Are you Digitally Transforming or Just Optimising

Posted on October 14, 2018


Why do some brands resonate with a shock and awe vitality in our digital economy where others seem to just fizzle a bit? Perhaps the answer is as simple as some are truly committing to a new modus operandi to tap the opportunities from the digital economy where as others are just fiddling under the bonnet.

So why are organizations failing to meet their digital economy full potential, and fail they do. With only 14% of business executives polled by McKinsey in September 2018 saying that their digital transformation efforts have sustained performance improvements. With those that failed experiencing a costly impact not just in cash terms but impact on productivity, moral and loss of focus exposing them to predatory market forces.

Why? Amongst other things:
• They are optimizing the allocation and use of resources in managing digital economy cyber-related risks, not transforming those risks into strengths.
• Poor Planning – Achieve a greater level of integration between security functions and the business, requires diligent planning.
• Poor Execution – To realise their business outcomes faster and more securely, in real-time, requires efficient execution, effectively communicated.
• To transform requires fresh perspective on the too familiar, this means looking outside for experience. Many lessons have been paid for already and the learnings available, yet too many organisations believe they know better and try to execute internally.
• The times have changed, 66% (survey by EIU sponsored by BMC software) of organisations bypassing IT when buying new technologies for digital transformation, yet still hold IT accountable when programmes fail!
• Organisations are NOT focused in the same direction due to a lack of a true strategic transformation, which is little more than tactical optimisation.

Whatever the reason, it all stems from one key success criteria – Leadership.

“Moving through unnecessary complications with clear, direct and flexible thinking. Seeing with new eyes, looking beyond the obvious, evolving established ways of thinking, reappraising old assumptions, finding new answers, harnessing potential.”

Digital Leaderships is different to traditional leadership, but that does not mean a traditional leader cannot be a digital leader. The difference comes in recognising that to succeed in a digital economy means getting comfortable with and harnessing a business into a lean and agile organism that can fully capitalise on the velocity of change as a new norm, which bucks the conventional attitude.

Some tell tales that point to an organisation in a true transformation include:

• Leading with the cultural change, people + mindset for a digital economy, NOT technology.
• Customer experience focused, that can include internal consumers of services.
• Empowerment of people with flatter structures, preparing them to play their part by displacing resistance with cooperation, by removing the roadblocks of fear, uncertainty and doubt, promoting an ownership and decisive accountability ethic.
• Shifting to a new cultural norm in ways of working, thinking and behaving that is accepting of failure as an artefact of success.
• Applying Agile and lean methodologies across the business, no exceptions.
• It’s not a project with an end, it’s evergreen, moving with the new cadence of innovation disruption to exploit the pace of digital change.
• Going beyond technology adoption with solutions and practices that drive positive experiences, consistently.
• Executing in an agile way, not wedded to just one way of doing things, technology or outcome, keeping options open.
• Treating security and fostering trust in digital life as built in not bolted on – Cybersecurity is the Business Operating Model for a Digital Economy.

Anything less can be regarded as digital optimisation. Optimisation may improve processes, save time and or cost, but in the end is only really doing the same thing in a new way. It’s a safe option, but is not transformation. Leadership which does not recognise this will risk running out of evolutionary runway because they do not understand how to stake a claim in the new digital landscape of opportunity and reach new heights of achievement. Worst of all they will not carry the confidence in the people they lead that they actually know what they are doing.

Transformation leaders disrupt the status quo, by understanding how you are doing things and are clear on what is not working. Challenging their own business and operational models, open to the signalling from customers and colleagues and pivoting as required, in real-time. Critically, doing so in control of the timeframes and not waiting to be disrupted by a ’Born in the Cloud’ start-up or a competitor that does just get it. Transformational leaders and boards are communicators, floor walkers, they apply a sell rather than tell attitude, leading from the front, resulting in their people buying-into the initiative rather than feeling tied-in. This means people feel they have been engaged, views heard, they are bought in together, understanding what the new world for them looks like and how they get there and most critically, subscribe to the impact it will have on them personally.

Just as in a world of cloud computing, lift and shift or building on a legacy code base may satisfy a tactical short-term objective, it is not a viable long term one. Businesses similarly need to transform to meet the demands and harvest the opportunity of the digital economy and committed workforce.