John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer, Tessitura

Debunking four digital transformation myths


5 min

Where were you in late December 2022?

Imagine you were a traveler making your way home for the holidays as a winter storm brewed across much of the western United States.

But another kind of storm was taking shape inside the offices of one of the country’s major airlines. That airline’s crew scheduling relied on outdated systems, rigid processes and an old-fashioned call center. Employees had long raised alarms about the need for infrastructure and operational upgrades.

A cautionary tale

The combination of weather, poor process and no real platform infrastructure meant the airline couldn’t keep up with disruption. Quickly, the impact of weather complications and team shortages snowballed out of control. Staff couldn’t get to the right routes. The airline canceled thousands of flights, stranding tens of thousands of customers. A business long known for its laser focus on customer service devolved in real time into a cautionary tale.

Neglecting longstanding technical and operational debt resulted in a loss to the airline of more than $800 million. Add to that the reputational hit with customers.

This is a classic example of the risk you take when you ignore the need for digital transformation. Technology upgrades can feel like optional expenses rather than essential investments in the future. But as this case proves, ignore them long enough and you will pay the cost … one way or another.

Digital transformation is about new strategies and new ways of thinking.

What can arts and culture organizations learn?

It’s easy for digital transformation to feel daunting, as I outlined in this article. Arts and culture organizations often operate on razor-thin margins. It can be hard just to balance the annual budget. Earlier this year, I asked INTIX conference participants to give their hot takes on the topic. Their answers ranged from exciting, necessary and inevitable to confusing, overwhelming and complicated.

I think that second group of words derives from misconceptions about digital transformation. Let’s set the record straight on four common myths.

Myth #1: Digital transformation centers new technology.

Reality: Digital transformation centers people. Digital transformation is about new strategies and new ways of thinking. It’s powered by advances in technology. The word digital is an adjective. Transformation is the key. That means all the usual methods of driving successful business transformation apply. Those methods have always boiled down to the people leading the effort.

It’s tempting to want to skip the foundational work of people and process change involved in digital transformation. But purchasing new technology alone is unlikely to yield value. Technology is a tool, not an answer. You also need to invest in setting aside learning time and resources for your team. They need to internalize necessary changes to their processes and their thinking.

In the book Mindset, Carol Dweck discusses the value of having a growth mindset. That means believing that hard work will pay off through learning, experimentation and application. It’s fundamental to successful transformation, digital or otherwise.

Myth #2: Only certain staff need to take part in digital transformation work.

Reality: The true value from digital transformation comes not when you select a new program or technology. An excellent book on this topic, The Technology Fallacy, describes the life cycle of value for an organization like this:

  • Changes are adopted,
  • The organization has adapted its processes and structures, and
  • The new context has been assimilated throughout the organization.

That means the entire organization benefits from digital transformation. And the entire organization contributes to it. Not everyone needs to take part at the same time. But eventually this work should impact your entire team if you want to fully realize the investment you’ve made in digital transformation.

Sometimes staff feel they need to be experts in IT to participate in digital transformation. Think about helping them increase their digital literacy — their understanding of emerging trends and general principles about how technology does and doesn’t work.

To meet today’s complex challenges, we are all innovating differently. Learning organizations will thrive in this new reality. Remember that innovation is not the work of one person or team. Rather, it’s a process and a mindset you should ingrain into your culture company wide.

Innovation is a process and a mindset you should ingrain into your culture company wide.

Myth #3: Adopting digital technology alone results in better, more efficient processes.

Reality: Adopting digital platforms without making people and process changes to your business is frustrating to everyone and likely fruitless. Generating business efficiency can be among the most valuable outcomes of digital transformation. Automating manual processes can reduce errors and generate cost savings. Incorporating data analytics or new digital channels can increase revenue and improve performance. But you achieve these results only when your organization completes the business transformation required along with the adoption of new digital technology.

Think about it this way. You’d agree that effective mass communication likely uses digital platforms, right? But using digital platforms does not guarantee effective communication. If you send the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time, your results will be the opposite of effective. These efforts might be very efficient. But they will be unproductive and possibly even damaging. Identify the outcomes you seek from digital transformation and evaluate the changes required from your people, process and platform. Then strive for efficiency.

Myth #4: Digital transformation projects are out of reach for many arts and culture organizations.

Reality: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation. Do what your team can manage and what looks right for your organization. Begin.

Today, cloud services, data analytics and artificial intelligence drive digital transformation. These technologies are more accessible than they've ever been. I'll look at their benefits to arts and culture organizations in another article.

Digital transformation succeeds due to the right balance of people, process and platform. As a rule, focus on people first, process second and platform last. Don’t skip important work up front when you determine your goals and make your strategy. Plan to include your entire organization! Reaping the benefits of digital transformation depends on centering people, not technology.

Digital transformation succeeds due to the right balance of people, process and platform.



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John Jakovich

John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer

John Jakovich leads Tessitura Network’s technology teams.

Prior to joining Tessitura Network in November 2015, he had spent more than a decade as a senior technology leader working with some of the non-profit industry’s largest organizations and within the Tessitura Network ecosystem. He was the Vice President of Technology at SofTrek Corporation, a provider of non-profit CRM systems for philanthropic organizations and, before that, Chief Information Officer at Jacobson Consulting Applications (JCA), a firm that provides strategic and technology consulting to non-profit organizations.    

John has over 20 years of experience in IT management and software development for enterprise systems, the majority of which he spent developing business intelligence solutions for the non-profit industry. He studied computer science at California State University Chico and San Marcos and started his engineering career in the dynamic southern California internet start-up market of the mid-nineties.  John worked at several successful start-ups in the e-commerce and artificial intelligence and eventually landed at Kintera, Inc. (later acquired by Blackbaud Inc.).  

John lives in Fort Collins, CO. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, taking advantage of the active Colorado lifestyle, including snowboarding, hiking and running.

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