Digital transformation is not new. Indeed, it has been on the IOC’s agenda for at least 35 years.
I helped design and stage my first digital transformation symposium in 1987. The keynote speakers were the CEO of the emerging technology provider and CEO of one of the world’s largest and most technologically sophisticated financial institutions.
The messages delivered by both the supply and demand side of the tech industry at the time weren’t much different than those circulating in podcasts, webinars, zoom calls and analyst white papers today. today.
That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been progress.
Although the term itself has been relegated to buzzword status, the result of decades of overuse and abuse, the fact is that digital transformation is The thing the big CIOs do, every day.
6 truths about digital transformation
After more than three decades of hard work, we’ve learned a lot about what digital transformation is and isn’t. Here is a summary :
Digital transformation is not digitization—digitalization is the application of new technologies to existing business processes.
Digital transformation is not a strategy— a strategy has an end point, a set of tactics designed to reach that end point, and a timeline.
Digital transformation is not a fixed-term project— digital transformation does not happen in three months, six months or 18 months; it never ends.
Digital transformation is hard—BCG data indicates that only about 30% of transformation initiatives are successful.
Digital transformation matters— indeed it is existential; the future is digital. As fellow futurist Gerd Leonhard emphatically proclaims, “The real life is out.”
Digital transformation is less about upgrading the technology stack at scale and more about updating your strategic thinking.
IT strategy in the digital age
From a macro perspective, everything the Internet has done to the music industry is now happening to every other industry. The way forward starts with strategy and strategy starts with conversations – conversations with customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders.
We need to stop talking about digital transformation and start paying more attention to the conversations happening inside (and outside) the business.
Dr. Karen Stephenson, one of the great founding thinkers of this century, advocates identifying, analyzing and augmenting these conversations to create maps showing the “strings” of the institution (i.e. how things actually work), versus the organizational chart, which describes the “rules” of an institution.
Anthropologists and sociologists will tell you that humans pathologically categorize themselves (and others). It is through conversations that such categorizations come to light. Making these categorizations explicit is the starting point on the way forward.
4 steps to complete the transformation
Over thirty years of digital transformation have provided a rich set of data on how workplace populations are responding to technological change. We know there is a kind of digital ethnography. There are digital natives, workers who grew up with digital tools; digital immigrants, workers open to learning and change; and digital refugees, workers who aggressively avoid digital tools. Every group needs tailored leadership.
Spend more time on strategy. A collection of academic research on the allocation of work time indicates that executives currently spend about one in five hours on strategy. Leaders need to spend more time on strategy. The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness estimates that the average leader spends 25 minutes a day on strategy and planning.
Beware of the compliance trap. In the United States, approximately 12% of GDP is spent on regulatory compliance. Faced with enormous uncertainty, many organizations have essentially given up on developing strategy, deciding instead that regulatory compliance would be a substitute for strategy. Does anyone really want to work in a company whose core business is compliance?
Accept uncertainty. Honest futurists will agree that modern forecasts are no more accurate than the omens generated by ancient gizzard pressers seeking to advise Roman generals when and where the Visigoths might attack. The future cannot be predicted, but it can be prepared. It is possible to be on the right side of major trends.
The way forward requires putting processes in place to identify early signals of change (some call this Pivot Hunting). After recognizing the inflection points, you have to take advantage of them. The owner of a set of underground car parks in Paris, recognizing that parking spaces were not needed when workers weren’t commuting to work, pivoted and converted the lightless underground facilities into organic mushroom houses.
Tell a story. We live in a confused world. Employees and customers need a personalized message explaining where you were, where you are now and where you are going.