What digital transformation really means

Reading Time: 3 minutes

First, the bad news: it doesn't mean everyone gets an iPad.

Digital transformation isn't about technology, it's about the change the technology enables.

Think about the railways in the 19th century. You didn't have to be Robert Louis Stevenson to understand that being able to get from Edinburgh to London in day, rather than a week, was a game changer. 

You don't have to be able to design the train, or even ride it, to benefit from it.

Let me give you a picture.

Taking a photograph

Taking a digital photograph
Taking a digital photograph

When I was at university in the mid 1980s (or late 18th century, as my daughter thinks of it) I joined the photography society.

Taking a photograph back then was a serious business, if you were serious about photography.

You'd set everything up carefully in advance. Take measurements where possible. Get the lighing just right. Gauge the light levels on your subject.

That's before you'd even touched the camera.

Then you'd decide on the right combination of aperture and shutter speed you wanted to use, based almost solely on your experience. Maybe add a filter, depending on the lighting.




It was science, and it was art. And that was just taking the shot. There was no photo yet. 

Next, you headed to the darkroom. You worked in a room that was literally pitch-black to extract the negatives from the 35mm film container. 

After developing the negatives, you have to make the prints. Typically, you'd make a contact sheet; lay the negatives on top of photographic paper, then expose them. From that, you can choose the best of the batch. Maybe 2 or 3 that are worth spending more time, effort and money on. Out of the 36 shots you'd aready taken.

So now you take those negatives, get them in a projector, and make some prints. At last, we are talking actual photographs you can see. 

But this, too, is an expensive and time-consuming process. Photographic paper is not, and was not, cheap. And half the time the prints were a bit, well, crap.

So this is anecdotal, and quite possibly down to my own skills as a photographer (although I have taken some great shots).

The point, I think is this. There was a great deal of waste in this process because you can't predict in advance what will work and what won't. 

So you had to buy film, shoot 36 shots, develop film, make contact sheets, choose the ones you like from that, make prints and then – and only then – decide that they were, well, a bit crap …

All of this was done using dangerous chemicals in rooms kept completely dark on purpose.

That was 30 years ago. 

30 years before that, it was exactlay the same.

30 years after that, it is completely different.

Enter digital photography

Digital cameras have been around for the last couple of decades. They're not new.  

Everyone knows how they changed the game because, nowadays, almost all of us have one in our pocket, at all times.

Have you thought about how they've changed the world?

About how journalists now no longer have to wait hours, or days, for photographs to illustrate their stories?

About how families can take hundreds, even thousands, of pictures of their holidays – and just delete those they don't want to keep. At zero cost.

About how professional photographers take shots? They no longer need to predict so many things in advance. They can let the camera automatically adjust the aperture, the shutter speed. The camera can automatically upload shots to flickr, twitter, if it's on a network.

This is what the network means. This is what disruption means.

Everyone is a publisher. A broadcaster. An innovator …

The transformation in photography means practically everyone has the capacity to produce a photograph good enough to publish. 

To be honest, it doesn't even have to be that good. News sites will happily republish an eye-witness photo or video because reality and authenticity trumps quality in these cases, even if the quality isn't great.

Anyone with an iPhone can broadcast an entire foorball match for free on Periscope, if they have the battery and data to permit it.

The point here is that new technology enables new ideas, new ways of doing things, new things that couldn't have been done before.

The rate of change is exponential. We have created more observable/actionble data in the past couple of years than in the entirety of human history before then.

The transformation in digital transformation isn't necessarily about code, or platforms, or anyything techy at all.

It's about doing things faster, cheaper, safer, more efficiently using the digital tools available to us.

Its about adapting quicky to change; trying and adopting new techniques,

Mostly, though, it's about 2 things,

Trust your people and get out of their way.

Learn how to lose control, and love it.

 | Website

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been a content designer, editor, UX designer and giant haystacks developer on the web for (gulp) over 25 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.