Five Pillars Of Digital Transformation: Define Your Digital Destiny

Ashutosh Kumar, Joao Ribeiro, Jose Carvalho, and Kay P. Hradilak

In our previous blog, we explained how important it is to share a mindset across all levels of an organization. Having a common attitude to overcome obstacles helps you get to your destination (which, after all, is your main objective). Three concepts can help you get where you’re aiming: preparing the hurdle race, understanding the leadership paradox, and trusting your analog friends.

1. Preparing the hurdle race

A digital transformation is not just a journey. It is an evolving race, where you see who comes in first, then you define a new objective, a new race, a new goal to reach. The path may not be clear, but the urgency to start the race exists. As author Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” Project your goals and identify your hurdles, then start the race.

runner jumps over hurdle

Your objective is not to jump hurdles; is to get somewhere by jumping hurdles.

Amazon did this by building an IT environment to cope with changing demands in different seasons. Its orders during the December holidays demand a lot more computing power than at other times in the year. By scaling for its holiday needs, Amazon not only overcame its immediate hurdle, it also invented a new business based on all the spare computer capacity it created. By selling its excess computational capacity to the market, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born. Today Amazon is one of the biggest cloud companies in the world, and AWS contributes 20% to Amazon’s EBITDA and is its most profitable division. Amazon jumped its initial hurdle, redefined its objective, and started a new race to successfully win the market.

2. Understanding the leadership paradox

One of the best paradoxes of leadership is that leaders need to be both stubborn and open-minded. This will help them adjust their sails to the wind, as the wind is something they cannot control. As digital transformation goes on, so does the market each company operates in.

Leaders can establish a vision, but in a world of constant change, mapping all the paths to the destination is tough. Great leaders think big and start small. With small steps, businesses can invest for ideation knowing they will understand the outcome before it’s fully materialized. Businesses cannot afford to continuously  invest large sums of money and time in preparation tasks when they need to start seeing benefits within a shorter timeframe. Favoring initiatives where speed has priority over completeness, preventing someone else from taking the surprise effect into market, and knowing that failure is part of the process are qualities that a leader needs to demonstrate throughout the race.

3. Trusting your analog friends

Like agile, digital is no panacea. There are things that are better remaining analog (i.e., not digitized) while time evolves and your race proceeds. Choose your bets, digitize1 to get efficiency, digitalize2 to get disruption. In the process, if there are things that should remain analog while you focus on what gets you value, then live with your analog best friends. Evolution will come when the time is right; when you find value in doing so, you will steer your digital path to take that route.  For example, making your sales force follow a scrum methodology is going to add very little, as they need to work independently. However, giving them a system connected to the products you sell with machine learning to understand your customers’ needs based on insights from their data will assist your sales force to better engage with their customers.

You can’t set your digital destiny without understanding what the market offers and requires from a technology standpoint. In the next blog in this series, we will how and why you should invest in digital technology and how technology is no longer just an enabler of your business, rather a core of your strategic thinking.

While you wait for the next instalment in this series, assess your Digital Transformation Maturity with IDC.

1 To digitize is the process of changing from analog to digital

2 To digitalize is to use digital technologies to change a business model

Source: Gartner IT Glossary