Eating digital soup with a fork

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Eating digital soup with a fork

[Blog post] Are you really ready for digital disruption?

Pervasive computing and digital innovations are changing our lives at a frenetic pace, pushing us to think and act differently to keep up or stay ahead of the changing landscape.

Understandably, at the enterprise level, our most common reaction to this is to think that we can continue to use the paradigm we know and are comfortable with—the one that has many times proven successful. However, our lack of proper reaction could be costly.

Our meal has changed from mashed potato to potato soup—and we are still trying to eat it with a fork.

Disruptive solutions are impacting core business processes, workforce enablement, delivery models, customer experiences and established business models. Organisations are being forced to pre-emptively disrupt from within, or risk being unprepared for and unable to respond to external disruptions.

Today, these forces are shaking the foundations of organisations, and it is essential that we reconsider our business strategies in the context of this new digital landscape.

Do you think you have in place an ambitious digital transformation plan?

Let’s review it: you are investing heavily in modernising your technology, you are implementing systems to improve functional areas of the enterprise, you have in place a rigorous process to judge business cases for IT projects, you apply strong and mature governance frameworks, and you are investing in new fresh digital channels.

Undoubtedly, you think you are doing well in preparing for digital disruption. Are you sure? Think again.

Altimeter Group recently released its report on The 2014 State of Digital Transformation, which found the vast majority of those surveyed claimed they were undergoing digital transformation, even though most of them didn't know what that was.

It found decision makers thought they were changing, but in reality they were only investing in technology - which is "not really digital transformation". 

If this is the case, what is digital transformation? Is an ambitious technology investment plan not good enough?

Some ideas:

  • The response to digital disruption is not information technology. The response is digital transformation
  • Technology is the reason and the driver of the digital disruption, but not the solution. It is just a portion of it
  • Digital transformation is not technology modernisation
  • Digital transformation is the path to acquiring digital maturity.

So how can digital maturity be acquired?

The path to maturity consists of two intertwining processes, which both feed from each other.

The first is about achieving digital performance, while the second is the transformation of the organisation’s DNA, from industrial to digital. Both characteristics, performance and essence, are necessary for a sustainable digital future.

The first process is the easy one, since it is mostly about technology and business processes. It is about delivering innovative solutions with a substantial positive impact on stakeholders, changing the way they operate and making their experiences more enjoyable. It requires creative ideas, funding and pockets of talent.

The second process is the complex one, since it is about the two most challenging factors in the digital journey: people and organisational arrangements. Acquiring digital DNA is the most difficult but the most important part of the transformation.

Without it, an organisation would be able to perform digitally, but not for long. Without digital DNA, the digital platforms delivered through the digital performance efforts will become very heavy to sustain in time, and the organisation will be paralysed with a myriad of uncontrollable platforms and channels.

Digital requires new thinking, and that new thinking doesn’t come naturally. Whenever we come across something new, we try to fit it into our existing mental model.

Our learnings, instincts and preferences might deceive us, as they have been trained for so long under a different paradigm. We need to force ourselves to think in a different way, because digital is unlike anything we have encountered before.

It doesn’t matter how hard we try with the fork, we will fail. We need a spoon.

And what exactly is digital DNA? Or in other words, how we find that spoon?

That is an excellent topic for the next article…

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William Confalonieri
William Confalonieri, the 2014 CIO of the Year, offers some clarity on IT strategy and bridging the divide between Information Technology and the ‘Digital’ domain.
Read more from this blog: Clear signal

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