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Contributor Q&A With Anita Brearton: No More Digital Transformation?

8 minute read
Dom Nicastro avatar
Is it time to retire the term "digital transformation?" Anita Brearton, CMSWire contributor, says yes in this Q&A with Managing Editor Dom Nicastro.

When we write from personal experiences, that's a unique perspective no one will have. Ever.

CMSWire Contributor Anita Brearton does just that in her column earlier this year on digital transformation. From where did she draw her inspiration? A bathroom at an airport.

"The reality is that for most companies, digital transformation has come from the ground up, department by department," Brearton wrote. "Sadly, there’s no switch to throw; it’s all incremental. Companies have been making great strides in technology adoption and evolution."

Check out our Q&A with Anita on her digital transformation:

What Is Digital Transformation Anyway?

Dom Nicastro: Hey everybody, Dominic Nicastro here, CMSWire managing editor, with one of our CMSWire contributors, those who come from the trenches and give us all their infinite wisdom on our website, Anita Brearton. What's going on Anita?

Anita Brearton: Hi, Dom. Thanks for having me. This sounds like we're gonna have a fun discussion. 

Nicastro: We are. We're just going to empty the tank here on all things digital transformation, because that's your latest article on CMSWire, talking about the very subject of hmm, is it time to just never say digital transformation again? I mean, that's the thesis of your article, right?

Brearton: It is, it is. And it's funny, because if we say yes to that, then it cuts off other inspirational ideas for writing articles. I've written so much about digital transformation over the last few years. But yes, I think we're at a point now, where I think that terminology needs to be retired.

Nicastro: Especially since we were using it long before COVID too. I mean, I remember our past DX Summits, our conference that CMSWire puts on in Chicago, where we had it in Chicago, now it's virtual. I remember these practitioners actually talking about digital transformation back then, 2015, '16, '17. I mean, it was out there. And now, to me, it's like, and I think you mentioned in the article, this is acceleration. It's not transformation. I mean, it's not transformation, this has already happened. We're accelerating now.

Brearton: Yeah, it's really interesting, because when I started writing about digital transformation, you know, what people were talking about, at the time, were these big corporate initiatives, like somebody was being given responsibility for digital transformation. And I think for many, that made it too big of a mountain to climb, and too daunting. And people weren't sure what that actually meant to people getting wrapped around the axle. Do we have to have AI to consider it digitally transformed?

And really, at the end of the day, what digital transformation means is bringing technology, more and more technology, into the business, to make processes more efficient and automated, and using technology to create innovative customer experiences, right? So if you approach it from that perspective, then you realize, well, we've been doing this, right?

Marketing is, like, the best example, right? We've just bolted up marketing with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tools, the average marketing departments using as many as 250 tools at one time, technology tools to acquire and engage customers. And marketing is always trying to innovate in that last moment of how they engage and where they engage. And they're using technology to do that.

But, you know, when you think across the rest of the corporation, I mean, you know, outwardly, we're seeing all the signs of digital transformation: go to the airport, you don't, you can check in yourself, you can even print your own luggage tags; you know, you can Instacart your food, you've got QR codes for restaurants, right? So we're seeing, you know, evidence of what used to be called digital transformation.

So I think, kind of talking about it as this big behemoth thing, it's doing everybody a disservice. It's really, you know, technology is here to stay in the corporation. Yeah, I can't think of a job in the corporation that doesn't require technology. So it's really more about technology, strategy, acceleration. How we introduce, how we connect, you know, who's in charge of it, all of that. So I don't think we need to talk about digital transformation anymore. I think we're all digitally transformed. And if we weren't before the pandemic, we certainly are now.

Related Article: Is It Time to Retire the Term Digital Transformation?

Getting to the Technology Source of Truth

Nicastro: I know. One of the points you make in the article, too, on CMSWire, is organizations, despite all the influence of technology, they're having trouble finding an actual center of truth, like with their technology stack, like why is that? What are you seeing out there?

Brearton: So I think one of the things that's really interesting is because of how technology has been brought into the organization. So it's at the point in time at which we started to introduce technology that was kind of at the same point of time that SaaS was being introduced. And so all of a sudden, you know, we can pay for things in $10 chunks every month and $50 chunks for a lot of technology. And so people have kind of not run amok because it was not ill intentioned, but people have grabbed technology to help them improve things and do things better, or try new things. And that has been very distributed.

And so corporations are now saying, hmm, we have all this technology, we're spending all this money on this technology, are we getting a return for our investment? And they have no way of looking at that because they don't have a source of truth. And so they don't know what they've got in their basket. And, you know, and a lot of technology today, in order to realize the value of it, it needs to connect to something else. So if it has not been connected to other platforms, then they're not seeing the value of what they've paid for.

So I think it has been distributed purchasing, small ticket items that have built over time. Products that are easy to use, you don't need it involved. And then it has just gotten away from everybody. So we do see, you know, certainly in our world, we do see this move toward getting to a technology source of truth.

Learning Opportunities

Nicastro: Yeah. And finally, looking ahead, you know, you've been a CMSWire contributor since 2019. Now, is that the gig?

Brearton: Yeah, it's a long time. And I love it.

Related Article: Is Influencer Marketing a Fit for B2B Marketing Plans?

Following the Course of Marketing Technology

Nicastro: And you know, you're one of those in the trenches, folks who just takes what's in here and shares it with our readers, we can't thank you enough. What can we expect going forward? Any sneak peek? I won't hold you down to it if you change your mind. It's a rapidly changing world, Anita, but anything we can expect going forward for some copy on CMSWire from you?

Brearton: Yeah, so I think, you know, I'm buried in the trenches of marketing technology. And most of the time, my inspiration for articles comes from discussions I'm having with customers, or with the community and people raising questions.

But I think, you know, we're all now recognizing that we've got our hands around technology, we now have to look at how it plays together. And how we share the data that we're gathering with that technology. So, you know, I think my articles are going to continue to be about marketing technology, its applications, its uses. I love writing about new, innovative ways to market. So I'm excited to see what this year brings, because you never know what's around the corner.

Nicastro: Case in point, you never know what you're gonna see in an airport when you're walking by a ladies room? Because that's in this article.

Brearton: That's right. That's right, the hands free entrance to the ladies room, which I was thrilled about. Yeah, you just don't know. Right? And I think that's what's exciting. I remember when we started our company, people said to us, well, this is this is very short sighted, somebody's gonna document their stack, and then they're done.

So we talk about all the time now, they change and they evolve and this and the other. And if you think, since we started our company, TikTok didn't exist. Clubhouse didn't exist, you know, all of these channels and opportunities. People weren't really podcasting. And now look at all of this wonderful content that's being delivered that way. So yeah, as long as human beings change their behavior, that will be innovation and marketing, because we have to respond to them. And that's what I'll be writing about.

Nicastro: I can't wait. Anita Brearton, you're a big part of the contributor family on CMSWire. We can't thank you enough for being a part of it and joining us today, so thanks and looking forward to the next article.

Brearton: All right, thanks, Dom.

Editor's note: CMSWire contributors are those who write from the trenches of customer experience and marketing. They are practitioners, technology leaders, thought-leaders and everything in between. Want to become a part of the growing contributor family? Check out our guidelines and/or get in touch with me.