Kitchens can tell us a lot about the digital transformation of organisations

Of all the rooms in our homes, the kitchen has been through the most change over the last hundred years. The introduction of running water, the electrification of domestic products, more consumer goods and the invention of the supermarket to make those goods available, and connecting of domestic goods to the internet. Driven by convenience for those using kitchens and competitive supply-and-demand market forces, the modern kitchen shows us what effective transformation could look like. Contrast this transformation with that we see taking place in our work environments and we can see that the way we think about digital transformation is all wrong.

Digital transformation in companies is driven by old thinking. It is usually approached like any other IT project; budget secured upfront, eighteen month project plan produced, new infrastructure procured, rolled-out to end-users who didn’t have a say. Products and systems are implemented to meet the needs of organisation, with little thought given to how easy it will be to use. Taking our lesson from the transformation of the kitchen we can see that one-sided approaches driven by business needs only will fail. Transformation means transforming the thinking and the technology.

The shift to digital thinking happens as the old-school IT managers step aside for digital managers with experience of consumer-focused digital products and treating the end user as the customer. The shift to digital products happens as B2B software providers recognise the shift in the market and focus on end-user needs and offering a great user experience.

These two interdependent changes will bring about the digital transformation companies have been looking for. The transformation of the kitchen taught us that it takes both sides of the supply and demand equation to balance in order for transformation to happen. The organisations have to want digital products that provide excellent user experience, and the providers have to develop them. When the CRM is as easy to use as Netflix, and the finance system as easy to use as a Stripe, then we can call digital transformation a success.