Monday, 18 August 2014

Is "digital transformation" hindering digital transformation?

Last year I helped put together the LocalGov Digital Content Standards. They're a guide to writing content for local government websites, drawing from and adding to best practice that already exists. I also managed a project to create a local government site written to the standards.

It made me think about written language in a new way, though Twitter and its 140 character limit had already done this to some extent.

There's a great quote from Mark Twain:
I didn't have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one.
It's harder to put your point across succinctly without losing the meaning, than it is to waffle on using superfluous and convoluted phraseology over and over again, much the same as I've just done.

Along the same lines, I love this video from GDS, "It’s not dumbing down, it’s opening up":



Enough said.

So what's this got to do with digital transformation? In the past few weeks there's been some discussion about what "digital" actually means. It made me think about the language people use to promote the concept of doing things digitally, to those who might not fully understand the benefits.

It wasn't until I read this piece about investing in digital staff that alarm bells started ringing. It uses the word "digital" 68 times.

The people one might need to advocate the benefits of digital to aren't generally stupid. If you're going to put "digital" on the front of everything they're probably going to notice.

Imagine I'm trying to sell bananas. I'm guessing that if I repeated the word "bananas" to you 68 times you'd probably be less likely to buy bananas? Sure there's a few occasions this approach works, here's the advert for webuyanycar.com:


Both might be selling digital, but it's to two very different "markets".

What I'm saying is, just as the content standards promote presenting information to the public using appropriate language, perhaps the same should apply to other content one might write? For example, if one needs to write a whole article to define a two word phrase, perhaps it's time to look for a better term?

Perhaps "digital transformation" is hindering digital transformation?
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.