What is Digital
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Digital Transformation

What is Digital? Is It About Technology?

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Today you hear about digital everywhere. No doubt! But do you know it is one of those oft-repeated words that many think that they understand it well?

Actually, if you ask them to articulate, it would not be that easy. You may feel the same. As a matter of fact, it has several definitions, not to mention many interpretations. Below is the result you get when you search for the word on Google:

Digital - Google Definition

Definition of “digital” – Google Search

You probably already know one of these definitions. Interestingly, the root of the word is coming from Latin, “digitus”, meaning finger:

The root of the word "digital"

The root of the word “digital”

You may agree that the more commonly understood definition of digital is “involving or relating to the use of computer technology”.

Many make this affiliation, and that is acceptable, even the Oxford Dictionary does so. Technical folks may even think of ones and zeros when they encounter the term. Let’s then quickly look at what it means in more technical terms.

How to understand digital in technical terms?

TechTarget defines “digital” as electronic technology that generates, stores, and processes data in terms of two states: positive and non-positive (guess what? binary, ones, and zeros).

It allows conventional types of storing of information such as paper and images to be translated into binary code (ones or zeros) and stored in computer memory.

Each of these state digits is referred to as a bit, while a string of bits (8 precisely) that a computer can handle individually as a group is a byte. Getting clear?

Well, before you start googling further and trying to understand more on other definitions, you may end up digging very deep. Like, how are zeros and ones stored on my computer?

And if you are a programmer, you may even wonder, how is a line of my program gets compiled into machine code (there you get even deeper, maybe drowning), and how is it translated into digits and executed by the machine?

In a broader sense, the affiliation of digital is around the use of computer technology. Then the question is how is it perceived today by organizations?

What does digital mean today?

Diverse perspectives exist on what it is. As McKinsey indicates, it is about digital technology for some business leaders. Others perceive it as a new way of engaging with customers. And still, for some, it reflects a whole new way of doing business.

Neither of these meanings is inherently incorrect. If we sum up McKinsey’s perspective on digital, it boils down into these three lines:

  1. Organizations look at it by reexamining their whole way of doing business in ways to build completely new businesses
  2. Or, by thinking about how digital capabilities can build and offer the best possible experience in all areas of the company
  3. Or building technical and organizational processes of fundamental digital capabilities that enable an enterprise to be agile and fast

[ Read also: 4 Keys To A Successful API ]

In short, digital could mean several things. It will vary how we view or function on that meaning, but getting a common understanding of what it means helps business leaders to create a shared vision of how to capture value by using it. That’s the thing that matters!

To read more on this topic, check the following posts as well:

[ Technology Does Not Make You Digital: Here’s Why. ]

[ Digital Business Design: Key To Success In Digital Economy ]

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