There is only one type of transformation

Is there such a thing as Digital Transformation…really?

You have a kick 'A' digital strategy, you are noted as being a digital leader, you have a budget, a digital hub, some awesome tech being installed…but are you really happy with the results so far…?

Digital Transformation is touted as the solution to a burning platform – that of the maturity of technology against the painful inability of businesses able to keep up with, and take advantage of, a constantly changing customer expectation and need.

But what does Digital Transformation really mean in terms of delivery and outputs?  It’s safe to say that for the most part, Digital Transformation has the output of new, or updated technology within an organisation - ranging from a complete technology redesign, a move from legacy to cloud, or a specific new technology implementation (CRM maybe), all the way through to perhaps giving mobile devices to the workforce. Each one of these examples can and does get described as Digital Transformation – but is it just really transformation?  In terms of delivery there is process redesign that is often included, some skills training that is sometimes included, a communication campaign perhaps developed and of course a change programme that is hopefully implemented.

Digital Transformation can be whatever you want it to be, from building a website to complete business wide transformation that takes an inside out approach.  People will tell you that you are right, people will tell you that you are wrong, but who cares - the point is; that whatever kind of transformation is being delivered our customers still feel unfulfilled during and after - engagement levels are usually lower than anticipated, change continues to be a really hard slog, and projects and programmes continue to fail. So why?

Because we got it all wrong! When digital started it's rise to fame it was seen to be all about technology modernisation and process change. And thus, we’ve built up the global market (according to IDC digital transformation (DX) technologies will grow to more than $2.1 trillion in 2019) that is dedicated essentially to these two areas; technology and process, with one glaringly obvious omission – the people.  Yeah a few skills here and there and a change management programme to support your shiny new tech or uber redesigned process, is definitely in scope – but why still, is there that niggling feeling of something else being missing, a feeling deep in your gut just keeps saying we're doing this the wrong way?

People? Mindset? Culture? – isn’t that about being human beings with emotions, feelings, ideas? Yes, but that’s not got anything to do with the serious world of business right?

Wrong.

Our direction as a company over the last 4 years has led us to understand that we are not in the business of digital transformation, we are indeed in the business of we have defined as People Centred Transformation.

Realising that what people think, how people behave and the skills and competencies they possess - seen as a collective whole - is far more important to the success of any transformation programme – digital or otherwise. It has been a journey we've taken by breaking down our customer transformation programmes into those that have achieved outcomes versus those that have just outputted some numbers or delivered an on time - on budget programme. What we found, time and time again, is that any focus on people as thinking, feeling and reacting human beings somehow gets lost in a shroud of mystery and beliefs that such things belong in the world of 60's psychedelic liberation not in the world of process driven business and the world of transformation. So we've been on a mission; trying to get leaders, technologists, marketers, transformation experts and change managers to get more in tune with their human side and start focusing on change by names not by numbers.

We believe that People Centred Transformation is the only transformation that is needed, and we're proving it over and over with a growing list of customers who are making transformation about re-humanising business not de-humanising business. (I suspect that this is perhaps one of the success factors of Amazon and Tesla as they increasingly stand alone in terms of growth, progress and success on the global business stage).  Transformation must remain being people centred from start to finish and not start with a people focus then revert to a set of processes or a technology project because that's all we know.

If we understand what people think, how they behave and the skills they possess we can add context and relevance to why our business is in the situation it is in (culturally and financially). why our shiny new technology doesn’t have much engagement or workforce buy-in, and why our amazing new product doesn't seem to be resonating with customers.

People Centred Transformation can be defined by two simple design principles:

  1. That all people be considered equal. To be customer centric you must first be audience focussed - and treat everyone equal for the part they should play towards success. The worker, the customer, the supplier, the partner, the leader and of course increasingly the crowd.
  2. That transformation prioritises human mindset and behaviours. Skills training and job titles just don't cut the mustard anymore; we follow a simple three step journey that always considers behaviour and mindset before maybe putting someone in a room and giving them agile training: that three step journey is what we refer to as THINK, BEHAVE, ACT.

Following the People Centred Transformation approach will support and nurture the right behaviours and mindset (across worker, leader, customer, partner, supplier and crowd) to give you lasting success, it will give you everything you need to move your business forward whether it’s a speedboat or a Titanic – it will shift, I promise you.

So, do we ditch the process re-engineering, change management, technology transformation efforts and expertise – of course not. People Centred Transformation is your mandated parallel to anything that involves change or transformation. However, if you want to start what you think is a digital transformation don’t. Build a people centred transformation programme and do it right.

Back in 2014 we talked about the importance of people, culture and connectedness when making organisations adaptive and transformative. Our message is still the same and even stronger today than ever before: people must be at the centre of all change and transformation, as human beings and individuals not as guinea pig groupings or numbers on a process map - this is the gift that technology has provided us, the ability to serve the individual by name, not by number.

For just as we noted back then, even Andy Warhol said that it’s not time that changes things - it's people.

Welcome to the world of People Centred Transformation!

Partner Blog - Collaboration Best Practice

The Knowledge Hub approach to digital collaboration and engagement

Here are our top ten tips for building and developing an online collaboration group on Knowledge Hub:

  1. Purpose – a community always needs a clear reason to exist. What are you setting out to achieve?
  2. Audience – who’s it for?
  3. Benefits – why are people going to join? What is in it for them? Maybe it’s essential knowledge for their work, perhaps it will help them gain new skills, or come into contact with experts in their field.
  4. Champions – identify people who are passionate about this too and ask them to help you lead/facilitate the community.
  5. Communications – invite the right people, prompt people regularly, personalise communications where you can e.g. acceptance messages, send messages about individual items you think people can help with.
  6. Content strategy – start with some key content that will really draw people in – aim to upload at least one or two items or comments each week, encourage your champions to do the same.
  7. Drip feed via notifications – regular communications and reminders really work. Email is still king, so get people to sign up to notifications and make sure there are regular posts.
  8. Teamwork – use your champions well. Facilitating a community can be a lot less onerous if you all spend 10 minutes a day on an allocated task rather than letting the responsibility all fall to one person.
  9. Encouragement – when people do get involved in communities, they like to feel part of something and that it’s a trusted environment. Encouraging people and feeding back when they do start to engage helps them feel more comfortable about sharing.
  10. Evolve – don’t be afraid to change your approach if it’s not working. Keep refining what you’re doing and gain an understanding of what works best for your community.

If you would like to learn more about Knowledge Hub and what we do click here to go to our site.

Digital Transformation doomed to fail! Culture with a sting in the tale (wink, wink)

Here’s a story told in a simple way about average people, living average lives, working for an average business. 

James is finance manager at LMN Limited.  He’s been working there for about three and a half years, and in that time, the business has seen a new CEO come on board and a few change initiatives happen in the sales area and service area of the business. He can’t tell you exactly what those initiatives were about, and even more, he can’t really tell you what they achieved.

James is on his way to the staff café to grab a coffee mid morning one day, when he walks past a meeting room where a meeting is being held. He looks at a screen and sees something, which looks like "Digital Strategy, Workforce Modernisation Through Technology" and hears what he thinks is 20% reduction being quoted.

In the café James bumps into Hilary from Customer Service. He mentions what he’s seen and Hilary immediately replies:  “I knew it! I had heard something about a digital strategy from my boss in our weekly meeting last Monday but it was pretty vague. They are going to reduce the workforce by 20% by using technology! Oh my god, that’s got to mean losing people in my area right? I can’t believe it”.

Hilary returns to her desk with a tale that stings it’s way throughout the customer services area, festering and breeding more words and embellishments like staff reductions, takeovers, 40% redundancies…you name it, they are talking about it with increasing nervousness and a lack of trust.

James returns to the finance area and talks to Sharon and Steve who run Accounts Payable and Receivable. The story he tells them immediately gets both worried about how 'they' (a collective term for the leadership team and the elusive digital team - firmly cementing a barrier between them and us) will bring technology in to replace their jobs. Steve calls his wife, then a recruitment company, he’s only been there 8 months, so first in first out gives him the sense that he’s going to be first to get the boot, whatever happens.

Unbeknown to everyone who connects with this simple story initiated in the café, the meeting that was happening went something like this:

With our new digital strategy we will be able to bring about technology changes that will enable our staff to become more empowered in their roles and achieve 20% reduction in transactional errors, making for happy workers and happy customers.

A month later, when things have settled down - into a general understanding that this digital strategy is clearly not to be trusted - the CEO sends out an email (they are not on Slack yet!) talking about a fantastic new technology that will be implemented over the coming weeks as part of the new digital strategy. It will bring about fantastic efficiencies and increase productivity in the customer services and sales areas of the business. He urges everyone to get on the bus and join with the leadership team and the digital team in making sure this is a success.

Over the following weeks, workshops and training sessions on the new technology take place across these two business areas. But engagement is low and there is resistance to change within certain groups, even some hostility amongst one or two people.

Things are just really hard and no one can truly understand why…

Whether you call it a digital strategy, transformation strategy or modernisation strategy, no one really cares.  What the individual really cares about is having voice and visibility of what this all means to them personally.  Having context of their role in the overall picture. If this scenario was played out a second time with full transparency and inclusion of the workforce in the development and approval of the so called digital strategy, things would be very different. Even more important, though subtle, is placing the right level of focus on the organisational culture from the very start, something which could have negated what took place in the café even happening.

Culture exists whether you actively consider it or not.  But the one you let develop and nurture of it’s own accord you have no control over, no way of really nurturing and using as an enabler for change.

Digital Transformation is doomed to fail if your cultural story has this sting in it’s tale.

 

All the characters, situations and scenarios mentioned in this story are completely fictional.

Process or Progress? It's your choice.

Have you ever thought that you are the slave to process?  That you can’t get done what you want to get done, or that what you need to get done takes too long because you have to fill out a form, get approval, wait and then wait a little bit longer?

Process.  That beautiful word! 

Aside from the dictionary definitions, when you are talking about Digital Business Transformation or Digital strategy, process really boils down to two distinct things:

1)    The formal steps one must carry out in order to achieve an outcome or move forward as set out by the organisation, leadership or management.

2)    The behaviours we as individuals tend to follow when completing a task, addressing an issue, solving a problem or creating something. This is the ‘way we tend to work’.

Both examples are not exclusive of the other.  I’m sure there is a huge amount of research to discuss, debate and evaluate the behavioural psychology and historical legacy of each and their relationship to each other…but so what.

Back to the opening statement: I can’t do what I know I need to do because I have to follow due process. I don’t do what I should or could do because my learnt behaviours force me to do things this one specific way.

When building a Digital Strategy or when travelling through Digital Business Transformation a leadership team and organisation must prioritise these too things to progress. Or else? Simple, you will not progress or stumble and stall at best.

Processes as dictated by the organisation

Why we don’t address the processes of an organisation and the ways of working of the individual as a key priority within any Digital Strategy or Transformation is simply mind blowing.

Everyone knows Digital Transformation isn’t just about technology now. If you still think it is…you have a long way to go. Also, increasingly, research and articles around Digital Business Transformation are talking about the importance of culture to the success of any such initiative.  This is great, but in the time old tradition of Adapt2Digital no-jargon-client-speak – who really knows what to do about culture unless they are super smart or experienced in that area?

I’m supposed to write actionable blogs, not opinionated waffle so I should cut to the chase right?

If you are building a Digital Strategy or going through a Digital Business Transformation, ensure you have organisational process as a top priority for assessment, review and change. This should include governance in general as well as your policies & procedures.

When you are assessing and reviewing processes consider this; Do your processes enable or inhibit the ability for you to:

·      Understand your customers better?

·      Help your workforce make decisions in the moment they are needed?

·      Change when you need to change -  NOW!?

·      Optimise (and when indicated redesign) your customer experiences?

·      Speed up the end to end customer lifecycle?

There are more, but these should be included in your initial assessment and review. I am not for a second belittling the challenge and complexity some organisations face when addressing the need to review and change processes – but this doesn’t negate the importance or need to do so.  It should fire you up, not drag you down - how much worse can it be if you are already so frustrated? Getting policy makers and leaders understand that processes and procedures need to change as a major part of any Digital Strategy or Digital Business Transformation becomes part of the need to get senior leadership buy in right at the very start.

Summary

1)    Don’t think you can ignore or trick your Digital Strategy or Digital Business Transformation to work without addressing changing processes as a key outcome and objective

2)    Work this priority into your business case and leadership awareness initiatives

3)    Take heart, this really is an area where you should start small but not stop thinking big…there will be lots to do along the way.

The way we tend to do things as individuals

Here at Adapt2Digital I know I should do something about integrating our CRM software with our financial software; it would save time, money, provide hugely more valuable information to our sales teams and to our management team. I’ve known this for about 6 months. Have I done anything about it? Nope, zero, ziltch, nada.

Those of you who are aware of the work of Robert Kegan, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will be familiar with what he calls:  Immunity to Change on which he has published.  Ultimately, this is al to do with human nature, Robert urges us all to consider this:

 “If fourteen frogs are sitting on a log and thirteen decide to jump into the pond, how many frogs will be left on the log?”

The answer is in fact fourteen.  As Robert explains in this great YouTube video, our intent to do something, our want to change is very different to the action required to ‘actually’ change! And, furthermore, he’s proved this using some incredibly compelling examples including heart patients.

What’s my point?  Even when you have changed the processes, you have to ensure you have gained the trust and created the desire to change at an individual level to progress.  Otherwise, when the going gets tough, or even without any challenge, over time people will revert back to learnt behaviours.

Also, personally I believe, you have to understand culture through the lens of local groups or tribes to really make an effective difference. 


What does a bread maker, the country of France and digital transformation have in common?

Put simply?  When the humble break maker was invented, helping people make their own bread that was cheaper, healthier- with that amazing smell added to the romance of it all – who would argue the concept of moving to a bread maker?  Well, aside from the fact that in many countries simply buying a loaf in a supermarket seems more convenient and cheaper - something very different took place in France which I think offers up something we should all be mindful of:

Throughout the country people were buying bread machines…but the reality was this:  The idea of walking to the bread shop was part of the culture, meeting local community members was part of the culture, and the product, I think we can all agree, is far superior than in most other countries! 


The point is, the French tried a new technology but it didn’t work for two reasons: It removed a valid cultural, community aspect at a local ‘tribal’ level - the importance of the established process - bordering on ritual was never considered as important.  And, secondly of course, the bread maker could only make bread as good as (at best!) the myriad of Boulangeries throughout the country.  

When you are assessing the individual behaviours of people you must also look at their local tribes and understand the value of this community aspect. If you are going to remove it, ensure it is for the right reasons.  Furthermore, ensure you are communicating clearly and effectively the benefits of change, and do so authentically - don’t be like the humble bread maker and be change for change’s sake - the tribe has to be supported and the outcome/product has to be better and far superior not only to the existing process but also to the tribe value that might be ingrained within that process.

Summary:

1)    Understand the people/tribe/group value of processes before you start to change or remove them - this can sometimes be subtle but to an individual or small group hugely important.

2)    Ensure you can articulate the ‘WHY’ of change.  Clearly demonstrate the benefits of a new process just as you would a new product or service.

3)    Create desire for change, not just fact for change.

Process versus progress. It’s your choice. If you would like to know more about how to do this and accelerate your own Digital Transformation journey then please do connect.

The Wheel Of Digital Transformation

What to do and how to do it

Actionable blogs, insightful blogs, blogs that demystify and develop business’ understanding of Digital Transformation and Leadership. That’s the challenge the AD2 team set me for 2016.

So last week, I set things in motion by sharing our Definitions of Digital Transformation, what they were and how to recognize them.

This week, it’s time for action. I want to share with you our practical guide to taking those first and so important steps in your own Digital Business Transformation so that you can do it effectively.  But first, a couple of things to point out before I hurl myself into a bullet point list of ‘do this’ and ‘do that’s’:

REMINDER: Digital Business Transformation is a wheel. It’s not a line. There is no end point or final destination. There is only constant modernisation.

When you start a Digital Business Transformation initiative you need to bring clarity to the strategies you pursue and to the discussions you have with key stakeholders.   This is essential.

The leadership team and the wider workforce must understand that success is going to be about changing everything inside out and becoming focussed on constant modernisation.

This is an important point to make as we move through yet another phase of the Industrial Revolution or firmly ensconce ourselves in the Second Machine Age.

REMINDER: Things don’t happen just once. I’m serious – and really you know that. People change; they come and go, just like technology.

So whilst we are putting all our focus into changing technology for the good within the organisation, we might well miss the fact that two or three of the senior leadership team have left and all the good work we did to get their commitment and participation up front needs to be done again.

Scenario: You are building a digital strategy, you are new to a digital leadership role, you are part way through your strategy and want to do a gap analysis and check-in exercise to see how you’re doing…

What should you be looking at? Assessing? Measuring? Focussing on?

Answer:  The Wheel of Digital Transformation. Here we go, let’s go round the wheel: 

1)    Know thy Self: Forget digital for a minute or three. Ask yourself: Where do we want to be? Where are we now? Can you answer these questions? If not, you need find those answers now.

Probably a workshop or series of workshops are needed. You need to bring the right group of people together (Leadership representation, Technology, Audience Knowledge, Workforce Knowledge, even a digital native), then thrash out these questions. Every business should do this. Once you know where you want to be you can assess where you are now against a realistic target or benchmark. Rather than using industry benchmarks and digital maturity audits, your most valuable and accurate benchmark is against an authentic and robust business vision and goal for your own organisation. We learnt this the hard way. So get onto it now!  This is the building block of Setting a Target.

2)    Convince the Elders: Leadership, commitment and participation. And it needs to be from the get-go. I know I sound like a broken record, but believe me full and active participation by the leadership team is essential.

You may be tempted to bypass the top table, and you may even find that there are things you can do at the start that don’t require their full commitment and participation but sooner or later things will get stuck, momentum will slow, money will dry up or not be enough.

So don’t just get them on board theoretically, get them involved practically! That’s the way to get leadership to buy into digital transformation. This is the building block of Momentum.  

3)    Know thy people: Who are your audiences? What do they think? What do they do? How do they behave? Assessing and asking your audiences to talk is key to building a strategy and transforming. Ditch the old ‘assumption’ rubbish and forget the lazy segmentation techniques that spend so much time grouping people into stereotypes they lose track of individualisation. One of the most powerful things the digital age has given us is the opportunity to get up close and personal with people. This is the building block of Culture and Change.

4)    Write your commandments: This is where people stumble and fall. If you are going to effect change across people, business, culture and communications (our Adapt2Digital cause and effect quadrants), you are going to need some rules that people sign up to, principles that people commit to, anchors that can be monitored and measured. 

We have the Six Principles of Modern Business & Leadership which we share with our customers; What will yours be? This is the building block of Strategy.

5)    Build & grow your people not your temple: I love the saying; "What got you here won’t get you to where you are going". This is so true in regard to skills and resources. "What got you here, won’t get you to where you are going" - love it. 

So, first recognise that your skills and resource landscape is in for a good shake up. And I mean shake it up good! It’s going to become more complex and you are going to have to rethink a few things, but the results are going to drive your transformation journey at pace. Some pointers:

  • Don’t force a type of skill onto a person based on their job label. Base it on their competency, capability and willingness.
  • Find out what skills you have beyond the job label. Finance Manager by day maybe super App developer by night!
  • Loosen the shackles that bind you, them, us to full-time or long term commitments, think short term micro resourcing. Get what you want when you need it.
  • Open up and free people to learn, on the job, off the job, on the way to the job…let it be known that learning is good.
  • Put these four things together and you’ve got the ingredients to shake it up good!

6)    Last piece on the wheel of Digital Transformation is Engage and Monitor. I like this unlikely pair to be put together for a very good reason. When you give voice and visibility to the wider audiences of your Digital Business Transformation you have something really special happening, ideas become rich, feedback becomes more accurate and continuous, belief and advocacy in the journey is ripe; and voila! You have something to monitor alongside numbers and profit.  These are the building blocks of Outcome Based Reporting.

There you are, our simple but well seasoned Wheel of Digital Transformation. 

But remember, at any given moment you probably will be focussing on more than one area of the wheel and when you get round the wheel you will already have realised you need to head straight back to one of the other areas! That's the reality.

Last piece of advice from the field?  Don’t think you can cheat the transformation wheel.  You can’t. You can only kid yourself for a certain amount of time before it comes to bite you in the proverbial behind. You have to address everything on the Wheel of Digital Transformation.

The Different Faces of Digital Transformation

After my post last week about 'action not discussion' as a prediction and plea for Sweet ‘16, the team at Adapt2Digital have charged me with writing content which allows the reader to gain as much actionable and relevant knowledge to help them move forward either in Digital Transformation or Digital Leadership

“No problem!” I said. And so, this blog aims to provide a summary of the different definitions of Digital Transformation that seem to have evolved and be talked about today. To what actionable end? So that you can recognise which type of Digital Transformation you are either currently undergoing or thinking of kicking off. So you can recognise which type of Digital Transformation someone might be referring to in conversation and consequently ensure the context is correct.

Somewhat akin to separating the goats from the sheep, or rather searching for the diamond in a coal bunker, the term Digital Transformation has become synonymous with single business area digital transformations, single project focus points, or worse, simply the procurement and deployment of a new piece of technology.

So, how many different types of Digital Transformation are there? Which one applies to you? And which one is the best? The following lists the types that tend to be referred to in the market currently, but without distinction.

1)    Digital Marketing Transformation

Positive

  • Raising the importance of the customer and the voice of the customer. 
  • Bringing the value of engagement through social media and real-time capability to the fore as well as the need to be ready to pick up (and drop) new channels quickly and effectively to maintain relevance in the eyes of the customer.
  • Raising the game in regard to data and how connected data and allowing continuous engagement with customers can create richer experiences with together also contribute to more superior product or service design.

Cautions

  • It potentially stays as a front end transformation and, without gaining the right visibility and endorsement across the wider business, further transformation may get stuck here forever.
  • This type can give rise to the adoption of technologies that may fall outside the visibility of the wider business. For example, the use of a new social media monitoring tool by the marketing or communications team could have far more value if integrated with other technologies or data within the business.

2)    Technology Digital Transformation

Positive

  • Gaining access to agile ways of working, using new technologies and connecting with suppliers that can provide the art of the possible.
  •  Enabling innovation through joining the dots across the audience value chain (that can be a customer, employee, supplier, partner even stakeholder)
  • Building speed into the business from an operational perspective to meet demand and differentiate.

Cautions

  • Without paying equal attention to culture and communication together with process and the technical fundamentals of deployment, usage and maintenance; this type of transformation can lose momentum and fail in achieving goals and objectives. For example; Using an new internal social platform like Yammer might go 100% smoothly in regard to process and deployment but without understanding the culture of the workforce and communicating the ‘why’ benefits success might be short lived.
  • The positioning of technology, especially technology teams within the organisation is of major importance. That the business perceives technology as a provider of solutions to its needs is vital. Equally important is the mindset and behaviour within the technology area itself, to actively go out to the business and seek to provide the business solutions rather than being told ‘I want this technology please.’

3)    Product/Service Focussed Digital Transformation

Positive

  • Often one of the most resistant areas of business open to change due to fear of revenue/profit decline, customer loyalty etc. Equally, this is often one of the most celebrated examples of Digital Transformation - how a business transformed by redesigning their product or service to better suite their customers. When product and service goes through Digital Transformation amazing value and opportunity can by realised through adopting a redesign mindset. This can, quite literally, be transformational!
  • This type of transformation often delivers one of the most valuable elements of the wider Digital Business Transformation if focus, investment and commitment is placed on customer experience mapping. The value of this is connectivity of the customer journey across all touchpoints, which means the business starts to get visibility and naturally integrate with other teams and business areas to better serve customers.

Cautions

  • Can become a one-trick pony. Transform a product or service and then you think it’s done! Without adopting an adaptive mindset, embedding adaptive processes this is not a good route.
  • Digital Transformations in this area can become more of a channel shift rather than a full redesign, if there isn’t enough commitment and leadership to drive the transformation.

4)    Digital Business Transformation

Positive

  • Carrying out a Digital Business Transformation means, by definition that everyone and everything is involved and thus the overall benefits become far greater than the transformations mentioned above.

Something Beautiful

  • A complete transformation of your business from a 20th century organisation to a 21st century organisation serving a 21st century audience! Please note I say audience not just customer. Digital Business Transformation places a focus on each audience within it’s ecosystem: customer, workforce, supplier, partner, stakeholder and increasingly the wider community.

Clearly, for Digital Transformation to be truly sustainable and adaptive, it must be a Digital Business Transformation and that requires an inside-out focus, a commitment toward redesign far beyond a product or service, a commitment and participation by the entire leadership team and be fully inclusive of all audiences within the business ecosystem.

Any business that wants to serve a 21st century audience should, ultimately, have its eye on Number 4 above.

This is not to say the other types of Digital Transformation are without merit, quite the contrary, they can be significant starting points from which a wider business transformation can grow, and often one will effect the beginning of another. In this instance they would most probably become strategic projects or initiatives under the umbrella term Digital Business Transformation movement.

Summary

1)    Recognise which type of Digital Transformation your organisation is currently undergoing or talking about and if it falls within No. 1, 2 or 3 ensure your leadership team know this is only the start of something bigger. Do not dilute the imperative of the wider Digital Business Transformation but use your learnings, your successes as the business case to widen your efforts. 

2)    Think about how you can start to bring other areas of the business along the Digital Transformation Gravy Train – Data, Workforce Engagement, Customer Services…think, be open, share, collaborate, ditch ego and all sense of ownership and get out there!

3)    If you are undergoing Digital Business Transformation make sure you make it real for everyone: from the very top of the business to the very bottom. Everyone must be involved and and have a voice in mapping the journey from a place of contribution rather than a place of being force fed.

4)    Spend time, more time and then some more time, in getting a majority understanding and a solid level of authentic commitment to active participation from the leadership team.

Regardless of which type of Digital Transformation you are journeying towards or journeying through, make sure you are totally aware of your starting point. Ensure any targets are based on an audience benefit and business outcome and not just profit margin or savings quota.

So, one down!  I’m thinking of sharing our Wheel of Digital Transformation as my next actionable blog. Sharing with you the steps we take businesses through to help implement realistic and effective Digital Business Transformation. Sound good!? Please do let me know.

2016 - Sweet Sixteen! The year of serious transformation?

I couldn't start the year without adding some personal thoughts on the road ahead - having read so many already via social and the web.  So, short, sharp and sweet  - here we go!

  1. Working in the world of digital, leadership and transformation, I think it's clear that 2016 needs to be the year where we say No! to discussions that take us away from action, like 'What does digital mean' etc...and start to really focus on doing. Strategising from a place where you've tested something or had a go is a far easier position to start from.
  2. 2016 should also be the year where we accept digital leadership as a profile and not as a simple job title to be handed out without much thought or consideration. If you want to be a digital leader consider your capability and competency across a robust 360 profile, not just based on your job title or business area expertise. Are you a change agent? Can you face and manage challenges? Do you truly inspire? Are you adaptive, open? Being a CIO or CMO isn't a default passage into digital leadership.
  3. Understanding the need for competency and capability around driving change is as important, maybe more so, than technology. More and more we are hearing that digital transformation is about dealing with change first and technology second.  Let's get a bit more supportive and focussed on readiness for change, fostering an openness for doing new things or things different across our people: Leadership, workforce, partners, customers, community -  the whole lot!
  4. Sadly, as many authors, analysts and research papers have recognised, most projects fail in expectation in some way, shape or form. It's been sited on numerous occasions by some of the world's most reputable professional services organisations and research houses that this is due largely to a lack of skill. So, there you go! That's something you can tackle immediately in 2016.  Accept that skills no longer work by generic title.  I for one remember when I was choosing my specialist subjects in school as a teenager. I had to choose between Maths, Geography, Music, Physics, English...you get the picture? That was fine, it's all we needed. My 14 year old nephew can choose micro specific topic areas based on his interests and strengths today...and that's exactly how you should see business. It's not that you need a marketing manager so much as you need more and more specialist skills to deal with specialist areas to serve a superior customer experience. And by all accounts this idea will continue to diversify for a few years to come. So let's plan for it, let's consider what this means in context of our own business ecosystem.
  5. Security. I am far from an expert in this area - be it cyber, compliance, data protection etc. But I have recognised one thing and hope that in 2016 this area gains the appropriate airtime; security is not all about control and restriction. It's about enablement and it's about understanding that as individuals we all have a responsibility in this area, whether we are an employee, a customer or a member of the community. It's not just up to someone else anymore, it's up to you as well as the business, the brand, the service, the government. We should all try to become more personally accountable in this area. I for one have ear marked this as a personal focus area in 2016.
  6. Finally, (there is so much more, but we're in an attention deficit world so these are just a few of my thoughts to share) it would be remiss of me to publish this blog without mention of leadership. This has to be the elephant in the room that needs tackling in 2016. Leaders and Leadership Teams everywhere please start listening and looking - the world has changed and if you are going to win, you need to change too! So what if a 20 year old graduate suggests a new way of communicating with the workforce? So what if the role of a leader is more about participation than ever before - I believe you wouldn't want to be a leader in the 21st Century without a thirst for continuous improvement and participation at all levels without too much ego or hierarchy getting in the way.

Well, there you have it. Just a few thoughts, around stuff and things we could/should be doing or focussing more on in 2016 when it comes to digital transformation. It could be a great year this Sweet Sixteen!

This post was originally published via Pulse/LinkedIn on 7th January

Digital Leadership? Or Leadership in a Digital World?

Digital Leadership: it’s a buzzword in the business world. As a business leader, you will have noticed you can’t open a website or go to a conference without being acutely aware that you need to take your organisation in a more ‘digital’ direction.

You are, however, in danger of going the wrong way. For the phrase has created an impression – possibly a false one -  that being digital is about technology and that digital leadership is about having a single leader. If you think this, you’ll likely find yourself on a slippery slope. To say that digital is not just about technology is the subject of numerous posts and muses online so we won't go into it here. However, digital leadership actually comes in many guises and you must recognise and ensure you have all present to start strong and embark on a complete rethink of current business models to ever hope to really engage socially on a wider scale.

Nothing new here but leadership is not all about a single person but about a coalition of power, vision and skill that starts and more importantly maintains transformation. Businesses need technology change, people change, culture change, complete business change; and one person alone cannot do this.

First and foremost a wholehearted mandate for an organisational sea change from you and your team at the highest level of business, will secure success for your organisation in the digital future. You then need people of influence, with expertise and skill-sets in technology, communication, people and culture.  

For although we said that digital is not all about tech, tech is going to play a huge part in your transformation efforts. Communication is another key area that often gets paid no more than lip service in transformational efforts. And a good communications (or engagement) plan is therefore an essential and not a desirable in any digital transformation.

People hold the key to creating credibility and commitment to the digital journey.  Culture change is on the cards because the way you do things at every level of business is going to change and only the right mindset will allow for this to happen.

Believers, inspirers, people who are willing to have a go, to test things, try things and learn new things are necessary. These are the people that already have the mindset of change.  They will create momentum to help move along the transformational process.  They are your first advocates. Go out and find them before you tackle anything else.

Lastly, one of the major outputs of digital transformation is the democratisation of business.  So you need to bring some new and fresh digital native blood into the mix too. There is much for us to learn from the born digitals, as there is much for the digitals to learn from experience.

As you can see, becoming a digital business involves getting power, capability, advocacy and new blood working holistically to secure your businesses place on the new modern world stage.

This is the beginning of your journey to becoming adaptive. To start strong, to understanding where you are in the journey to know where to focus; vision, rather than a digital strategy, to guide the organisation to becoming more digital; good-news stories demonstrating the success digital to inspire the whole business. 

To summarise, there is no single point of leadership that drives digital transformation. Whilst the trigger or 'change agent' might be a single person you must quickly bring the key competencies together to form your coalition.  Secondly, start to deliver and execute through a broad (but not exclusive) Centre of Excellence, bringing your first followers, born digitals into the mix.  Not only will this group provide you with results, they will become your advocates to bring others along with them. Finally, you are ready to create a business movement, and that's when Digital Transformation really starts to happen!

Everything is in a state of constant change: our world, our behaviour as consumers, our daily lives. See the changes coming, assess the changes, act to adapt to those changes, start strong and engage socially and you will be one of the successful businesses of the future. 

These thoughts and musings are taken from previous blogs and Whitepapers created by Mel Ross, CEO Adapt2Digital.

Leading Change as the New Norm: Priority Leadership Attribute for 2015

That everything is changing is understood by most business leaders. That the speed and velocity of change are increasing is perhaps less well understood. Change is no longer about a single project to transform a single business focus area. It is about multiple activities with a horizontal impact across the whole business: and of course, this is happening on a constant basis. As a business leader, you can no longer bring in one expert or group thereof, at one time, to lead one change project. You must now see change as key leadership attribute, adopt an adaptive mindset, encourage adaptiveness amongst through around you, become and embed being adaptive everywhere. 

Leading change as the new norm is a very different concept from the idea that leading change is the new norm.  The first is about consistency, repeatability and forms part of the daily - yes, and we do mean daily - consideration for business leaders and the workforce as a whole.  The second implies something that is done perhaps in isolation, when all the forces are in place and when there is a consensus that a single, possibly large investment project is agreed to be a business priority.

Leading change as the new norm is about understanding that those key forces that once required single project focus, such as a change in customer behaviour or demographic, no longer work. Today change is happening in all these and more areas, all the time.

If as business leaders we do not seek, assess and act on these changes, Darwin’s survival of the fittest comes into play: those that adapt will survive; those that don’t will perish. This is not new in science, of course, and, it’s not new in business.

Back in 2002 J Wilson III published ‘Leadership in the Digital Age’ where he said that it needed new attitudes, skills and knowledge.

This year, 2015, is going to be a defining year. Businesses must have the foundation blocks of digital business in place such as infrastructure and social engagement in order to take advantage of the more subtle technologies like Internet of Things, gamification and virtual reality.

So, if you’re leading change as the new norm, you need simultaneously to imagine, direct and effect constant and multiple change around you.  You also need to build your business on its human aspects rather than on the spreadsheets and numbers you have used up until now. That means thinking about people as a whole, not just statistics, not just your customer, not even audiences.  A really key leadership attribute for 2015 is the understanding of people as participants regardless of who they are or where they sit; either internal or external.

If you are a business leader or aspire to become one in today’s digital world your number 1 priority is to support and nurture the ability to lead and manage change as the new norm for other leaders around you and find ways to empower the wider workforce to do the same. Combine this with business basics mentioned earlier and you will equip leaders and wider teams to thrive in a world that is digital.

It's time to adapt or to become extinct. It's time to get personal. Start strong. Engage socially. 

These thoughts and musings are taken from various blogs and Whitepapers by Mel Ross, CEO Adapt2Digital.

What does Digitally Mature and Adaptive Mean?

What’s in a name? Everything if you want to ensure that you and your business follow the right path to business success.

 

Why, you may be wondering, are Adapt2Digital concerned about you constantly adapting to a digital world?  Why do we focus on the importance of becoming digitally mature and adaptive? Why do we even use such terms as ‘adaptive’ and ‘maturity’ and ‘engagement’? Because we know that phrases such as ‘doing digital’ or ‘becoming digital’ embed an incomplete understanding of business today; ‘doing digital’ is not enough. Becoming digitally mature and adaptive to a constantly changing digital world is more than about following a process that ends at a final destination.  

 

The default of a successful business is to be constantly changing, constantly maturing, constantly adaptive, almost without knowing it, perhaps. That’s the language and mind-set of a successful business. That’s the kind of business that’s seeing off start-ups and established competitors, that’s the kind that’s meeting the ever-changing digital needs and wants of customers, the kind, in fact, that’s actually anticipating the demands and desires of all its stakeholders.

 

Successful businesses don’t do things a particular way because they have always done them that way. They are constantly adapting. They are constantly maturing. They are in a constant state of change.  If you’re ready to join the growing numbers of adaptive and successful businesses sign up for the Adapt2Digital approach here.

Tweet with us on Adapt2Digital Twitter and link up with us on Adapt2Digital: Pioneers of Digitally Adaptive Business on LinkedIn.

What Does a Digitally Mature and Adaptive Business Look Like?

Your toolkit for spotting digitally adaptive and mature businesses in vertical and horizontal markets

 

We are not a pedantic bunch at Adapt2Digital, but phrases like ‘how to become digital’ or ‘make your business digital’ don’t make good business sense to us. They paint an incomplete picture. Our experience shows that doing ‘digital’ is not enough.  We prefer to make businesses adaptive as well as digitally mature, by building in the ability to, at least keep up with, but preferably to stay ahead, of a constantly changing digital world.  

 

Change-friendly

What do we mean by that? Well, a successful digitally mature and adaptive business knows that it’s not about being digital but accepting that change as much as digital is the business norm.  The digitally adaptive business views digital change as an opportunity and not a threat.

Engagement with stakeholders

Breaking down barriers by collaborating and communicating with the workforce, has ensured that the C-Suite and managers in a digitally adaptive and mature business spread the message that making the organisation digitally adaptive is not frightening. Instead, it has been explained as a simple and effective means of staying abreast of ever-growing digital needs of stakeholders, whether they are customer, workforce, supplier, or anyone else.  Given that every generation – X, Y, Z, - and any other post-millennial group symbolised by any letter of the alphabet that one can think of – is digital to its toes, the digitally adaptive business, you will find, is recruiting the best people.  

Infrastructure

The entire digitally adaptive business is geared towards digital. Silos are replaced by one, seamless digital organisation. So you won’t find, in a digitally adaptive organisation, separated, isolated and standing proudly alone sales, marketing and customer service departments. The organisation has realised the benefits of understanding all the aspects that affect acquiring, selling to, delivering and retaining customers. People continuously collaborate through technology enabled integration.

Technology-aware

We have placed this lower down in our list because, as we are constantly saying, digital is not merely about technology. Digital leaders keep tabs on technology advances but do not obsess about it. They have established working practices that mean that technology is the enabler by which they have made and continue to make their business digital.

Communication

The C-Suite in a digitally adaptive business does not forget to continue to communicate how the different parts of the digital business keep pace with the digital world and the accruing benefits.  Participation is the word of the decade for leadership in a digitally mature and adaptive business.

Futurism

When looking for your digitally adaptive competitors, customers and suppliers look for a C-Suite where its members show openness to using whatever is required to keep the business digital and where they positively seek out rather than merely welcome ideas from its workforce. An obsession about the future, in terms of emerging technologies that can ensure you keep pace with changing behaviours and needs, is the menu for the day.

Fleet of foot

Long-established companies (or even ones that are a decade or so old) that are not digitally adaptive tend to lumber along. To spot the digitally-active organisation, look for one that is lean and fleet footed even where it faces competition from start-ups that don’t have the overheads that frequently encumber older businesses and organisations.  This hints at the core concept of adaptiveness.

Finance

The CFO and colleagues anchor digital back to the business and prove real, tangible ROI, but acknowledge the value of outcome based reporting and customer centric focus rather than budget focus.

If any of the characteristics of a digitally-adaptive and mature business sound familiar it’s because many are the distinguishing marks of a successful business. You’re not building a digital business; you’re building a successful business that has all the necessary characteristics and qualities to survive and grow in a digital world. Successful businesses don’t do things a particular way, because they have always done them that way. They do them because they make sense in a world that is now built on digital. Now that you’re ready to join the growing number of adaptive, mature and successful businesses, sign up for our approach here.

Tweet with us on Adapt2Digital Twitter and link up with us on Adapt2Digital: Pioneers of Digitally Adaptive Business on LinkedIn.

Who should control digital in your business?

Digital Transformation is no longer about a single project, identified as an urgent seismic (usually technology) shift required to ‘stay alive’ – from legacy to cloud, from silo to integration, or from static to responsive. 

Read More

Leading Change as the New Norm – The Priority Leadership Attribute for 2015

Photo Credit: daDa © 2014

Photo Credit: daDa © 2014

“Things that should happen don’t and things that don’t happen that should”.  Donald Winnicott talking about the early infant development that requires external environmental influences (support, collaboration, nurturing etc) to ‘adapt’ to their world in order to develop the skills for their future path most appropriately.

I can start this blog by listing out the reasons to explain both the need and urgency for business leaders and businesses to adapt to change and adopt the skills to manage change.

The rate of technology, Digital Disruption (I will leave the opinion of that phrase out of this blog!), changes in demographics, consumer demands changing….

That everything is changing is pretty much understood and agreed by most business leaders. What is not understood or outlined with enough clarity perhaps is that this change is both increasing in speed and in velocity – so the urgency is not about change management being a single project where you can procure the services of an expert individual or organisation to effect on your behalf – the urgency is that leading change as an attribute has become arguably one of the most important attributes a business leader should display – and equally change management as a capability and delivery skill at a management level is required to ensure that this change happens.

Leading change as the new norm is very different to leading change is the new norm.  Why?  Because it’s about consistency, repeatability and something that is a normal consideration within the daily life of a leader.  Not something we do in isolation, when all the forces are in place and the consensus is that a single, possible large investment project has been singled out by the business as a priority.

Leading change as the new norm is about understanding that those key forces that once did require single change projects to adapt to the corresponding shift as a result no longer work.  Take technology as an example, or a key customer behaviour change, or a significant change in demographic…we’ve had all of them before and economies and industries have adopted new ways of doing things to address them.  Today we have a different paradigm, we have change happening in each of these areas and more happening all the time, overlapping, influencing, disrupting.  As business leaders, managers and businesses generally, if we do not have the ability to see these changes, have the ability to assess these changes and subsequently act upon these changes as we see fit, then the Darwinism effect comes into play – those that survive will be those that adapt to their environments, those that don’t will perish.

Is it scaremongering to say Adapt or Die?  Is it spin-doctor narrative that talks about the need to be a Digital Leader?  I don’t think so.  So much so that in my previous blog I talk about leadership in a digital age rather than the rise of a digital leader per se.

This shouldn’t be new news to us – as far back as 2002 the following theoretical paper was published on Digital Leadership “LEADERSHIP IN THE DIGITAL AGE” Ernest J. Wilson III

Stating that as we move from an industrial age to a knowledge or networked/connected age Wilson states "Leadership in the Digital Age needs new attitudes, new skills, and new knowledge."

In many respects the honeymoon period is over.  The rise of the CDO and Digital Leader has a place in the business world to transition us from managing single shifts to managing multiple shifts as part of daily life, but the urgency is really to widen the net, to start to build and support these skills and capabilities required to see, assess, act and thrive with change, so that we become businesses that have many adaptive leaders, not just one.

2015 is going to be a big year.  Businesses that haven’t yet grasped the fundamentals of ‘digital business’ are already on the back foot.  The building blocks of a digital business are having the infrastructure and understanding of social engagement, the ability to access and assess data, a move to more agile technology infrastructures and cloud services and of course, an effective exploitation of the mobile opportunity.  Just to be aware of these is not enough anymore, these foundation blocks have to be in place to start to take advantage of the more subtle technologies available like gamification and augmented reality as well as the more disruptive and game changing technologies like Internet of Things, Wearables and Robotics.   Any business wanting to really take advantage of these maturing digital world elements have to have the foundation blocks in place to succeed.  Surely that’s a huge hint to anyone wanting to build a digital strategy.

What does leading change as the new norm really mean – aside from the obvious?  What skills, capabilities and attributes are required?

Put simply, leading change as the new norm requires the ability to vision and direct constant change and often effect multiple change at once.  Leading change requires the ability to address the human aspect as well as the business aspect.  It is no longer enough to lead or manage by monitoring hard numbers; leaders now need to understand the importance of the human aspect more than ever before.

The human aspect of digital business can be thought of in three ways:  Empowerment, Independence & Transparency

Empowerment – the ability to try and test new things, to make decisions based upon the access of data and the understanding of parameters, an understanding of change as an enabler not an inhibitor.

Independence – the ability to self learn, and to grow independently.

Transparency – ensuring that access to data and the communication of intent is a business priority rather than a secondary consideration – letting people know…letting people know becomes the primary consideration for a leader of change as the new norm; a leader in a digital world.

For too long now leaders and managers have built and managed businesses through spreadsheets and numbers.  Now businesses that succeed are being built and managed by a focus on engagement, loyalty and the presence of those leadership attributes described above.

To ensure businesses are able to thrive in a digital world a new breed of leadership is urgently needed.  This needs to happen in two ways, existing leaders must not fear, shy away or ignore the need to do things differently to succeed in different times.  New and upcoming leaders should embrace the generation they belong to and adopt those positive open, social and change blasting attributes in their leadership ethos.

If you are a business leader or aspire to become one in today’s digital world you must ensure that supporting and nurturing the ability to lead and manage change as the new norm becomes your number 1 priority for personal development and the development of those leaders and managers around you.  This coupled with the business basics mentioned earlier will equip any leader or leadership team with the key ingredients to thrive in this digital world.  These are the leaders and businesses that will succeed.  It really is time to adapt or die!

In my next post I will be talking about the maturity of Digital Transformation as it moves from the delivery of a single change project to a constant stream of transformations which we term; Adaptiveness.

Digital Leadership? Or Leadership in a Digital World?

Digital leadership

Digital Leadership is a phrase fast becoming a buzzword for more and more businesses and business leaders.

However, the word digital has built an impression or understanding that it’s all about technology.  If you think that you are on a slippery road.  It is as a result of the digital revolution that we need to revisit and rethink leadership, business models and ‘the way we do things’.

But, Digital Leadership is less about a single person and more about bringing together a coalition of power, skill and vision that can collectively start the first wave of transformation.

Why do you need Digital Leadership?  Well we all need to become more digital – not just do digital but be digital and that means technology change, people change and business change…so one person alone doesn’t work.

What does this coalition look like and what do they need to do?

Well as with most transformational change efforts – nothing works without a fully embraced mandate from up on high.  So you need to ensure that the highest level of the business fully supports the effort.  Don’t stumble at this first hurdle, believe me, the effort to secure this support will be the biggest success factor in your business becoming more adaptive, more digital.

Then you need three key skill-sets and people of influence in this coalition: Someone who knows technology, someone who knows communication, and someone who knows about people and culture. Why is this important?  Well digital might not be all about tech but it’s going play a huge part in your transformation efforts – moving to automation, creating collaborative environments, aggregating data to make it meaningful, just having someone who knows what new and emerging tech is out there is hugely important.  This is a person who can show the business the art of the possible to achieve business objectives and meet audience needs. 

Communication is another key area that often get’s ignored when it comes to transformational efforts but it’s vital that there is a communication plan.  Don’t just send an email or have a meeting and think it’s done, and you can’t leave people to their own devices – you need to nurture them, keep reminding them of the urgency of becoming more digital.  There are two key areas that need to be managed; the participation of key people to build credibility and a reason to follow, alongside the creation of conversation throughout the organisation; a focus on sharing and receiving.  And then of course there is the need to address culture – because the way you do things at every level of the business is going to change and only the right mindset will allow for this to happen.

Then you need believers, inspirers, people willing to have a go, test things, try things, learn new things…these are the people that already have the mindset of change.  These people are those who will generate your initial quick wins and good news stories.  These people will create momentum to help move the transformational process along.  Don’t forget them, go out and find them as one of your first key steps – this is your first group of advocates.

Lastly, one of the big outputs of digital transformation is the democratisation of business.  So at this very first and key stage, bring some new and fresh digital native blood into the mix, there is much for us to learn from the digitals, as there is much for the digitals to learn from experience.

What I’ve just described is a really key step in your journey to becoming a more digital business.  You need power at the table, you need capability at the table, you need advocates at the table and some of your newest DNA to help you understand what tomorrow will really look like.

Obviously, I’m only talking about one small item that is needed at the beginning of your journey towards becoming adaptive.  You need to understand where your business sits digitally today so you know where to start and where to focus. 

You need a vision, and rather than a digital strategy sitting alongside your business strategy, create guiding principles that fit with your strategy that can be embedded within the business to help everyone start to become more digital.  You are also going to need some good news stories, most businesses we find have at least a couple of good news stories that can help people see that in some way, shape or form you are already demonstrating success in digital. 

We know the world is changing, we know as consumers we are changing, we know our daily lives are changing.

Digital does have a lot to answer for.  But in a good way.  We now know that things are in a state of constant change and that those who can see change, assess change and act accordingly i.e. adapt to change will be the successful businesses of the future.

Bringing your business up to speed with digital in 2015 really needs to be your number 1 agenda for the New Year.  Create a sense of urgency and start your journey.

The Mavericks Guide to Becoming a Digital Business

Mavericks wave

You now have to be a Digital Business or at least be considering it otherwise you are doomed for failure. That’s the message coming out of all the large management consultancies and research houses. Act now, act quick, put a huge amount of budget aside for your impending and unavoidable ‘Digital Transformation’.

It’s true. Businesses do need to be thinking about how they are going to address the digital challenge, the increased pace of technology and rising customer expectations have made it so. In fact, if a business hasn’t already put ‘digital’ on the boardroom agenda, they are already way behind the curve.

But businesses don’t need ‘Digital Transformation’. Businesses need to become adaptive. Change is not new, never has been, it’s just that now, change has become so fast, it’s scary, meaning there is huge reluctance to change anything within the organisation that holds risk for the bottom line. And the term ‘Digital Transformation’ has not helped. Wow, do I have to transform everything, all at once and it’s going to cost how much? And it could fundamentally and negatively affect the way the business operates and through a multitude of high profile, failed projects, and the list goes on. Only a couple of weeks ago did Mike Bracken talk about the disillusionment of so-called ‘digital transformation’ due to the failure of long term ‘BIG IT’ contracts within the Civil Service.

It is inevitable that the business world has to embrace digital…every business does, large or small, if they are to survive into the future. And this is not a technology/IT discussion, this is embracing digital across the entire organisation; it’s a change to the business model, the development of people, a shift in culture and the way a business communicates. Digital is affecting every pillar of the business and thus needs to be addressed across every pillar, holistically, to make the most of the digital opportunity. The rewards are proven. There is more research out there than you can shake a stick at demonstrating the benefits, cost savings, revenue growth and increased innovation possible when businesses are more digitally mature. So rather than focus on the obstacles to change, perhaps it’s time to focus on the advantages. 

We have to think differently. We have to take the fear out of digital and provide a means for action rather than just talking all the time. So if Digital Transformation is not the answer, what is?

Here’s our Maverick’s guide to becoming a Digital Business. It is based on the Adapt2Digital: Digitally Adaptive Framework & Methodology™ that helps businesses become adaptive over time. Think of digitally adaptive as taking the best of what a business has today and then looking into the future and pulling both together, in small incremental stages to create meaningful change. Not so scary now is it?

Take the time to understand the difference between technology and digital. Technology has an important and valid place within the organisation but there is a need to change the perception of technology from an internal service provider to a place that can share insight into the art of the possible to create business solutions. Digital on the other hand is about the whole business from the organisation, to the people, to the culture to the wider business ecosystem, it’s about the point of connection between technology, people and culture…and it’s always continuously changing.

It doesn’t matter who in the organisation starts the transition to becoming a Digital Business. The standard interpretation of changing your business to be more digital is starting at the very top. So this is getting someone, generally the CEO to mandate the digital directive. This is not the start, this is actually the tipping point. It actually starts with an advocate, someone who has recognised the digital imperative and can see the business benefit and communicate this upward and outward.

Find your champion. Maybe the advocate is the digital champion but maybe not. If not, find the champion. This needs to be someone who:

  • Can talk up to the business
  • Who believes and participates in digital
  • Has credibility as an individual
  • Has courage to challenge the status quo 

Build a Business Case for digital. You aren’t going to get anywhere without a strong business case that is bought into but the senior leadership team. Make sure you include a broad assessment of current digital capability and competency across the business and what the effects of the transition could be in real terms.

Find some good news stories. There will be pockets of digital happening in your organisation. Find the good stuff and demonstrate the value of this. Use these as best practice examples, think about how learnings from these initiatives can be repeated, enhanced, and made more of. 

Bring people together. Vitally important. Bring the senior leadership team together and do something with them that shares the business case, that creates digital definition for the organisation, that builds agreement and consensus. Everyone needs to be aligned and committed to the digital cause because it is everyone’s responsibility.

It’s all about lots of little. The business isn’t going to transform overnight. Thinking this would be very unrealistic. Neither do you need big digital transformation projects to adapt to digital. What is needed are as many believers and advocates as possible that can start to seed positive change in many areas and just start small.

Break down the barriers and collaborate. Find some areas where you can collaborate, invite different people to meetings, learn something new from someone. Get away from hierarchy. Businesses in the modern world are not hierarchical; they foster collaboration to enable innovation. Empower people to make data driven decisions.

Make sure you have a framework to track progress. So many times ‘digital’ is happening without a structure to monitor results and progress. A robust framework is needed to ensure you are moving in the right direction. Anchor digital back to the business and find a way of proving real, tangible ROI. This is the only way to ensure digital is seen as impacting positively on the business from a financial perspective.

Take care of mindset. No business can change without the right mindset. A collective digitally adaptive mindset shifts culture. Seek the solution, not the reasons to fail, be an enable, not a blocker and remember that mindset is learned, it is not a given. 

Nobody believed in Steve Jobs when he first took the concept of the personal computer to market, in fact he had to describe it as ‘putting a TV screen and a typewriter together’, which to most was a crazy idea. But as Apple has proven, belief by a few can change the world.

It is time to believe in a new business model, one that is adaptive, one that is not stuck in traditional ways of working and operating. Here’s to the crazy ones…