Digital Transformation (DX) success means knowing your Why first, then the How, and finally the What

This article offers 3 steps to success and recommended reading to help create an effective DX strategy for your organisation.

Many of you would have watched Simon Sinek’s inspiring Ted Talk on the knowing your “Why”. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this article now and go watch it, then come back.

With the type of cost a well designed and executed digital strategy can be, it is critical that you follow the same steps:

1) Know your Why

Have conviction in your purpose for change, be it to improve customer relationships, operations or even to think differently and completely change the way your industry works.

Turn this why into a tangible vision, a vision focused around the why. Even if it’s completely blue sky and you don’t have all the puzzle pieces yet. There are some great ways to create a vision for your team to follow, this previous article highlights a few.

Recommended Reading:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; The second habit – Begin with the end in mind. It’s an oldie but a goodie and it’s profound insight into why your vision and mission is critical is still very relevant today.

2) The two critical pieces needed to make “How” happen in DX

There are two critical pieces of change that are often required to make your DX a movement as opposed to a shot in the dark. How you will get to your vision is dependent more on your organisational culture & structure and your people, than anything else.

Organisational Culture and Structure: Most large organisations have reaped the benefits of a highly efficient hierarchical system, where controls and processes are put in place to cut costs, improve efficiencies and reduce risk. It’s a wonder of modern business. But it’s also stifling to innovation. And the fact is innovation will be required in order to truly transform. You need to find a way to build a symbiotic alternative system to run alongside your hierarchy. One that is not constrained by the same rules that stifles innovation. Easier said than done, but there is good guidance out there on this subject.

Recommended Reading:
Accelerate (XLR8) by John Kotter; Kotter offers the insight into why a dual operating system is the natural evolution for an organisation trying to keep up with the pace of change in the 21st Century.

The second critical “how” will be inspiring and managing the transformation of your people, needed in a new digitally transforming organisation. If your people aren’t onboard you may as well forget even trying. You’ll spend most of your time dealing with internal resistance to the point that your focus will no longer be on the DX.

This is the responsibility of your leadership. Note I said leadership and not management. DX and people change is all about leadership not management. With change you need a vision that inspires. A compass to point the way and the ability to remain focused on the future and not get caught up with the day to day problems of right now. Management lives in the hierarchy system of efficiencies and process. Leadership lives in the inspiration and guidance of an innovative and change orientated workplace.

Recommended Reading:
Leading Digital by Westerman, Bonnet and McAfee; Part 2, chapter 6. Offers some great examples of why a company’s strategic vision is only as good as the people behind it. Only energised and engaged employees make that happen!

3) Your What

Mistakenly this is often done as the first step, which is then the equivalent of shooting in the dark. It’s the biggest reason for failed DX strategies as one failure can lead to the distrust of the board or leadership in trying anything else. It can put needed transformation back years.

Research shows that there are three key areas where businesses currently reaping the rewards of digital transformation have focused their “What”:

  1. Customer Experience
  2. Operations
  3. Reinventing Business Models

It’s different for all of us, but it tends to revolve around gathering big data and deriving insights. Whether that is through a manual process to start with or AI in the future, it’s key.

Recommended Reading:
Leading Digital by Westerman, Bonnet and McAfee; Part 1, chapter 2-4. Shares some great case studies to inspire and get the juices flowing around what can be done.

Good luck with your DX and if you need any help or you’ve got a great story around your own organisations DX, drop me a line.

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