No digital transformation without digitality

The more digital society and economy become, the more the focus shifts to human interaction with the virtual world. Technical issues are gradually taking a step back. People cease to be mere users and become an integral part of a digitalized system. Digitalization becomes digitality (The Digital Condition, Felix Stalder, Polity, 2017). The term emphasizes the social and cultural components and effects of digitalization.

In this new, digital reality, people are confronted with large, sometimes unmanageable amounts of data and the confusing causal chains of a technical-digital-virtual world. The hitherto largely linear experience in an organic-analog-real environment was fundamentally different. The consequences of this radical change often entail a sensory overload, a feeling of being lost or even overwhelmed.

What does this mean for companies?

Companies that are developing or sharpening their digital business model today are not only faced with the challenge of providing or implementing technically flawless and secure systems. Yet, they must increasingly address the question of how customers and their employees can communicate and interact with the technical systems and digital entity of the company in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

A decisive aspect of the further development of a digital business model is therefore the recognition that digitalization is by no means a purely technical process, but that the social and cultural dimensions must be considered as well. A successful digital transformation can only succeed if this realization is incorporated into the organization’s strategy.

Digitality also means that a human dimension is added to the previously mainly technical risks: Data protection and information security are no longer just problems for specialized experts, but now affect all people who interact with the digital world in their business or private lives and in the process pass on information – sometimes unknowingly. Opening the door to potential attackers is a real danger. The behavior of individuals on the internet is quickly and often unchecked received and multiplied by the virtual public. In this manner, even innocent missteps or trivialities can quickly give rise to serious shitstorms and situations of existential threat.

Focus on people and their needs and expectations

Technology and interaction with it should not be perceived as alien and disturbing in everyday life. Good analog-digital interactions are intuitive. Competencies in using digital systems should not be primarily system-oriented but should give people a native understanding of analog-digital interaction. In turn, systems should be designed strictly with users – humans – in mind and should not require humans to engage with and adapt to them beyond a reasonable degree. Automation and artificial intelligence should take work and decisions away or make them easier, without driving people ahead of them or making processes less comprehensible.

Digitality also has a major impact on business relationships with partners and customers. In the digital data flood of the virtual world, successful communication is a particular challenge. Whether in existing business relationships or in sales and marketing, it is always important to stand out from the crowd, create an emotional bond, and at the same time maintain one’s own identity. Services and platforms must be adapted in a custom-fit and seamless manner to the needs of the target group if they are to be successful. And to do this, their specific social and cultural requirements and expectations must be considered in each case.

Digitality is therefore not just a consequence, but a core component of successful digital transformation, which must be strategically addressed from the outset.

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