culture

The Top 3 Reasons Why Digital Transformation is so Difficult

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  1. Finding a vision when you don’t have anything concrete to go to

Firstly, take comfort in the fact that no one knew where things were going with digital disruption and didn’t have a clear vision to begin with. We are in the age of “we’re figuring this out as we go.” The fundamental question everyone will be asking you and your organization is why. Why is your organization going to actually go ahead and take this leap into whatever the heck “digital” is for you – especially if you are not traditionally a technology business. For some organizations it is clear – you are losing market share and money to disrupters. For some organizations, it might not be so evident (I know this sounds crazy, and yes we have historical examples of epic fails that should be enough) but depending on the kind of business you are in, and how your business has evolved – it might not be so obvious.

So what should you do?

Knowing that there is empirical evidence of organizational downfalls and why this occurred is probably the first start. Why is this important? It’s because you have to do some outside in scanning and understand the core business reason that it happened. Just because it is not your business exactly, doesn’t mean that the underlying issue can’t impact you (ego reasons, culture reasons, investment – or non investment decisions etc.) If you haven’t done it yet, you should perform a SWOT and PESTLE analysis. Take a look at the weakness/threats your organization has and the external things happening in your industry, nationally or globally that will at some point have an impact on your organization.

Next you have to determine whether you want to take an offensive or defensive (or both) approach to your transformation. There are a few reasons that are pretty standard that underlay digital transformation if you don’t consider it an imminent threat or if you’re not losing money… yet. You can choose from the below, what you think might be the most important to your organization and its future:

  • Because the pace of technology change is quicker outside your organization than in
  • Because customers demand better user experiences and access on all different types of technology platforms
  • Because the world is going to be increasingly interconnected through technology
  • Because you need to think about your succession planning and talent attraction/retention

Maybe its one of the above or maybe it is all of the above. But take your SWOT/PESTLE and any of the above reasons, as well as whether you think you should be going offensive or defensive. You now have your “why” and some places you think you should be headed as an organization. You have a vision of where you want to go and you can create an action plan around it.

2. Business Model Generation

Now the truth is – and if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times – digital transformation is business transformation. What does this actually mean?

  • It means how you invest your money will change, because you will need to bring in new talent, stand up new divisions and the biggest will be how you invest in your technology infrastructure and architecture to enable your organization.
  • It means how your budgets are planned and allocated will need to change. People get resistant to having smaller head counts or having less money to do what they want. It might even change how you do your accounting in the business.
  • It means processes are going to change. Areas that once owned a process, or where certain decisions happened will change. Often people translate this immediately too: job loss. But no. It just mostly likely means that roles get to change, or the ownership of certain aspects of the process are shifting.

You can choose a variety of models for digital: Decentralized, Centralized, Center’s of Excellence, Offsite (Labs, Mode 1/2). What you pick is really dependent on how your business operates and what you think will help you get early wins. What matters most is that best practices in change management are carried out, which include tons of communication and that processes, roles and responsibilities get ironed out to prevent conflict.

3. A willingness to admit that you may not have the right people at the table

Digital is one of these tricky things that didn’t happen with a school degree. Most digital professionals (myself included), didn’t have a digital degree option when we were in school – and had to go through the evolution of this industry in the school of hard knocks. You might (or might not) be surprised by this, but many digital professionals came from IT (development or product engineering) or marketing/communications – because digital really is the intersection of these functions.

There are numerous debates about whether Digital should be part of IT, or Marketing or on it’s own – but nonetheless it requires people who have real experience in delivery of digital products and experiences. More importantly it requires people at the decision making table with the experience to understand what the organization is being asked to do when it comes to becoming digitally enabled. It means having someone who is versed in digital who can inspire and excite, can see the future of where your organization could go digitally and who can ruffle feathers in a non-threatening way while pushing change in places with less resistance to drive the places with more resistance.

Why does this matter? Those who work in delivery know when someone does or doesn’t understand. You must have a leader that is able to talk to developers, engineers, UX pros, look at the analytics and understand what they are telling you. This is the difference between garnering real respect from your reports. Their belief in you as the beacon for organizational change rides on this respect.

It also requires someone who can speak to the rest of your business and build and nurture relationships for when the going gets tough (cause it’s gonna)! If you have someone at the table who can really understand the details of what is required to deliver digital transformation, it helps decision makers understand what they are getting into. Someone at the decision making table with these skills means the ability to create the endorsement, relationships and support needed to mobilize an organization to really make change.

Do you have the right skills in the right places with the right people to make your organizational evolution possible? It’s a tough call, and only you know what your organization needs – but it does mean you have to be willing to admit that you may not have what you need.

What are some of your lessons learned that you would be willing to share with other change agents?

Moving Through Digital Landscapes: One Company at a Time

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The-Changing-Digital-LandscapeIt’s always interesting when you enter into massive organziations and begin to look at how big brands interact with the ever changing world of digital.  Especially when the organization has a complex structure and IT systems that can make digital strategy easier said than done.

I heard an interesting and salient point from someone the other day, that I think really impacts the way that digital people often approach new landscapes and roles. Myself included!

We are often able to come into new environments and quickly “detect” what is “wrong”, or which “process” needs to be implemented/improved, or where there are huge “gaps”.  I put those in quotes because our wonderful changes today are also the major pain points for those that come into replace us tomorrow.  The situation we enter today, was also once someone’s solution for some other issue they were trying to solve yesterday.

Often times, we bring in processes, ideas and stop gaps that are not net new,  but borrowed from previous places.  This doesn’t make us innovative ( A word that digital people love to associate with themselves).   Every new company that you enter will provide you a new digital landscape that you are facing.  This can be something as basic as not having an environment where everyone is working from the same operating system and know very little about digial at all, to incredibly forward thinking places where you feel inadequate because you don’t seem to be on the pulse as much as everyone else is.

When I first began at Rogers media, I felt so inadequate.  I joined their digital team, and as a communications person I had very basic understandings of technology.  In my almost 3 year tenure, I learned so much and at such a quick pace that I was often the only person in many scenarios who had either encountered, heard about, solved through some abstract digital strategy or solution.  In my new role, I am super savvy in an environment that works on antiquated platforms that have limited technological capabilities for core things like search and analytics.

What I am learning every day, is that it has less to do with how forward thinking and innovative I believe I am – but more so in understanding the culture and environment and determining what  digital strategies make the most sense based on the technologies I am working with.  Part of my role involves pushing forward and challenging my team to think outside the box including being current with technology.  However, driving the company into a digital direction that I have seen before may not be the answer that complex matrix type organizations with strong history and culture need.  What is needed is a lot of observation and finding technology solves that can marry old with new allowing for a smoother and more unique transitioning of those landscapes.