Digital Transformation - a faster horse won’t cut it

There was some great discussion on my previous post which I want to unpack and perhaps reassemble, picking up on themes around Digital Transformation; briefly revisiting the ‘why’ (do it) but focusing on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ with some ideas and resources.

I still meet the odd business-as-usual (BAU) ‘Digital Transformation Denier’.  Frankly I think the jury is out.  The digital transformation wave is hitting the beach now.  The question; in my view, is not ‘is it happening’ but rather ‘do I want to be on the wave or left behind’?  The key question then is ‘how to catch the wave’?  This blog is directed at that last question.

In my Where’s Wally’ post of 3rd April I quoted a 2015 Deloitte paper: ‘Digital Disruption – Short fuse, big bang’ which suggests a “lack of strategy is the leading barrier impeding organizations from taking full advantage of digital trends”.  That post; the Deloitte paper itself and indeed a host of other corroborating commentary and research is basically saying: ‘do this if you plan to be around in a few years’. That is the ‘why’ and more and more of the organisations I talk to get that.  The question moves to something like: How do I transform a massive investment in legacy IT kit along with all the supporting structures, processes and culture?  What should I be paying attention to?  What can I ignore?  Where should I focus my limited resources?  How do I ‘sell’ that up the food-chain?  How do I even start? 

In my related blog; ‘Innovation by design – Kill the Chicken Pt III’ I discuss a ‘how-to’ approach for doing just that which generated some great discussion.  That post though perhaps missed a tactical step; the ‘what’ questions bridging the strategy; ‘why’ and the ‘how’; the projects/approaches/methodologies.   Let’s address that………………

Just yesterday (3rd May 2016) there was a great article in the Huffington Post byVala Afshar; Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce (and wow, what a job title – I’m considering stealing it).  Based on the work of Brian Solis, Vala describes six steps or stages; the ‘what’ for achieving Digital Transformation nirvana with the final stage: ‘Digital transformation becomes a way of business’.

Afshar’s Step 1 is directed at Business as Usual (BAU) where “Organizations operate with a familiar legacy perspective [] believing that it remains the solution to digital relevance”.  Sort of like in 1910 hitching a horse to the front of a car. Enough said about that already. 

He  describes Step 2 as “Pockets of experimentation are driving digital literacy and creativity, albeit disparately, throughout the organization”.  This is ‘Innovation by Exception’ or ‘Skunkworks’ which I discussed in my post Kill the Chicken – Pt II’.  My follow-up post: Innovation by Design: Kill the Chicken – Pt III’ generated some great comment and discussion; one being [paraphrasing] ‘can and should innovation happen in an organic, unstructured way?  Or can it be directed?  Again, just great questions.   In answering that I propose: Yes, absolutely innovation can be directed and; further, Change Leaders have access to the resources to achieve just that.  Afshar describes this in Step 3 “Experimentation becomes intentional while executing at more promising and capable levels. Initiatives become bolder, and, as a result, change agents seek executive support for new resources and technology”.  A pretty good description of ‘Innovation by Design’.

So going back to the dilemma and key question for the Change Leader: ‘if an Innovative and Adaptive Digital transformation is the strategic goal for a successful future in the Digital Age, how to begin?  Afshar’s Step 3 provides some insight.  More on that shortly but first; somewhere in all all that we have the basis of a strategy and road-map for digital transformation; the why (the strategy); the ‘what’ (the six steps or stages).  In my previous posts I’ve dug deeper into the ‘how’ with tools/approaches/methodologies that provide insight into ‘how’ and ‘where’ to direct innovation).  Chief among them is an emerging information-supply-chain methodology LINQ which I’ve been using to quickly and easily (typically just days of effort) provide insight into those question posed above: What should I be paying attention to?  What can I ignore?  Where should I focus my limited resources?  How do I ‘sell’ that up the food-chain?  Where am I spending resources for little return (i.e. poor ROI)?  What and where are my greatest risks?  Where do areas of high-risk align with areas of high-value?  The answers to those questions provide the fuel, the first actions for achieve Step 3: “[identifying] more promising [areas to focus attention/resource]”.  In doing that it also provides the bridge to ‘Intentional’ direction; i.e. the Change Leader consciously directing resources for innovation in a particular area; AKA “Innovation by Design”.

 The means of achieving Vala Afshar’s Step 3: ‘Formalized; intentional Innovation’ is, I believe, within every organisations grasp now.  At StratSim, we get a real buzz in passing onto our customers the wherewithal to achieve that for themselves.

Want to talk more?  Please feel free to contact me.

Martin Erasmuson

Chief Digital Evangelist, StratSim (apologies Afshar, it’s such an outrageously superb title I had to steal it)