Digital Transformation IT Jargon Buster: All the Key Phrases Explained

Digital Transformation is hard enough without all the jargon terms that get thrown around. In this post, we will do a quick review of the top digital transformation terms including;

  • software as a service
  • platform as a service
  • microservices and digital platforms

Software Development Terminology

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is used to describe the innovative and practical use of modern computer technology and modern management practices to improve the competitive standing of a company in the marketplace. As the world has moved faster in the 21st century, competition has become more fierce due to globalisation and customers have become more demanding, old economy of scale business practices are no longer enough for companies to remain competitive.

Digital Transformation allows companies to unleash the hidden information from within and utilise it in new ways. Often this is in order to modernise their systems to meet radically shifting marketing demands. Equally, companies are improving the experience that their customers have when interacting with the company by presenting more complete, accurate and up to date information by exposing information through modern APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and Software As A Service (SaaS).

The software industry has enthusiastically adopted more lean and agile ways of working over the last twenty years and spreading those more rapid and responsive management techniques to the rest of a company has also become part of Digital Transformation.

Software As A Service (SaaS)

Software As A Service (SaaS) is a way of building a distributing software (usually over the Internet) where the software provider hosts the software on behalf of the end-user. This hosting is usually a cloud-based platform such as Microsoft Azure. In the good old days, we would have described this as a “turn-key” type of solution! In the modern world, this is a key part of a digital transformation.

Typically this software is provided for a monthly license fee rather than a large, single upfront perpetual license cost. SaaS has been popular as it allows customers to reduce the burden of providing an IT infrastructure to run software. Often Software As A Service is provided on flexible terms allowing customers to temporarily deactivate their accounts and reduce costs when those accounts are not in use. Popular examples of SaaS include Microsoft Office 365, Toggl, Jira, Box and many more.

Platform As A Service (PaaS)

Platform As A Service (PaaS) is an approach to creating cloud-based software that allows others to develop, run and manage software Apps. The use of the cloud allows companies to reduce their IT infrastructure management overhead and focus instead on creating an innovative Digital Platform as part of their Digital Transformation. There are many interpretations of the term Platform As A Service. At its simplest level, an example would be the Microsoft Azure cloud platform or the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform. These platforms allow programmers, DevOps teams and other IT professionals to create, deliver and run applications on the Internet via on-demand databases, application frameworks, communications tools etc.



Microservices is an evolution of the slightly older Service-Oriented Architecture approach to software development in which software developers create small, fine-grained services to perform highly focused individual functions with few or no external dependencies. Many see Microservices as another enactment of Conway’s Law which states that “all systems developed by an organisation are a mirror of the structure of that organisation”. In other words, as software teams have become smaller, cross-functional and more focussed, so have their software products. The key benefits of Microservices are that they allow small amounts of code to be independently built, tested and deployed rapidly, thus avoiding the “big bang” release strategy of yesteryear.

Microservices are a popular method of creating Software As A Service. An example of a Popular Platform As A Service mechanism for building Microservices is Microsoft Azure Function Apps.

Digital Platform

A Digital Platform is a modern, incremental approach to creating a new information communication system within a company. Typically, companies have a large number of disparate legacy systems prior to a Digital Transformation. The key challenge is to allow those systems to interoperate and to be able to aggregate and consolidate that information for presentation to the world in a Software As A Service manner.

A Digital Platform typically decouples these systems and allows communication through a system-neutral mechanism such as an Enterprise Service Bus. This allows a “plug and play” approach to be taken to system development. Initially, Digital Adapters are created to allow legacy systems to communicate with the Enterprise Service Bus and response to updates and requests for information. Over time, the legacy systems can be progressively replaced with more modern systems that better match business needs. Dues to the decoupled nature of the Digital Platform (all communication is via the Enterprise Service Bus), this can be done with minimum impact on the rest of the IT ecosystem.

Interested In Learning More?

If you are interested in learning more about developing your own Digital Platform as part of your Digital Transformation, please fill in the form below to get in touch with us.

Alternatively, if you would like to know about the benefits of digital transformation, please check out our previous post.

Nick McKenna
Since 2004, Nick McKenna, BSc, MBCS Biography has been the CEO of McKenna Consultants. McKenna Consultants is a bespoke software development based in North Yorkshire, specialising in Cloud development, mobile App development, progressive web App development, systems integration and the Internet of Things development. Nick also holds a First Class Degree in Computer Science (BSc) and wrote his first computer program at the age of nine, on a BBC Micro Model B computer. For the last 21 years, Nick has been a professional computer programmer and software architecture. Nick’s technical expertise includes; Net Core, C#, Microsoft Azure, Asp.Net, RESTful web services, eProcurement, Swift, iOS mobile development, Java, Android mobile development, C++, Internet Of Things and more. In addition, Nick is experienced in Agile coaching, training and consultancy, applying modern Agile management techniques to marketing and running McKenna Consultants, as well as the development of software for clients. Nick is a Certified Enterprise Coach (Scrum Alliance), SAFe Program Consultant (SAI), Certified LeSS Practitioner (LeSS) and Certified Scrum@Scale Practitioner. Outside the office, Nick is a professional scuba diver and he holds the rank of Black Belt 5th Dan in Karate.