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  • Writer's pictureRiikka Tanner

3+1 Lessons I Have Learned about Digital Transformation

These days there is no shortage of headlines how this or that “new technology” will revolutionize everything and disrupt entire industries. And all I hear is blah blah blah. I can’t help but think that all the noise out there is making us focus our energy in all the wrong things! Here are my top 3 things + 1 big question I have learned about digital transformation so far – more is to follow, I am sure..

Unsplash / Robyn Budlender

1. It is not (solely) about technology

It is not about marketing automation, it’s not about big data, IR, AR, AI, blockchain, platforms, ecosystems, IoT, IoX, predictive analytics or any other fancy technology with incomprehensible abbreviations. More to the point, implementing digital technology is not the end goal itself. It is an enabler to something better, something bigger.

2. Transformation is everyone’s business

It’s not CEO, CTO, CDO, CIO, CMO or any other single CXO that owns the transformation. You know the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? In the same sense, it takes a world to transform an organization”. It is everyone’s responsibility to own the transformation and make it happen.

3. There is no magic method

It’s not about Agile, Devops, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, SAFe, experimentation, co-creation, customer centricity, design thinking, service design, value propositions, business model canvases, disruption, change management or any other single method you can just apply into parts of your organization and tell the world, there, we are digital now. There are different methods for different purposes.

No wonder we are overwhelmed! Let me re-phrase this a little, it is not just about all of these, it’s all of these elements combined and then some. Responding to the changing digital landscape requires integrating all these elements and roles into a holistic view or process.

I do like viewing this as a system or process, because it makes it easier to break down into more easily digestible chunks without losing the holistic, big picture. And this, is exactly, where majority of companies are struggling. To create an enterprise level view of the needed changes.

It is simply not enough that we digitize processes in sales and marketing, for example. We may be able to build a pretty fancy lead generating machine and build an expectation for the customer of superior customer experience but when the ball is tossed to professional services or end user services and they drop the ball..

What’s the point in delighting your customer in one part of your organization and then disappointing them in the next?

And understand this, if you make a change in one part of the organization or in a system, it is never in an isolation, it will absolutely have an effect on someplace else (you know, the famous butterfly effect?). Organizations are, by nature, living, breathing organizations and any change we make in one part of the system, will resonate somehow, somewhere else.

+ 1 Learn to ask the right questions

The single most important question you can ask to test your organization’s readiness to digital transformation reflects the organization’s priorities. And it is not an easy one.

Customer networks, customer experience or plain simply, customers are the reason we are transforming. It is essentially changing consumer & buyer behavior that will force businesses to adopt digital ways or get out of business.

Focus on customer experience, is of course just one level of digital transformation, the second one transforming operational processes and reducing costs by increasing levels of automation, using data driven insights to improve and optimize processes, etc.

The third level and by far the most distant level of digital maturity is finding and creating new business by changing business models and disruptive innovations. We tend to jump a little over our heads thinking that we can skip the other elements of digital transformation and just go straight to inventing new business models. Then when we are not able to scale our brilliant ideas into profitable business we are learning the lessons the hard way.

You can’t just polish the surface, it’s the machine underneath that needs your attention first.

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