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Opinion forum by José Manuel Leceta and Jorge Pérez

From the Information Society to digital transformation: from a Spanish domain register to a benchmark for digital excellence

In this joint article José Manuel Leceta, CEO of, and Jorge Pérez, Director of ONTSI, reflect on digital transformation and the role of

Since it was coined, the creators of the term “digital transformation” at MIT (Center for Digital Business, 2011) emphasised the substantial difference between “digitalisation” and “digital transformation”. The two terms are related but not the same as digital transformation is based on using technology, but focuses on “radically improving the performance and scope of companies”, making it a senior management objective for achieving cultural change. It is no surprise that some authors note that transformation is the sum of innovation and change management.

So technology and technical equipment is necessary, but transforming the customer relations and internal operation of companies, and developing new proposals to generate and attract value requires much more. At the same time, digital technologies have innovative potential, agility and are undeniably currently needed; just think about social networks, mobile Internet, data analytics, the Internet of Things, etc. That is why at we talk about digital transformation as “possible innovation” because, unlike in other capital-intensive sectors, we believe that “digitalisation is about people”. And that many things are possible by simply reflecting on them.

Digitalisation, necessary but no enough. What is measured does not exist

In the first papers at MIT and the numerous studies conducted since then, we find that of the many companies studied, only those that combined the management team’s commitment to transforming the company with an intensive use of digital technologies managed to simultaneously increase their income, profits and stock market value. On the contrary, companies with a high level of digitalisation but a weak commitment by the management team increased their income, but their profits and stock market value fell.

On the other end of the scale are the companies with a management team fully committed to transforming the company, but that invest little in digital technologies. These companies increased their profits and stock market value, but at the expense of losing market share and income.

Finally, companies with no management team committed to transformation and who did not invest in digitalisation dropped in all aspects: income, profits and stock market value. In this scenario, how can we know if a company is making progress in their digital transformation or not, and what it has to do to achieve it?
The value of understanding a company’s level of digitalisation is that digitalisation is necessary to advance towards digital transformation, and there is no digital transformation without digitalisation. Consequently, by understanding a company’s level of digitalisation, we identify which companies could potentially aspire to digital transformation. This measure —the level of digitalisation— is usually provided by national and international entities. At national level: the INE (The National Statistics Office), in its survey on ICT use by companies;, in the ONTSI study of e-SMEs; and other organisations in various reports on ICTs and companies. Worthy of note at international level is the role of the European Commission with its Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), and more specifically its “Integration of Digital Technology by Enterprises” subindex; and the OECD for its studies on digital transformation.

The opportunity to promote digital transformation in Spain. Role of

Reviewing the studies and indexes noted above shows a heterogeneous development of digitalisation in Spanish and European companies, with some sectors much more digitalised than others, and a strong bias in favour of large enterprises compared to smaller ones. Therefore, it is vitally important to promote the digitalisation of Spanish companies, particularly SMEs, collaborating with their management teams to progress from digitalisation to digital transformation. has been working on this line to promote the information society for 15 years, with training initiatives and programmes to develop digital professionals; programmes to promote e-commerce; programmes to boost entrepreneurship and the internationalisation of companies; programmes to promote adopting technology solutions such as cloud computing; programmes to disseminate technology solutions for SMEs and the self-employed, such as demonstrator centres; and programmes to support specific sectors, such as the programme to support the digital transformation of the tourist sector.

With the approval of the 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, digital transformation becomes the “leitmotif” of Because we believe that the best is yet to come. If Spain already holds an intermediate position in digital public services compared to other nearby countries, we need companies to take part in this process. They are the heart of digital transformation. Programmes must be drawn from managers' conviction and commitment to the usefulness of the digital transformation.

We believe that can become a “meeting point” to promote this type of debate as innovation cannot be ordered. For to have a greater chance of success and impact, it must be open to the initiative of its agents, including their needs and designing initiatives of general interest.

That is why we recently launched the Forum, a meeting point with the ICT sector to address digital transformation initiatives. As stated in the Strategic Plan, “redesigning what we are to transform what we do”. Therefore, the ONTSI has also initiated a digital transformation process, opening up to the participation of internal and external agents; conducting prospective studies; creating knowledge platforms based on using new tools and methodologies; acting as a catalyst for research on society and the digital economy.

The approval of the Strategic Plan is a milestone for the entity, which looks to the future with enthusiasm. Since the Spanish “.es” domain name registration, which explains the acronym that gives our entity its name, now aims to become a national and international “Excellent Digital Benchmark”. With everyone’s support we are beginning a new stage. A stage in which we ask everyone to participate, to relaunch and reposition, bringing it even more in line with current times; the time has come for transformation.