Another day and another discussion about digital transformation with a group of bankers. As the conversation progressed, several of the attendees touched on a subject in different ways but the core of what they were asking was this: when will we know we’ve done digital?
I find this question quite vexing, as it shows a lack of understanding of what is happening. I talk about the world being in a digital revolution that is like the industrial revolution, but on steroids. The inventions of electricity, telephone, automobiles and more that shook the Victorians to their core is like nothing compared to what we’re going through. I think we’re almost in a situation where things that took decades to develop in the industrial revolution are happening in months in this digital revolution.
And, just as in the industrial revolution, would you have ever asked: when will know we’ve done industry? You never have an end to industrialisation. It continues today. We just keep progressing and developing.
This is the same with digital. We will never finish digital. We are just in a journey that is a continuum of change to keep up with digital. Twenty years ago, we were all redeveloping to deal with Y2K; ten years ago, we were all talking about big data and cloud; today, we talk a lot about machine learning and blockchain; ten years from now, we will all be talking about quantum computing.
Technology and industry never stops. It keeps progressing and changing. That is why digital will never stop. It will just keep developing and changing. In fact, change is the only constant and change has been with us since the first day I started working. Keeping up with change is our challenge, and change is happening faster every day.
I quite often reference a speech I remember well from twenty years ago. A university professor started his keynote with the line: “there’s been more change in banking in the last five years than in the previous fifty, and this will continue”. This is still true today. Change is the only constant.
Therefore, as we embark on digital transformation, which I clearly believe is a reimagining of our industrial era structures which need conversion to digital, the process will never stop. It will just be constant change.
As I write this, it leaves me with one last thought. If we are on a journey of digital transformation that never ends but demands constant change, how come we didn’t think this way before? How did we allow our core systems to become so embedded in the bank that they sit in the bank’s heart, like a heart of stone? Firmly cemented in place and not really beating, these old systems have never changed. They’ve just been added on to and, in the process, become feet of clay.
If digital demands constant change on a journey to a destination that is unclear, why did we allow ourselves to be cemented into roots of stone?