Digital Transformation – Part Two

Ben Kolde

To continue from yesterday’s note, I’d like to emphasize, once again, that “going digital” is not the biggest factor. Yesterday I talked about how the culture has a tremendous impact on the success of a digital transformation project.  Today it’s something similar, but quite different.

Culture is how people react and change and implement the strategies towards achieving those lofty goals.  But there is another group that is instrumental in a digital transformation initiative.

The business itself is key to the success or failure of a transformation process.  The people may be onside and fully supportive of the idea, but unless the processes and procedures can accommodate a move to a more digital environment then no matter how much it is supported, the effort may fail.

Stephen Denning, in Age of Agile, said that:

Many firms fail to see that since generally all organizations have access to the same rapidly evolving technology, competitive advantage flows not from the technology itself but rather from the agility with which organizations understand and adapt the technology to meet customers’ real needs.

Which company created some of the first digital cameras?  Kodak, but where are they in the digital camera landscape?  They were so concerned with their physical photo business (film and prints) that they never looked to the future and how their physical business would fade away.  For a number of years Kodak was the largest consumer of silver in the world.  Now?  Not so much.

I chose the picture that accompanies this note specifically for the phrase on the laptop screen:

I design and develop experiences that make people’s lives simpler.

That is key.  That is the key to the culture of an organization and it is key to the philosophy of the organization.  You need to have a culture that is focused on making people’s lives simpler.  You need to have a business that is focused on making people’s lives simpler.  Notice that “business value” is missing.  You’re not focused on providing business value, you’re focused on people.

There are so many examples of where people come first and business comes second that have been successful that it blows the minds of the traditionalists.  Yes, there have been failures with this approach, but those failures usually emphasize the point that you can’t fake commitment.  You can’t fake the desire to make things simpler.  “We’re going to do yyy because there is a lot of money in yyy” is not the same as “We’re going to do yyy because it’s going to help our customers”.  There is a different focus.  There is a different desire.  And it shows.

But sometimes business put roadblocks in the way of helping their customers.  Sometimes the culture is there, but the business is not.  You don’t always do things to save money.  Sometimes you do things because … well … it’s the right thing to do.  People can see that, but businesses?  The successful ones understand this.  Those that don’t?  Well history has a tendency of showing you the winners.

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