Digital Transformation: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 2 by Vicky Zhou and Version 1 by SEOK-SOO KIM.
Digital Transformation (DT or DX) is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems. It is about transforming processes that were non digital or manual to digital processes. One of the examples of digital transformation is cloud computing. It reduces reliance on user owned hardware and increases reliance on subscription based cloud services. Some of these digital solutions enhance capabilities of traditional software products (e.g. Microsoft Office compared to Office 365) whilst others are entirely cloud based (e.g. Google Docs). As the companies providing the services are guaranteed of regular (usually monthly) recurring revenue from subscriptions, they are able to finance ongoing development with reduced risk (historically most software companies derived the majority of their revenue from users upgrading, and had to invest upfront in developing sufficient new features and benefits to encourage users to upgrade), and delivering more frequent updates often using forms of agile software development internally. This subscription model also reduces software piracy, which is a major benefit to the vendor. Some of these digital solutions enable - in addition to efficiency via automation - new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods. One aspect of digital transformation is the concept of 'going paperless' or reaching a 'digital business maturity' affecting both individual businesses and whole segments of society, such as government, mass communications, art, medicine, and science. Digital transformation is already underway, but is not proceeding at the same pace everywhere. According to the McKinsey Global Institute's 2016 Industry Digitization Index, Europe is currently operating at 12% of its digital potential, while the United States is operating at 18%. Within Europe, Germany operates at 10% of its digital potential, while the United Kingdom is almost on par with the United States at 17%.

The conceptual definition of digital transformation (DT) is composed of five corporate activities (AT Kearney) that increase a business’s competitiveness in response to changes in the business environment, which are triggered by new digital technologies, such as big data (BD), artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT), smart factories (SF), cyber-physical systems (CPS), and interoperability (IOP). DT claims to maintain a sustainable business and positively impact overall business performance.

  • sustainable growth
  • sustainability
  • SME
  • business model
  • digital transformation
  • industry sectors

1. Historic Development


Main page: Binary number

In 1703 Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz explained and envisioned the concept that would be known as "digitalization" in his publication Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire.[13] Initially developed as a base-2 numerical system, using only two values, 0 and 1, the system was further developed and complemented by scholars such as George Boole (1854),[14] Claude Shannon (1938)[15] and George Stibitz during the 1940s.[16]


Main pages: Engineering:Transistor, Engineering:History of the transistor, and Engineering:MOSFET

The first practical transistor was the point-contact transistor, invented by the engineers William Shockley, Walter Houser Brattain and John Bardeen in 1947.[17] Shockley's research team later invented the bipolar junction transistor in 1948.[18][19] The MOSFET (metal-oxide-silicon field-effect transistor), also known as the MOS transistor, was invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng in 1959.[20][21][18][22] With its high scalability,[23] and much lower power consumption and higher density than bipolar junction transistors,[24] the MOSFET made it possible to build high-density integrated circuit (ICs),[18] allowing the integration of more than 10,000 transistors in a single IC,[25] and later millions and then billions of transistors in a single device.[26] The widespread adoption of MOS transistors revolutionized the electronics industry.[27][28] As of 2013, billions of MOS transistors are manufactured every day.[18] The MOS transistor has been the fundamental building block of digital electronics since the late 20th century, paving the way for the digital age.[22] The MOS transistor is credited with transforming society around the world,[26][22] and is the building block of every microprocessor, memory chip and telecommunication circuit in use as of 2016.[29]

Early digital computers

Today, Stibitz is considered one of many pioneers of the digital computer, through the development of the first electromechanical computer from his discovery of the automatic computing relays as well as the term 'digital'. The first electronic computer was introduced by John Atanasoff in 1939. The process of digitalization thereafter accelerated, with the development of personal computers such as the Simon in 1950, Apple II in 1977 and IBM PC in 1981.

Accelerated change

With the introduction of the World Wide Web, the scope, dimension, scale, speed as well as effects of digitalization fundamentally changed, resulting in the increased pressure on the societal transformation process.[30] Companies including Dell were quick to take advantage of the World Wide Web around 1996–1997, disrupting traditional PC manufacturing companies like IBM by selling direct to consumers rather than through dealer networks or hobby shops, and gaining valuable insights into consumer behaviour as they navigated the website. In 2000, digitalization began to be used more widely as a concept and argument for an overall governmental introduction of IT, increased usage of internet and IT on all levels. A similar development began in the general business climate in order to raise awareness regarding the issue and opportunity. In the EU for instance, an initiative called the Digital Single Market was developed, with recommendations for national digital agendas in the EU, which gradually and positively should contribute to the future societal transformation, with more modern development of communities, structures and to create a basis for e-governance and information society.


The debate surrounding digitalization has therefore gained increased practical importance for politics, business and social issues, and is linked to political work issues for community development, new changes in the practical business approaches, effective opportunities for organizations in operational and business process development, with effect on internal and external efficiency of IT to name a few. The digital transformation is slated to generate over $370 billion in global value during the next four years.[31]

2. Development

Digitization (of information)

In political, business, trade, industry and media discourses, digitization is defined as the 'technical process' of "converting analog information into digital form" (i.e. numeric, binary format, as zeros and ones). In electrical engineering, the older term digitalization still occurs in this sense, which is the original meaning of that term. Most often an electrical device called an analog-to-digital converter is utilized, for example in scanning of images, or in sampling of sounds (e.g. music sampling) and of measurement data. The term may also refer to manual information digitization, for example of illustrations using a digitizer tablet. Digitizing is technically explained as the representation of signals, images, sounds and objects by generating a series of numbers, expressed as a discrete value, and represented by binary numbers.[30] For example, digitization was introduced in telecommunication networks from the 1970s, in view to improve the phone call sound quality, response time, network capacity, cost-effectiveness and sustainability.

Digitalization (of industries and organizations)

Unlike digitization, digitalization is the 'organizational process' or 'business process' of the technologically-induced change within industries,[30] organizations, markets and branches. Digitalization of manufacturing industries has enabled new production processes and much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, machine to machine communication, artificial intelligence and machine vision. Digitalization of business and organizations has induced new business models (such as freemium), new eGovernment services, electronic payment, office automation and paperless office processes, using technologies such as smart phones, web applications, cloud services, electronic identification, blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrencies, and also business intelligence using Big Data. Digitalization of education has induced e-learning and Mooc courses. The academic discussion surrounding digitalization has been described as problematic as no clear definition of the phenomena has been previously developed.[32] A common misconception is that digitalization essentially means the usage of more IT, in order to enable and take advantage of digital technology and data. This early definition however, has largely been replaced by the above definition, now linked to holistic views on business and social change, horizontal organizational and business development, as well as IT.

Digital transformation (of societies)

Finally, digital transformation is described as "the total and overall societal effect of digitalization".[30] Digitization has enabled the process of digitalization, which resulted in opportunities to transform and change existing business models, consumption patterns, socio-economic structures, legal and policy measures, organizational patterns, cultural barriers, etc.[33] Digitization (the technical conversion), digitalization (the business process) and the digital transformation (the effect) therefore accelerate and illuminate the already existing and ongoing horizontal[clarification needed] and global processes of change in society.[30]

Opportunities and challenges

Digital transformation is a major challenge and opportunity.[5] When planning for digital transformation, organizations must factor the cultural changes they'll confront as workers and organizational leaders adjust to adopting and relying on unfamiliar technologies.[34] Digital transformation has created unique marketplace challenges and opportunities,[35] as organizations must contend with nimble competitors who take advantage of the low barrier to entry that technology provides.[36] Additionally, due to the high importance given today to technology and the widespread use of it, the implications of digitization for revenues, profits and opportunities have a dramatic upside potential.[37] We can understand digital transformation through some real-world examples.

Hospitality management

It focuses on ambitious digital transformation, aiming to put the customer back at the center of its strategy and operations. We need to assess organizational structure to embrace digital transformation and identify how data from online content and reviews might play a role in increasing booking. Latest advancement in this respect are Online Travel Agencies, service aggregators like Expedia, We have another competitor in market which is not only digitally transforming the hospitality industry but actually bringing disruption with the help of technology, AirBnb.[38]


Digital experience has become inevitable without e-commerce interaction. Big players like, have already disrupted the shopping journey. But now we have more challenging tasks of avoiding security breaches like theft of debit and credit card numbers as well as the personal information of millions of customers. We need to improve over our infrastructure with minute details like safe transactional operations, improved customer satisfaction along with data security.[39]


It focuses on digital transformation of banking sector in seeking regional growth amidst a new digital era. Banks have already invested heavily in technology and infrastructure. From online banking (bank in your pocket), to ATM availability at every nook and corner has enriched the user experience. Major forces of the digital transformation strategy involve the overhaul of organization, and enhancements of highly scalable digital platforms.[40]


With the increase of online learning tools and facilities organisations and individuals are looking for more flexible ways per personal development. Using video driven lectures, online learning communities and learning management systems allows creating new business models which disrupt the traditional lecture driven training sessions.[5]


It concentrates on the application of IT-reliant services for facilitating the management and delivery of health services. It involves storage and exchange of clinical data (e.g. electronic medical records, electronic health records), inter-professional communication (e.g. secure e-mail and direct messaging), computer-based support (e.g. clinical decision support systems, computerized physician order entry), patient-provider interaction and service delivery (e.g. patient referral and handover systems), and education.[41] Most studies implicitly report on cases from primary care (e.g. family doctors, medical specialists), secondary care (e.g. hospitals, clinics), or medical research facilities. However, digital transformation in healthcare also takes place in areas other than clinics and research facilities, like for example community-based health promotion and outpatient care services. Supply chain Supply chain digitalization aims at integrating physical processes with digital data to optimize and solve problems. It involves areas such as predictive analysis for forecasting order fulfillment with intelligent processes, digitalizing operational processes, remote controlling and implementing digital twins to better manage the end to end logistics process.

Other studies

In November 2011, a three-year study conducted by the MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting concluded that only one-third of companies globally have an effective digital transformation program in place.[42] The study defined an "effective digital transformation program" as one that addressed:

  • "The What": the intensity of digital initiatives within a corporation.
  • "The How": the ability of a company to master transformational change to deliver business results.[42]

A report published in 2013 by Booz & Company warns that the impact of digitization "is not uniform".[43] This points out that some sectors and countries have taken to digitization more readily than others. It concludes that "policymakers need to develop digitization plans across sectors that take into consideration the varying impact by level of economic development and sector". In 2015, the World Economic Forum and Accenture launched the digital transformation initiative (DTI) to study and research the impact of digitalization. The initiative offers unique insights into the impact of digital technologies on business and wider society over the next decade. DTI research supports collaboration between the public and private sectors focused on ensuring that digitalization unlocks new levels of prosperity for both industry and society. A 2017 interim report claims that digital transformation "could deliver $ 100 trillion in value to business and society over the next decade".[44] A 2015 report by MIT Center for Digital Business and Deloitte found that "maturing digital businesses are focused on integrating digital technologies, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud, in the service of transforming how their businesses work. Less-mature digital businesses are focused on solving discrete business problems with individual digital technologies."[45] In February 2017, a study by McKinsey & Company argued that "On average, industries are less than 40 percent digitized, despite the relatively deep penetration of these technologies in media, retail, and high tech". This study also points out the inequality in the penetration of digital change across industries, arguing that while in some industries there were core changes due to digitization, in others the impact of this phenomenon was limited to minor or secondary changes.[46] In July 2017, a survey of 1239 global IT and business professionals was released by the digital performance management company Dynatrace. While this study shows, that 48% of its participants "stated digital performance challenges were directly hindering the success of digital transformation strategies in their companies", the survey also refers to 75% of respondents, "who had low levels of confidence in their ability to resolve digital performance problems".[47] In October 2017 a survey of 890 CIOs and IT Directors across 23 countries by Logicalis Group established that 44% of respondents felt complex legacy technology is the chief barrier to digital transformation, with 51% saying they planned to adapt or replace existing infrastructure as a means of accelerating digital transformation.[48]

1. Introduction

With the evolution of technology, the primary trend of the world economy is the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) as a new paradigm for sustainable growth. IR 4.0 technology has many advantages for manufacturing that allow for a more efficient and flexible production setup to target large-scale product customization without a loss-of competitiveness or increased production costs. Large enterprises have developed most of the current technology [1].
However, Imran et al. [1] mentioned that IR 4.0 is disconnected from the needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Therefore, research is needed to support the sustainable survival and growth of SMEs.
From a DT perspective, other researchers have explained the disruptive impact that digital technology has on businesses, including corporate strategy [2][3], innovation [4][5], and business models [6][7][8]. It is emphasized that DT is not a one-off project; it is a continuous transformation and an evolutionary process [9][10]. The rapid development of information and communication technology (ICT) in recent years has emphasized the importance of the concept of a business model (BM) in the field of information systems (IS). DT refers to innovativeness [11], financial performance [12], and organizational growth [13].
Moreover, some organizational performance improvements, including reputation [14][15], were also associated with a company’s competitive advantage [16]. DT is a new business opportunity. Eisingerich and Bell [17] demonstrated that DT enables companies to use digital capabilities to create new BMs, products, and services. They argued that this is an ongoing process that adapts to the customer or market changes and drives innovative change. The digital age is fundamentally changing the way our society and businesses operate. Business model innovation (BMI) has become a fundamental function to survive competition, especially for SMEs. Digital technology is a powerful force that is pushing companies to embrace new BMs [18][19], making innovation increasingly relevant [20][21][22].
The digital age and Industry 4.0 paradigm combine disparate technologies and open up unexpected possibilities, creating fundamentally new products and services and providing the potential to share knowledge between multiple actors in the technology ecosystem [23]. Industry 4.0 also creates innovative BMs [24][25]. BMI represents a new system of activities for a company [26] and an innovative structure for value creation and value capture [21] in which a single company and its alliance partners and customers [27] participate. The role of BMI has been discussed theoretically; however, empirical studies still lack mentions of SMEs [28].
Thus, the researchers identified that DT may be linked to influencing BMs and BMI as a basic function for surviving competition in SMEs. The term business model (BM) was first used decades ago [29]. The term “business model” refers to the intermediary structure between technological artifacts and the achievement of strategic goals and objectives, including creating essential economic value. Similarly, Kamoun [30] argued that a “BM becomes a blueprint for how businesses create and capture value in new services, products, or innovations” (p. 638). Following this approach, Yuan and Zhang [31] argued that it is not the technological application itself, but the BM behind technology artifacts, that achieves success and enables high-tech enterprises to achieve their strategic goals and objectives.
In a study on the structural causal relationship between DT and performance , DT was found to affect business models. Park argued that the BM involves a company’s operational performance and corporate performance. Oderanti and Li [22] [32] proposed a new framework that was more subdivided and extended. The BM framework begins with a value proposition, including product offerings, target market segments, and revenue models, to reflect the vision and strategy. A BM states that financial sustainability and stakeholder confidence are evaluated [22][32].
A BM can define value as a company’s rationale for sensing, creating, distributing, and acquiring. It explains how companies make money now and in the future, and it is BMI that changes the BM to a competitive position and improves performance. The activities of an enterprise’s suborganizations aim to enhance the performance of the enterprise [33][34]. Furthermore, they strive to create new value by utilizing existing strategic resources [35]. It has been argued that companies are using digital technologies, such as the IoT, cloud, big data, and AI, to create new products and services, as well as BM changes .

2. DT, BM and Sustainable Growth

The BM theme complements the effects of each company, industry, and country on corporate performance by conditioning fluctuations in corporate performance [36][37][38][39]. Four distinct themes have been proposed: novelty, efficiency, complementarity, and fixation [22][40][41][42]. There is no research on how the industry is changing due to BMI through changing BM themes [43][44][45]. Velu [46] distinguished other forms of organizational elements: management innovation and BMI. A BM summarizes the architecture and logic of the business and defines an organization’s value proposition and approach to value creation and value capture. In doing so, a BM serves as a vehicle for converting the benefits of technology through the marketplace into customer value. BM innovation articulates changes in the means of value creation and capture. BM innovation can often include management innovation. However, it can improve performance by implementing management innovation in the existing BM. The industry 4.0 concept in digital technology [47], originating from the manufacturing industry, provides the ability to implement efficiency gains within the manufacturing process through BMs, such as identifying and tracking materials within the industrial supply chain [45]. Rajput and Singh [48] argued that implementing circular economic principles in an enterprise’s BM while supporting the view that digital technology supports value creation and capture and activates resource flow strategies is the value of Industry 4.0 technology, which was found to be a significant driver of innovation. For a BM to be successful, it must be suitable for the ecosystem conditions, and therefore the viability of the applied BM configuration must be continuously monitored [49][50]. If nonconformities are identified, the BM should be adapted to the new ecosystem conditions [51][52][53]. This adjustment is called BMI. According to the BM literature, existing research on BMI provides a heterogeneous understanding of the phenomenon. BMI is defined as the gradual changes of individual components of the BM, expansion of existing BMs, and the introduction of parallel business models and potentially BMs [54]. Moreover, BMI needs to replace the old model with a radically different one. While some scholars argue that BMI should be new to the industry [55], I follow a different strand of research claiming that BMI can be new to the company [56][57][58]. Recent research has advanced the focus from a static understanding of the business model to a dynamic view of the business model [58], its innovation [21][44][59], and its transformation [60][61]. Climent and Haftor [62] stated, stable industries exposed to relevant new technologies are more susceptible to being successfully destroyed by novel BM themes. According to the analysis results of previous studies, DT is recognized as essential for all companies and necessary for survival, regardless of being large versus small or medium-sized enterprises [18][19][24][25].


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