Leading in the digital age: a pragmatic guide to sustainable transformation

Being a leader in the digital age is challenging. Everybody is talking about digital transformation but are not sure what it entails or how to go about it. This isn’t just a trend. The digital transformation numbers are compelling, as Dave Lennon, Managing Partner at Business Aspect, shared with the audience when he introduced me at Data#3’s JuiceIT events, this quarter; 64% of CEOs say they have a management initiative or transformation program1, and by 2020, insight-driven businesses are expected to have taken $1.8 trillion from their less-informed rivals2. Those data-driven organisations are 23 times more likely to attract new customers3.

A business where digital is intrinsic to everything will profoundly change the relationship of IT to the business. As a digital leader, how can you work with every part of the organisation to re-imagine and re-engineer a digital business of the future? Those who are in businesses that are ready to adapt, collaborate and explore have a head start.

Digital Transformation: Make or Break

It is hard to see a future for any business that doesn’t start to listen to the evidence and recognise the need for change right now. It is critical that digital leaders find a vision for their future and take every opportunity for re-invention.

Like most whole of business change programs, digital transformation is challenging, impacting everyone, and potentially everything, through complex process and systems change. For many, the struggle is achieving a flexible vision for the future; evaluating their business value through a new lens.

The success of this transformation will largely depend on how quickly you can integrate the ICT capability within the greater organisation, stopping the siloed separation of business and IT. Separation has given rise to fragmented visions, planning and leadership focussed on cost cutting and productivity gains, not focused on product delivery and customer satisfaction outcomes and opportunities.

With a commitment to integrate capabilities, the right digital transformation leadership, change models and planning, you can position your organisation on the right side of those transformation statistics, getting the edge on your industry sector.

Skills in the Digital World

We are entering a world of dynamic and unpredictable change at an unfathomable pace. The only certainty we now face is change itself. Automation and synthetic intelligence will revolutionise the way we work and all organisations will focus on rearchitecting themselves to be more customer-centric and data driven.

Nobody can truly predict what the right skillset for the future will be, but we can work through business processes and diagnose the highest impacts of change, and through this, identify the key intelligence-centred skills, which will be the most valuable for an organisation into the future.

The most successful worker of the future is the person who can synthesise automated knowledge gathering and work best with their BOT(s). The new blue-collar worker will spend their time forensically diagnosing small slices of massive AI data maps generated from giant data swamps, trying to find out what went wrong. Then similar teams will need to re-educate the AI to go fix itself – and update auto-diallers, claims and apology chatbots to back all of the potential damage of the flawed automated decision out of the market or society.

A Journey to Digital Engagement

Digital leaders need meta-models to help guide the way in which they think about this changing journey. Our Digital Enablement Cycle simplifies the lifecycle to change so you can focus on one outcome at a time:

Stage 1. We EXPLORE the possibilities for our organisation often prompted by customer demands or market triggers and determine what a good outcome might look like. We might look at other organisations in our own or aligned industries, and perhaps take time to brainstorm a new future, seeking ideas from diverse roles. We find these ‘blank page’ workshops often benefit from external facilitation to help challenge the paradigms, which are constraining meaningful transformation.

Stage 2. Once a clear vision begins to form, we can ENGAGE with our stakeholders to identify what our customers really want. At this stage, we workshop requirements with the business to fully understand the daily impact on customers and end users. From this, we build new contexts and user scenarios, and use them to refine the business case for change.

Stage 3. To ENACT change we prioritise which processes are critical to the organisations DNA, controlling their service delivery value and look at the applications, data and integrations needed to protect and enhance that value.

Stage 4. Then we EMBED new processes, information and systems that are meaningful to the business and its customers and refine support models.

No two journeys will be the same, but they will follow these four logical stages. As a business, you will have many of these transformation cycles working together to create a new drive-train for business success. Digital transformation is an infinite journey, with new triggers arising constantly, prompting new cycles of change. The business and IT should be managing numerous transformation clusters at once. By mapping exploration triggers and identifying trends in engagement and enactment, momentum is built. The result is a fertile environment in which change and innovation are enabled.

From Old to New: The Bi-Modal View

Of course, it would be great if we could just flick a switch and be instantly transported to a shiny, new digital environment, but the reality is different. Instead, most organisation must manage the old, while transforming to the new, in a bi-modal balancing act.

Bi-modal suggests a neat two-speed relationship between the old and the new and a logical place to pivot. However, this is not the case. Most organisations have different parts of the organisation travelling at different speeds and delivering different levels of value. Complex organisations have more than one bi-modal transformation going at once with one or more legacy models per entity. Many businesses struggle to move away from the legacy rescue view – keeping the lights on by continually honing the old to squeeze out another cost saving or productivity gain instead of focussing on the time to pivot while the business still exists and to move to an expansive opportunity-driven future vision.

The focus needs to be on the high value pivots first ensuring a business is sustainable while it executes the change. The timing of such a pivot is critical – it needs to have minimal impact on the existing model, while allowing immediate access to new value propositions.

We all want to GET TO THE NEW, a world where artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous operations are driving integrated information outcomes and doing some heavy lifting, while we sit back and enjoy adding that essential human intelligence on top. This world still needs strong digital foundations: reliable compute, well architected security, a focussed and agile applications stack and an architecture of integration options (BOTS, APIs) and high quality information. The difference is the future state needs to be architected for a value driven, flexible, user-centred business lens.

Creating new, digital user experiences depends on the recognition of the organisation’s core DNA, and creating an environment of continuous enablement. It must be ever-ready to evolve, delivering new systems and services and creating actionable data that the new breed of humans can transform into business success.

Need help to EXPLORE – ENGAGE – ENACT – EMBED? Contact me for a chat. For more tips and news about digital transformation, follow me on LinkedIn.

1. Gartner
2. Forrester
3. McKinsey

Tags: Consulting, JuiceIT, Digital Transformation, JuiceIT 2019, Business Aspect

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