Being digital in 2018 : digital is a business matter

Digital is everywhere and since it’s everywhere it’s nowhere in particular.

As I said in my previous post, it’s not technology that hinders transformation. Technology is abundant, available, often affordable and easy to acquire. Technically speaking, with the cloud, it’s usable at the very moment you buy it. (usable…but not integrated…)

So what prevents businesses to make the most of it to transform ? Even if, and that’s a good thing, lines of business have more and more their word to say and even drive their own projects, sometimes under the radar, the technological approach to digital still prevails. What are the consequences ?

Most digitize, few transform

Installing a new tool ? Ok. Using it ? Ok. But in no way the tool can cause a mess, change old habits or annoy anyone. So businesses digitize the existing (new tools to do as before) but do not transform operating models.

Why ? There are many reasons. Transformation may mean many different things.

• Transform processes. Here the problem may be the complexity of the task, or maybe the project owner is not mandated to go so far, or he does not have the competences, or process owners don’t want anyone to change their “baby” and, generally, there is the usual reluctance towards change.

• Acquire new skills.Some skills won’t be useful, some will lack. There’s a need to train, recruit or terminate people. It’s all the more sensitive that nothing has been anticipated so it’s easier to limit the ambition to what can be achieved with the current people.

• Transform others. No one is an island disconnected from the rest of the company. Sometimes the things one wants to change have an impact on other departments or even are owned by another department. If transforming a process and an organization one owns is complicated, saying to another department “hey guys you need to change because the way you’re working has an impact on me” looks often like an impossible mission.

Selling things online is not complicated. Having a good logistic is already more complicated. Building synergies between online and stores is often a politic and organizational nightmare. To whom is the sale attributed ? Is the online channel a competitor ? Does it change the protocole in stores ? But I don’t want to share the data of my touchpoint, this is MY clients and MY data.

Making administrative tasks easier for your salesforce so they will be able to spend more time with the client is a good idea. Everyone is pro…until the day someone finds out that the sales declaration process and the project entry process were designed to make life easier for…finance people and that, as process owners, they don’t want anything to change.

Extend the present or build the future ?

In short a business can digitize to gain speed but the benefits are logically lower than expected and it has very little impact on competitiveness since the business is operating like before, just faster. To some extent it’s sometimes counterproductive because it’s going to stress everything that dysfunction so there will be more and more frictions in operations. Good thing if you want to fix your organization because it will help you to discover what to fix but wrong idea if you don’t want to undertake a deep organizational change. And, as I always say, when a dysfunctional organization acquires technology to gain speed and scale, it’s just going to dysfunction faster and at a larger scale.

Another approach is to use technology as a support and a pretext to transform, with all the possible pitfalls mentioned above.

The first approach will help to extend the present (until when ?), the second to build the future.

So it’s essential to make digital a business matter. Not just by informing business people and involve them but by giving them the possibility and means to reinvent themselves, to wonder how they would build their business if they started from scratch today without the weight of the past.

Digital as a general topic for digital experts dead. It’s a matter for marketing, sales, HR, customer service etc. It’s like science : fundamental research is great but without applied research there’s very little to expect. Instead of asking a generalist to apply technology to fields he know nothing about, ask business lines and support functions how they would like to operate in a perfect world. You’ll always find someone to bring the technology afterwards.

Photo credit: Fotolia.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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