Harvard Business Review – What Do You Really Mean by “Business Transformation”?

Today’s corporate watchword word is transformation, and for good reason. One study suggests that 75% of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next 15 years. Another says that one in three companies will delist in the next five years. A third shows that the “topple rate” of industry leaders falling from their perch has doubled in a generation. Software is eating the world. Unicorns are prancing unabated. Executives at large companies rightly recognize that they need to respond in turn.

And yet.

When executives say transformation what do they really mean? Often, the word confuses three fundamentally different categories of effort.

The first is operational, or doing what you are currently doing, better, faster, or cheaper. Many companies that are “going digital” fit in this category — they are using new technologies to solve old problems. A big operational change can be jarring and drive real business impact, but it doesn’t fit dictionary definitions of transformation, such as “a marked change in form, nature, or appearance” or “to change (something) completely and usually in a good way.

More of the HBR article from Scott Anthony