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.