What’s next for digital transformation?

What's next for digital transformation?

More than thirty years is a long time to get stuck on something. Is it time for us to move on? […]

Digital transformation is not new. In fact, it has been on the CIOs’ agenda for at least 35 years. I was involved in the design and implementation of my first symposium on digital transformation in 1987. The keynote speakers were the CEO of an emerging technology provider and the Chairman/CEO of one of the world’s largest and most technologically sophisticated financial institutions.

The messages conveyed at the time by both the supply and demand side of the technology industry were not much different from those heard today in podcasts, webinars, zoom calls and white papers from analysts.

But this does not mean that there has been no progress.

Even though the term itself has become a buzzword through decades of misuse, digital transformation is what great CIOs do every day.

6 Facts about Digital Transformation

After more than three decades of hard work, we have learned a lot about what digital transformation is and what it is not. Here is a summary:

  1. Digital transformation is not digitization – Digitalization is the application of new technologies to existing business processes.
  2. Digital transformation is not a strategy – a strategy has an endpoint, a set of tactics to achieve that endpoint, and a time frame.
  3. Digital transformation is not a project with a fixed duration – the digital transformation is not achieved in three, six or 18 months; it never ends.
  4. Digital transformation is difficult – BCG data show that only about 30% of transformation initiatives are successful. (further article in English)
  5. Digital transformation is important – it is even existential: the future is digital. As the futurologist Gerd Leonhard aptly states: “Real life is out”.
  6. Digital transformation is less about upgrading technologybut rather to upgrade their strategic thinking.

IT strategy in the digital age

What the Internet has brought to the music industry also applies to all other industries at the macro level. The way forward begins with a strategy, and a strategy begins with conversations – conversations with customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders.

We need to stop talking about digital transformation and start paying more attention to the conversations that are taking place inside (and outside) the company.

Dr. Karen Stephenson, one of the great thought leaders of this century, advocates identifying, analyzing and supplementing these conversations in order to create maps that show the “ mechanisms “ of the institution (i.e. how things really work), as opposed to the organizational chart that describes the “ rules “ of an institution.

Anthropologists and sociologists will tell you that people pathologically classify themselves (and others) into categories. Such categorizations come to light in conversations. Making these categorizations explicit is the starting point for the way forward.

4 Steps to Leading Through Change

More than thirty years of digital transformation have provided a wealth of data on how people in the workplace react to technological change. We know that there is a kind of digital ethnography.

There are digital natives, workers who grew up with digital tools; digital immigrants, workers who are open to learning and change; and digital refugees, workers who aggressively shun digital tools. Every group needs a tailor-made leadership.

  1. Spend more time on strategy. A compendium of academic research on how working time is spent shows that executives currently spend about one in five hours on strategy. Managers need to spend more time on strategy. The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness estimates that the average executive spends 25 minutes a day on strategy and planning.
  2. Beware of the compliance trap. In the US, about 12% of GDP is spent on regulatory compliance. Faced with the massive uncertainties, many companies have given up on developing a strategy and instead decided to use regulatory compliance as a substitute for a strategy. Does anyone really want to work in a company whose core competence is compliance with regulations?
  3. Accept the uncertainty. Honest futurologists will admit that modern forecasts are no more accurate than the predictions of ancient butchers who gave advice to Roman generals about when and where the Visigoths could attack. The future can not be predicted, but you can prepare for it. It is possible to be on the right side of the big trends.
    The way forward requires the establishment of processes for the early detection of signals of change (some call this “pivot hunting”). Once you have identified turning points, you have to take advantage of them. The owner of a number of underground car parks in Paris realized that the parking spaces were not needed if the workers did not drive to work, and converted the lightless underground facilities into organic mushroom farms.
  4. Tell a story. We live in a confusing world. Employees and customers need a personal message that explains to them where they have been, where they are now and where they will develop.

Futurist Thornton A. May, author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics, is a speaker, instructor and consultant.

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