We are in the middle of a digital renaissance and our world is undergoing radical shifts in business and society. A new phenomenon has now emerged where the term "digital" is added to things like strategy, innovation and transformation.
In many cases digital is used in the same breath as IT (information technology) or as a replacement for the IT label. A phenomenon now called Digital X. But is this merely a change in words, or does it signify something deeper?
New research from Copenhagen Business School delves into the heart of the ‘digital’ matter. The paper published in the Information Systems Research journal takes a closer look at what is really different about ‘digital’. In doing so, it not only highlights distinctions between the IT and digital concepts but also provides actionable guidelines that should enable a reflective use of the digital label without reducing it to a fancy all-encompassing buzzword.
Why does this distinction matter so much?
Practically, managers can avoid frustrations and wasted investments due to attending to digital phenomena with incompatible logics and assumptions that may have been valid with IT. For example, many digital transformation efforts fail because managers approach them as though they are another IT transformation project.
"One company we studied learned a hard lesson when they first delegated their company’s digital strategy to the IT department. Usually, an IT strategy aligns with the organisational strategy of the company, while the digital strategy is a core business strategy. It must be closely integrated with the corporate strategy and requires more oversight and heterogeneous competencies than a traditional IT strategy." says Abayomi Baiyere, Associate Professor at the Department of Digitalisation.
Scientifically, this would enable knowledge building. There is an inkling among academic and practitioner communities that ‘digital’ and ‘IT’ are not mere synonyms, but beyond the hype, something fundamentally different is being signalled when the digital label is invoked.