The digital transformation paradox of a universal and unfinished revolution

Digital transformation is at the center of a paradox, and this paradox appeared very clearly during the interview we conducted a few weeks ago on the occasion of the release of “Digital transformation for all”. Such is in fact the new title of the 3rd work of our friends and colleagues David Fayon and Michaël Tartar. A paradoxical digital transition, therefore, triumphant and universal and at the same time incomplete, even misunderstood and excessive.

Digital transformation: the paradox of a universal and incomplete revolution

Digital transformation is at the heart of a paradox that is not Solow’s own. The new book by David Fayon and Michaël Tartar highlights this particularly.

The issue of digital transformation is a paradoxical and complex topic.

On the one hand, ubiquitous computing, the use of which has spread at speed V under the impetus of the 2020 crisis.

At the same time, a lukewarm diagnosis, as David explains in the interview, with weaknesses at two extremes: small businesses and very large, with a transformation of the state that does not impress our two experts.

Sprinkle these conflicting results with a good dose of CO2 and you will further reinforce the paradox of digital transformation: (in essence) we must accelerate its adoption and at the same time we must limit its uses (or at least limit its impacts, which amounts to the same).

paradox of digital transformation
Cryptofarming: gigantic cryptocurrency mining farms have been created almost everywhere for about 5 years in Texas, a particularly temperate state as we know. We can imagine the heat … Some small towns in Texas offer ATMs to sell and buy cryptocurrencies – source

A digital transformation that will also need “more human”, and which at the same time promotes total virtualization through vaguely realistic 3D environments in which the authors seem not to be.

Last but not least, the digital innovations that do not seem to delight our authors.

A paradox, therefore, but not Solow’s. Computers are now the numbers. Even if stock market valuations are not billed, it is no longer a question of denying the presence of information technology.

On relativizing the importance of “electronic progress”

However, their importance can still be relativized, and this is what Vaclav Smil does.

As useful and transformative as the advances in electronics have been since 1950, they have not formed the indispensable material foundations of modern civilization. Although it is not possible to establish an indisputable order of our material needs based on their importance, I can offer a defensible ranking that takes into account their indispensability, their ubiquity and the magnitude of the demand. The four materials are the highest on this combined scale and form what I have called the four pillars of modern civilization: concrete, steel, plastic, and ammonia.
Smil, Vaclav. How the World Really Works (p. 77). Penguin Books Ltd

An entirely different paradox than Solow’s, but a paradox all the same, and a hierarchy of the most important issues of civilization that is not suited to satisfying our environmental ambitions.

Unless hindsight and Minerva’s ineffable bird lie Vaclav Smil, whose book I recommend anyway.

In the meantime, I leave you to David and Michaël, to discover their new jobs and their digital maturity matrices, also available online at

Digital transformation for all: the interview

There are some points not to be missed in this book, Michaël explained to us: the errors of digital transformation, SMEs (34% of small businesses still do not have a website in 2022) and finally for the faithful readers of their works, in particular for them, a guide to reading that allows them to orient themselves.

Digital Transformation for All, 3rd version of Pearson’s book

The first version of this book was published by Pearson in 2014. “We pioneered writing a book on digital transformation in French,” explains David. “Since then it has been enriched with a model that allows you to diagnose your degree of digital maturity”.

Paradox of digital transformation
The six-lever model described in the book is available online at

Michael: Does digital maturity mean doing less digital? No, it is above all a better understanding of digital as a whole. For this reason, in the book, we describe, through the six levers and 115 indicators of maturity available to managers, everything that characterizes the digital company. We designed them after analyzing studies, results of our experience and sector publications. We have identified all the points that characterize what makes the company modern and digital. And so yes, we will move towards a more and above all better digital.

David: Today digital represents about 4% of greenhouse gases. This has exceeded emissions related to the aviation industry for eight years. And the trend is negative because with the metaverse, and a whole series of developments of new uses with digital, without digital sobriety, we risk polluting more.

Michael: There are always new things in the digital world. There, the hot topics of the moment, will be the metaverse, for example the blockchain or that kind of thing. But what’s more important than this is that we realize that uses eventually seep into society. And we are starting to have, for example, our scoop with a very small shop, now able to sell online which was totally unthinkable, even ten years ago.

David: In 2022, there is still a lot to do to improve its digital maturity. So obviously we had an opportunity in 2020, there was the Covid crisis and it was a fantastic accelerator for digital transformation. Any organization that does not progress more than its competitors, its suppliers, its customers, is behind. It’s like Formula 1. We could improve the engine, the chassis, if we have other competing teams that are more agile, that advance faster than you, let’s go back in relative terms.

At both ends of the spectrum: a delay for VSEs and SMEs and, at the other end, large organizations which, like the state, are unable to reform. Even if we observe digital scattering.

Michael: There is still a huge delay. We are thinking, for example, of SMEs in particular. This has already been extensively mentioned, in particular by the OECD reports in 2021. It is mentioned in the book. Digital has been around for more than 30 years, but the generalization of uses is still a long way off. Income tax filing has become quite common. There is definitely that part, but there are tons of other uses. The public sector, in particular, is far behind.

David: With the metaverse, we are completely in the hype cycle for the moment, with an overestimation.

Michael: The metaverse is in my opinion an ignominy. It’s great to interact remotely. We have seen it develop considerably, precisely due to the effect of the health crisis. However, isolating yourself and no longer having direct interaction is not possible.

paradox of digital transformation
A world in the process of total virtualization? Extract from “Carbon and Silicon” by Mathieu Bablet. What if the true digital transformation consisted in becoming aware of the limits and understanding how far to go too far?

David: But beyond that, it is also a new behavior to adopt, greater frugality because the cost of energy is exploding.

Michael: So no, there is not too much digital, quite the contrary. On the other hand, what’s very important to keep in mind is that there will never be enough people in the digital world. Yes, we still need to go further into digital to specifically eliminate paperwork, time spent doing things that no longer need to be done, so we can see that we can go much faster and much more efficiently.

Now, we must also take the human aspect into consideration. More and more, a number of individuals are withdrawing from this digital society. And these people, we must also help them.

buy the book

There will most likely be a fourth version of this book, simply because the world will continue to evolve. This book is extended by two sites the first,, which allows you to participate in the construction of the evolution of this model. The second site, on which we will be able to put into practice.

Yann Gourvennec
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