What Does 'Digital' Really Mean For Your Business?

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Author Image - Jason Warde

By Jason Warde

Leighton's Commercial Director, Jason has been working in sales management for the last 18 years, 10 of those within The Leighton Group

As an agency intent on fully supporting clients with their digital transformation process, we are often asked a question by those just beginning their journey -“what is digital?”

While tech savvy people working within the digital industry might scoff at such a simple query, research clearly backs up the theory that business is still - even today - playing catch up in relation to digital’s true value.

Altimeter Group’s The 2014 State of Digital Transformation report clearly highlighted the disconnect between what businesses understand of digital and what they think they need from it.

The main conclusion of the report showed that only a quarter of the companies surveyed had a clear understanding of “new and underperforming digital touchpoints”. That is the digital tools they could be utilising to reach more customers.

And yet, 88% of the same individuals revealed that their firms were “undergoing digital transformation efforts”. In other words, nine out of ten companies surveyed for the report claim they are undergoing digital transformation, even though only a quarter of them admit to knowing what it really is.

The gap between these two statistics suggests there is a requirement for educating and supporting businesses at the very beginning of their journey.

So what is digital and what else do businesses need know about the transformation process?


In its broadest sense, digital is any piece of technology that connects people and machines with each other or with information. For a consumer facing business it is the technology that enables your people - your sales staff, customer services teams, marketing departments - to connect more fully with current and future customers.

Crucially, digital enables an organisation to offer its products or services to a customer when they need them most or have the time to access them.

What is digital transformation?

Many traditional businesses face a race to evolve in order to successfully satisfy their customers’ needs, in an ever changing, ‘always on’ digitally-led world.

This process of evolving is digital transformation.

It is the effort a company makes to revisit and renovate business goals, models, and investments with the digital economy of the future in mind.

Essentially it’s the process of delivering better services through digital means - with a good example being how online banking services are revolutionising the way we all manage our finances.

As consumers we now demand instant access to our bank accounts regardless of where we are or what time it is. As a result, the service we receive is centred more specifically around the customer’s needs and not what the company can deliver via old world methods of location and time constraints (i.e., branches and opening hours).

Ultimately, digital transformation looks at consumer’s changing needs, the tools they use and the platforms available, and helps organisations to combine all three to deliver a more effective and efficient experience.

Are digital and IT the same thing?

In many ways, IT was the first incarnation of digital. As the old fashioned name ‘Information Technology’ suggests, it was the way of generating information through the use of technology. It was the hardware, software and methods required to generate digitised documentation in the form of text documents or spreadsheets and databases.

Digital has superseded IT to include all that hardware, software and those methods, but also combines a host of other aspects including social media, mobile and the cloud.

How do these other elements support digital transformation, though?

Social Media

In business, social media is about rather more than photos of one’s dinner or videos of crazy cats. A digitally developed business will use social media to interact with customers, both proactively and responsively; to better serve them or to improve their experience.

It also provides businesses with a unique opportunity to mould public perception simply and proactively, whilst making the most of positive consumer sentiment - the modern version of good old word of mouth, where customers enjoy using your product or service and say so on various popular channels available to them


With 55% of internet traffic now taking place via mobile or tablet devices, according to ComScore’s 2014 report, it’s clear - whatever you business - that your customers are online by mobile means. As a result, you must be too.

The appeal of mobile is that people like how it is not interruptive or intrusive. It allows people to get on with their lives and easily blend in aspects of their digital lives without hassle.

An example of this is mobile email. In much the same way as our children cannot comprehend needing to be in the house to receive a landline telephone call, mobile email simply allows us to keep our lives running while we’re on the go rather than needing to be sat at a PC.


The idea behind big data is that you can gain understanding about behaviour (usually that of your customers) through statistical analysis of large amounts of data. This in turn can then be used to implement change to achieve either more or less of something you want.

For instance, this could be the refinement of an ecommerce store based on data that tells you a particular element is underperforming. As such it can be a hugely powerful tool.

Consumerisation of IT

This is the growth of apps and solutions that make life simpler and might include getting work emails on your phone without specific hardware or software or using online storage to access work documents at the weekend.

While the former can be seen as an invasion of employees’ leisure time away from work and the latter is routinely viewed by IT departments as bad news, both nonetheless clearly make life easier - or at least work easier - so we end up doing it, even if there is a small cost attached.


In the simplest terms, cloud computing means the storing and accessing of data and programs over the internet rather than via your computer's hard drive. For businesses, this has meant various things from the outsourcing of IT functions - storage, servers etc - rather than owning and managing it on-site. It has also enabled a move towards SaaS solutions (software as a service) such as Salesforce.com or Google Apps.

Digital therefore has come to represent everything that can enable an organisation to do better business online.

For more information on how Leighton can assist with your digital strategy, please contact myself Jason Warde by email or telephone: 0191 305 5229