Digital transformation or dramatic theatre?

by Mukta Singh 08 Aug 2019

Is digital transformation just an exercise in brand marketing? It can sometimes seem that way – particularly when the language and rhetoric around digital transformation run too far ahead of what the broader business understands. Our General Manager of Marketing, Tori, recently wrote about how at one point she found Ricoh’s digital transformation was being viewed as “just another marketing campaign” – rather than the seismic shift to the fundamentals of selling, engaging with customers, and working together that the business needed it to be.

The danger, I feel, comes when organisations are content with performing “digital theatre” – acting out and mouthing the rhetoric of digital transformation, without investing in the hard work of changing perceptions and processes first. It’s easy to identify cases of digital theatre: organisations playing at it tend to put the spotlight on the latest technologies and trending, high-visibility projects designed to drum up enthusiasm for further digital investments. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll often find a lack of critical thinking or deep reflection about how the business works, where it generates value, and why it does what it does – the purpose behind the process.

What came as a surprise was that even with the best intentions, we can still fall into the performative act of digital theatre without meaning to. At Ricoh, digital transformation has always been framed as more than just technology, yet at a certain point many still struggled to see its relevance to our everyday work.

We had to shift gears and change tactics as soon as we realised that we were out of step with other parts of the business. We didn’t just push on – but instead pulled back the pace of transformation and refocused on communicating with everyone in the organisation. We rolled out sales enablement programs and training to ensure that as a collective we understood what might be transformed and why it mattered.

The effects of digital transformation at Ricoh have not been especially glamorous or headline-making. Our focus is more on new models of collaboration and customer interaction, rather than technology itself. That doesn’t make for great theatre…but as it starts to permeate how customers experience our brand, and how we experience working together, we’re already finding ourselves much more capable of meeting and adapting to the environment we’re in. You don’t need to market digital transformation if everyone understands and agrees with its worth. And at Ricoh, this has been our approach thus far.