Clearly, more and more studies about digital transformation are being published. Today, I’d like to say a few words about one from Cap Gemini Consulting titled “Organizing for Digital: Why Digital Dexterity Matters“.
The main idea summed up in one sentence could be : businesses that invested significantly in both technology and organizational design beat their competitors on key performance indicators.
Investing in technology and keeping the organization unchanged is of no help
That’s not new, as we’ve been knowing for ages and long before digital transformation that technology disruption alone without organizational transformation never lead to significant progress. But it’s always worth saying it again and again.
Hence follows a study on what is a digital enterprise and how to become one.
According to Cap Gemini, two things characterize a digital enterprise : digital capabilities and digital dexterity.
Or, in other words, ability to use technology and ability to use it to create value. What, said aside, reminds me of what I said about speed and grip. In my point of view, technology mastering is worth nothing if not used for the right thing. Maybe Cap Gemini is too hasty when they highlight the ability to self-organize to create value : to reach the the needed level of mastery and autonomy to invent and implement new value creations mechanisms, a long work is needed and the ability to self-organize is only the result of this long stage. Businesses can do whatever they want in terms of empowerment and autonomy, people won’t do the right things without the right mindset, the right approach and it’s going to take much more time to happen than to decide to make it possible from an organizational standpoint.
The need for dexterity is nothing digital
I’d even go further : if we define digital dexterity as the ability to change and adapt continuously, this has really nothing digital and has always existed in some businesses and not in the large majority. If digital makes new forms of organization possible, it’s nothing more than technology serving an organization, a culture and processes. Defined that way, digital dexterity is a matter of culture and organizational design thinking one could acquire it through technology is a fad.
If you’ve been following the hard path of enterprise 2.0, social business and, more broadly, of new, more agile and collaborative forms of organizations over the last years, you surely know that technology is nothing more than a catalyst and must serve the right organization, culture, processes and management. So even if I consider that using the word “dexterity” is a pretty good idea, I’m not sure that I would have added “digital” to it except to surf on the last trendy buzzword. Dexterity must exists with or without technology, it’s a way to think, work and organize.
Digital dexterity is about making things simpler
I fully agree on the fact that this dexterity is a source of competitive advantage but it’s always been the case, digital or not, at times when other words were used to say the same. Moreover, it’s interesting to see what lies behind the word dexterity by looking at this chart.
Dexterity, as seen by Cap Gemini, means that a given set of activities should be made easier. I fully subscribe to this point of view and I’m happy to see this (simple) idea used by a major firm. In my point of view, one of the most important challenges regarding to digital transformation si to make things simple and easy for both customers and employees. I think that if instead of losing their path in the understanding of what digital means to them businesses focused on using it to simplify work, operations and make it easy for employees to do their work, they would get instant benefits. But the battle against organizational complication is a managerial and organization one, not a technology one. I advise you to read Yves Morieux’ words to see how difficult the challenge is.
In short, simplification is, as we can see once again, a major digital transformation challenge and this is a matter I’ll discuss on this blog in a couple of upcoming posts.
Onely 7% of businesses are digital experts
So the only question that’s worth is “how to get there”. The study shows that only 7% of businesses can be considered as digital expert, a figure that does not surprise me and that I even find optimistic. On the other hand 56% of businesses have started something, are on their discovery path and, in my opinion, can’t afford staying too long between two worlds if they don’t want to see motivation decline by lack of results (by the way, the study comes with a self-evaluation survey)
So businesses are told to work on three dimensions :
• a digital first state of mind
• access to data and collaboration tools
• Digitization of practices (automate decision and whatever can be, collective learning)
• Talents empowerment.
Quite interesting even if I find the “digitization of practices” side looking like a hold all. More structure and subdivision would have make it clearer. But this foundation for the digital enterprise shows well to those whose first idea would be to rush to the customer and build a digital enterprise disconnected from its own reality that everything starts internally, with the employee, and that organization transformation requires people transformation.
Becoming a digital enterprises requires to fix issued that have not been in the last 30 years.
So this is one more study that shows – if it was needed – that digital transformation is a transformation before being digital (transformation through digital would be more suitable) and not a vague layer of technology used as window-dressing. If we translate the words used in the study in a pre-digital language, it’s all about agility, empowerment and collective intelligence. Exactly what most people have been agreeing for at least 30 years without having found the solution yet.
The message of the study in one sentence could be : “to become a digital enterprise, you must fixe all the problems you’ve failed at fixing in the last 30 years”. It bring the matter back to known fields even if solutionisms zealots won’t be pleased.
So there’s nothing really new except new words used to name an old reality.