“Digital transformation”; it’s a lovely buzzword, featuring on websites of companies large and small, letting consultants deliver reams of documentation; and every now and then, changes in organisational processes and systems.
I will admit, I’m a sceptic; and this opening statement is most likely overly cynical. But nonetheless, let’s get to it!
My overriding hypothesis is that the amount of pain you feel is directly correlated to the amount of learning you do.
In other words, unless you feel the consequences of your decisions, you will never really learn.
It’s only when you make decisions, set the strategy, follow through and implement; and then have to answer for the results, that you really learn about what works in theory but not in practice.
Too often companies will consult, advise and strategise, but will leave the implementation and the consequences of this to someone else. Maybe this is just the nature of the beast when consulting to large companies. Strategies might take years to implement; at which point, said consultant is long gone and busy billing the next set of clients.
This model is flawed. There should be no disconnect between strategy, decisions, implementation and consequences.
If you are going to advise me on strategy, you make sure that you can implement and will own the results.
Ironically, this is what digital technology houses like Lima Bean have been doing all along.
The only problem is that we have in the past undervalued our contribution to strategy and decision making, focusing too much on implementation. But that is easy to address. What is required is a shift in mindset of both our company and our clients. Our experience and insight is valuable and based on real world experience. Our work results in tangible products, with results that we have to answer for. At the end of the day, if a big document waxing lyrical on digital transformation does not result in something tangible such as systems, products, process changes or organisational changes, it is of little use.
So what would a more pragmatic approach to digital transformation be? Quite simply, to “Begin with the end in mind” (to quote one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits).
- Where is the pain?
- What problem(s) are being faced?
- Where can we innovate?
- What would be considered a successful outcome?
- Are we increasing revenue or decreasing cost?
Our approach is to keep it simple and focus on the end goal(s). If the goals are to restructure the organisation and have internal teams “work in an agile manner”, then Lima Bean and our ilk are probably not the company for you. Traditional consultants will do a great job at that.
But I would question such a goal. The goal cannot be phrased as “our teams must work in an agile manner”. The goal has to be more tangible than that and address a real business need. Is it to increase the “efficiency of teams in order to decrease costs”? If so, agile may achieve this, but “being agile” cannot be the end goal in itself. But I digress...
If your end goal is to innovate, reach new markets and build new revenue streams, then Lima Bean (and similar “digital delivery companies”) are the right companies to use. Goals such as the above mentioned typically end up with product(s) and systems; tangible stuff!
Digital transformation is not only about changing organisational processes and internal systems. It is also about using digital to innovate and rapidly test ideas. Starting small, validating and scaling big where you’ve seen traction.
This requires agility. This requires less fluff and more doing. Less paperwork. More prototyping, validating and testing. It requires rapid development. It requires an external, user centric approach.
This is what companies like ours have been quietly doing for years, without the buzz words or fluff; taking responsibility for our thinking, design, code and most importantly, the end result.