3. Digital Transformation
I’ve been using Google Image search – I did warn you about the rigour.
But seriously, what I ﬁnd fascinating is the symbolism, the symbolic
themes, that come across very strongly when you do a search for the
term ‘Digital Transformation’…
First thing to say - like most stock photography used by
businesses to talk about business, Digital Transformation is
overwhelmingly connected to the colour blue…
Digital Transformation is like 99.9% blue
So much of the imagery is ‘magical’. I guess because it’s such an abstract concept - so
diﬃcult to visualise… I guess that the designer who work for B2B stock image libraries don’t
have a lot to go on, except that it contains this word ‘transformation’ - which maybe makes
them think of Harry Potter. Whatever it is, there’s a lot of magical symbolism…
7. Like this guy in his suit and tie, who’s
holding a kind of magical arrow
10. And of course this GIF of a Unicorn that
represents a type of billion dollar ‘transformation’
So, yeah magical - but also a lot of pointing. One thing that
all of these business illustrators seem to agree on is that
the future is all about touch interaction.
There’s ﬁngers everywhere.
20. I’m sure we all remember this scene when the main human protagonist, ‘Flynn’ - played by
Jeﬀ Bridges, undergoes his own ‘digital transformation’ and actually gets maliciously
digitalised by a rogue computer intelligence seeking to protect itself. So ahead of its time!
21. Flynn gets taken into the computer world. I went to see this movie with
my Dad because it was a ‘Parental Guidance’ (PG) rated ﬁlm. I think it
turned me on to the idea of a computer world. What’s interesting is how
the symbolism and imagery is still so similar to Tron…
Basically, we’re stuck with the phrase. You may ﬁnd it awkward, but in a way it doesn’t
matter because whatever you call it everyone’s doing it. Clients are appointing Chief
Transformation Oﬃcers… ‘Digital Transformation’ is at the top of their shopping lists.
Deal with it. I found it really hard to get over my disgust.
I tried everything…
28. I made some badges.
They say “I’m having a digital transformation right now”
I resisted the phrase - it sounded stupid and a bit naive. This is
surely what the internet has always been about, right?
I mean we’re 15-20 years into the most all encompassing
transformation of human life… like, business people, haven’t
But we thought about this at Made by Many.
We set up in 2007 to make new digital products and services for
global corporate clients… products and services that unlock
new models, experiences, growth – that are useful, and get
more useful over time.
These things sat outside the campaign lifecycle and we were
clear they weren’t marketing
29. We’d always recognised – even going way back 10 years
before Made by Many when we did the same thing at
other companies – that when you make a successful new
digital product or service you end up changing the
company you are working for.
By change I mean that when you create a successful new
digital product or service (and we’ve taken 60 successfully
to market over the last 10 years) you end up creating new
workﬂow, sometimes you have to to hire and train people,
you introduce new processes and methods – and it all
leaves a permanent mark on the organisation you’re
working for: they become more agile, more lean, more
focused on the user, quicker to market – whatever it is…
Well, over the past 18 months what we’ve recognised
is that the change bit is the most valuable part of what
we do - and the product is just the means to an end.
So, we did what anyone would do when faced with this
challenge: we simply reversed the polarity
The way we work is to form a Lean and Agile product
innovation team with our clients. It’s a cross functional
team so not only does it involve clients it involves
technologists, strategists, data scientists, designers and
product managers from the very outset and all the way
It’s a social and experiential model of learning. People
learn best by doing - by making together - in teams.
We help companies change by getting them to do it
instead of telling about it. They learn how to get things to
market faster, or how to become more customer-centric
by doing it instead of talking about it.
What can you learn by working like this?
•How to make innovation continuous
•How to do agile planning & estimation
•How to be customer-obsessed
•How to experiment, prototype, and iterate
•How to innovate in a way that makes ideas
testable very rapidly
•How to measure progress
•How to treat ideas as hypotheses to be
validated, instead of requirements simply to
•How to develop a digital mindset and
35. Product’ is a catalyst
and lever for big change
As we saw from my rigorous Google Image
research at the start, transformation as an
idea suﬀers from being too abstract and
ambiguous. Product turns change into a
tangible object around which people can
rally and work together, to learn practically
what they need to be able to do, and how
they need to work and behave in the future.
What’s the ‘end state’..?
We think that one of the reasons ‘Change by making’ succeeds is because the ‘end state’ for any digital transformation
project probably looks quite similar to the way a Lean and Agile product innovation team works. The end state for any digital
transformation is a set of ongoing capabilities, the ability to do transform continuously as the world, markets and consumer
behaviours all continue to evolve. The end-state is the ability to thrive in this environment, and not get broken by it
Some characteristics of the end-state are…
37. Self-organising, cross-functional teams
Strategy, Technology, Data science, Product Design, Product Management
Not a one-oﬀ, a continuous behaviour
A shared commitment to CX/EX at every level of the org
Lean, Agile and ‘full-stack’
Rapid, adaptive, ‘competitive advantage of less’
Intentional, managed org change
Building new capabilities, embedding new structure, processes and culture
The product, and the experience of making it together and operating it, undoubtedly change things profoundly and make
you more digital. This sort of project can plug into and embed within a broader transformation initiative, and act as an
accelerant. The product is a catalyst and a vehicle for making change happen. It forces change, but it might not get you all of
the way there on its own. We believe that you also need to support it with coaching, learning and development, tons of
storytelling and communication, community-building (communities of practice) and deliberate organisation redesign.
But when you get it right, the invention, creation and development of new product can take you a long way very quickly - it
adds momentum, reality and self-belief. It leaves ‘traditional’ change looking a bit toothless, a bit like a simulation of
something that needs to be real to work. I’m going to very quickly tell you about a project we’ve been working on with a well-
loved global brand for just over a year. It’s an Employee Experience. We had working software in the hands of this company’s
staﬀ within 6 weeks. Last week we released the app to al 15,000 of their UK employees.
40. A well-loved, global fast casual dining brand
Designing a new EX
immediately gets you into
This project was conceived
by client exec team as…
…With end users
6 weeks to MVP in one
restaurant, 12 to MLP in
two; scaling to ﬁve, then
Very focused on most
obvious value ﬁrst to build
plus what I said is in these boxes
Two-way process that
harness the power of many
Product-led process backed up by coaching,
process redesign and org redesign
41. So, that’s a good project. It’s impact upon real people and the org - that we
are continuously measuring - has been really positive. All good, and I don’t
want to bring you down but ‘Digital Transformation’ is a morally neutral
term. There are no values attached to it. It can be used for good or for evil.
Like for example the digital transformation of the ancient human pursuit of warfare and
killing. Already AI is being used to process video that humans don’t have time to look at
and deliver potential targets for human analysts building kill-lists.
I’m sure no-one here is working on autonomous killing systems, but…
43. Umair Hacque
“Mara’s boss sits in the back. Monitoring all twelve,
or ﬁfteen, or twenty people that work in the store.
On a set of screens.
A drone-pilot… piloting a ﬂeet of human drones…
pressure-selling disposable mass-made shit…”
Bad Words on Medium
This is a post by Umair Hacque about his friend who has two graduate degrees but ended up in a retail job
where she wears an ear piece through which her boss directs her how to sell to people, using an AI assisted
sales system designed to exploit human weaknesses to sell them stuﬀ they don’t want or need
44. Umair Hacque
“[Mara’s job is to] wage advanced psychological
warfare… on her customers.
If Jeﬀrey Dahmer, Rasputin, and Michael Bay
designed a “store” together, they couldn’t do any
Bad Words on Medium