of the world’s first working electrotechnical programmable fully automated digital computer. However, look hard enough and the parallels are there, or rather, more specifically here;

In the context of the book four children aged between 7 and 12 (John, Susan, Roger and the unfortunately named Titty) asked their mother if they could take a boat and sail to an island in a lake and camp out on their own. Justifiably doubtful the mother sends a telegram – the 1930’s equivalent of a text message – to her husband, for his opinion.

Now either the message reached him on a particularly bad day or Mr Walker had a somewhat laissez faire attitude to the safety of his kids as rather than sending an incredulousness reply along the lines of ‘Are you mad – let the four of them go off sailing by themselves overnight!? Roger is only 7!’ the somewhat cryptic reply was;

Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown’

And here is where my unnecessarily complex and vague analogy reaches its climax, for this sentence succinctly outlines why digital transformation matters. You see, Dear Diary - digital transformation is at a very basic level a litmus test for an organisation to see if it has the requisite vision, agility and control to survive in the future. Simply put, if an organisation is unable to understand the importance of, or effectively embrace digital transformation, then it becomes a ‘Digital Duffer’ (for Digital Duffers think Blockbuster, Kodak, et al.) If, however an organisation can successfully traverse this transformation and emerge fully blossomed as a digital enabled organisation then it has, in all likelihood, got the requisite business agility, leadership, culture and general chutzpah to not drown in the age of drones, intelligent toilets, bionic cats or whatever amazing and possibly cataclysmic innovations lie ahead for us all.

So, Dear Diary, back to me and the year I have ahead. I hope, and firmly believe that the organisation with which I will be spending my time are far from Digital Duffers. They understand that although they have spent a significant sum on next generation SAP licenses and are embracing all things ‘cloud’ all this is mere window dressing to the real focus over the next year - that of mobilising the business to become better, more efficient and more inherently enabled to thrive in an era of accelerated change and opportunity.

That being said, it is ‘up north’ so I have packed a coat, flat cap and trousers with the latter being, I am reliably informed, perfect for ferret legging…


Until next time Dear Diary…

Matt (Aged 37¾)


Stay tuned for Matt's next diary entry where he will attempt to explore the importance of diligent pre-kick off planning to ensure the best possible start to the project. In the meantime, if you would like more information on digital transformation please check out our S/4 ebook below. 

Download the S/4 eBook


Matt Riches
By Matt Riches

Matt is our Practice Director of Digital ERP having spent the last 15 years in various roles around SAP and ERP. Matt is a certified Enterprise Architect, the winning presenter of both SAP InnoJam and DemoJam events and is now a leading figure within the S/4HANA arena. Matt has three young children meaning that time away from the office is mainly spent trying to recall a social life whilst simultaneously trying to get some sleep!

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