Lost in Transformation


According to experts, what lies at the heart of the problem is a lack of investment in education, training, and R&D—both on the government’s part as well as your own. It’s a fact that’s hard to deny, since investment in education across Quebec has grown by only 9% in 10 years, while the province finds itself at the bottom of the pack in Canada when it comes to investing in a skilled workforce.

CAQ Minister of Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon takes this “threat” very seriously. He is hard at work getting the message out and creating programs in order to compel Quebec companies to embark on this transformation. At every event he’s invited to, Mr. Fitzgibbon asks companies to invest in their digital transformation—whether that’s through Industry 4.0 or eCommerce.

But is that what digital transformation really is? Online sales? Sticking a robot onto a production line?  

Many managers have used this as a starting point to enter the digital age. But what does the market have to offer… eCommerce? ERP? AI? Blockchain? For many, this line of thinking has gotten them into trouble.

The way I see it, the biggest problem we have is one of definition. 



The first thing you need to know is that we haven’t really invented anything. Inserting the word “digital” merely modernizes an idea that was first introduced at the beginning of the 20th century.

That’s why we need to drop the word “digital” when talking about digital transformation. All the word does is add to the confusion and create a false sense of urgency that scares people into making bad decisions. It’s a word that has sent many of us into a frenzy towards online sales and optimization of a value chain—all before putting together a solid strategic plan.  

Digital is a response to restructuring—but it should not be a cause for it. What should spark your transformation is the desire to change your competitive environment, respond to your clients’ needs, and explore innovative ideas. The result of this transformation will no doubt be a digital one, but your foundation will be based on priorities.

The second thing you need to recognize is that transforming organizations can be a real headache, and many great management thinkers in the past have attempted to find solutions. Canadian academic Henry Mintzberg has said that the consensus on transformation is that there is no consensus. Everyone is in agreement that organizations much transform, evolve, and change. But no one can agree on which way is best.

Planned transformation? Controlled? Spontaneous? Drastic or continuous transformation? It’s up to you. That said, if you and your team do not have a definition or clear vision, your transformation is doomed to fail.



According to literature, transformation can happen via one of three ways: your business model, your processes, or your products. I’ll also add two more to the list: your vision and your governance.

Organizations that make successful transformations gives themselves visibility in each of these ways—from conceptual to practical—and ensure they all fit coherently together:

  1. Vision – What will the challenges for our clients and market be in 10 years? Where will the organization be in 10 years? What do we control? What don’t we control? What role will technology play?
  2. Business model – How will this vision transform our business model? Do we have a roadmap that will enable us to go from today’s business model to a future one?
  3. Processes – How will this roadmap affect the processes currently in place? In production? Logistics? Marketing? Customer service? HR? Do we have a clear user path that reflects our future business model?
  4. Products – Do our new processes optimize our products? How will our clients react?

The epicenter of transformation can be found at any level. You don’t have to start at the top of the pyramid. In my experience, I would say that it’s often ideas or gaps in the processes as well as mid-management that compel a company towards transformation. What’s important is to ensure all elements fit together in order to increase your chances for success. 

Using the ideation methodology found in Design Thinking around a canvas like Vision Canvas, Business Model Canvas, Customer Journey Canvas, or Value Proposition Canvas is an excellent way to get started.


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Arnaud Montpetit
Vice-President, Strategy