I had an interesting discussion with a CxO of a company the other day. They have been actively engaged in ‘going digital’, for the last 3-4 years, but she shared with me neither the Company’s executive team nor herself had an idea of what going digital means. The key issue is that, we don’t need to have someone explain the reasons why we need to transform to be digital, since we already know why. The issue is that we need to know what to change and how to change and when to change.
The executive team has got the message about digital transformation, but they couldn’t work out around the how to do it. I suggested that, from my observations of companies that are doing digital transformation successfully, there seem to be four iterative steps:
- What to change
- How to change
- Change better
The first step is learning. Who do you think is digital? Who has transformed/ or is currently successfully transforming into digital? Who do you respect for being digital? What is it about them that you like? These are different questions with a variety of different answers, but usually it translates into a list of other copmanies. When you have the list then go out and visit, sit down and talk with these companies. Visit them to find out what makes them tick; see how they’re organized; learn what they’ve done in the past and what has worked or not. This will provide you the what to do answers.
The second step you need to work out is the how. Work out how you need to organize the business, based upon the lessons learned from the first phase. For example how these companies are organized and how does that translate into you if you want to be like them? What changes will this mean to your people, structure, products and services? How radically different is this target way of organization from your current business structure/ company culture, and how will it impact on people’s careers, organizational structure and business models, products and services? How would you implement these transitions and over what period of time?
Step three is go ahead and do it. This step is the hardest part of all since it’s all about implementation and execution. Nevertheless, you can’t be rigid and you must allow room for failure and adaptation. Be flexible but stay focused in your end game, and don’t allow things along the way to stop you moving to where you want to go. On the other hand don’t try to do things too fast, but do them in your own pace and timing. Reality is that you will get things wrong; there will be resistance; and there will be challenges along the way. So be it, adapt and change as you go on your way and before you know it, you will be in the next step.
Digital transformation does not stop. Once the initial changes are implemented, you will find there are things you’ve learned during the third step that you want to go back and try again and to do it better. Equally, there will be new things that you didn’t know about that you can now try to do, since the prerequisites are now in place. In fact, there’s probably lots of things you couldn’t do in the first place, until you had implemented the first wave of changes. But now you can focus upon changing better, not just making incremental change.
These are the things I have learned and observed from talking to companies that have digitally transformed and continue to do so. Want to learn more on how-to-do, drop us an email and we will be happy to share our knowledge and insights with you!
Christos Lytras – Managing Partner