Exponential Organizations


Starting in 2011, I focused on the notion of a digital enterprise – a metaphor for the type of organization that is required to survive the massive paradigm shift that lies ahead. In 2013, the focus expanded to analyze disruptive scenarios and the emerging ecosystems and platforms that would give life to those scenarios. There remains a single constant through this work and the many leadership discussions that ensued: it will take a different type of organization – different than the ones most of us grew up with – to survive the shift. We as humans – and the organizations that we created – think and act linearly. The world and technology however is moving exponentially. How then do people and organizations move from linear thinking to exponential thinking? Continue reading

The Flat Organization


As I described in my closer look at transformation, one of the key enablers of the future enterprise is Structural Change. This slide from a conference presentation I delivered this week speaks to some of the drivers of structural change. A key driver on this list is the ineffectiveness of command and control models in the future business environment.

Structural Change

As command and control slowly disappears, new models emerge and questions about effective ways to manage in flatter organizations arise. I recently fielded one such question during  the above mentioned presentation on the future enterprise. The response focused on culture, the corporate value system, collaboration, communication, openness, transparency and trust. One great example of a flat company that exhibits many of these characteristics is not surprisingly an Internet company – Google. Google’s approach is outlined in a recent Article from the Harvard Business Review . Additional thoughts on moving towards an open and transparent culture can be found in this IBM CEO Study from 2012.

Examples of companies that are starting to create these new models are emerging – and I firmly believe that it’s only a matter of time before structures suited for the digital age take hold. There are still many skeptics out there – and no one has this all figured out. Leaders of the Industrial revolution era created the management structures that enabled business in that era. It’s time for leaders in this very different era to re-imagine these structures for the present day environment.

The Future of Business


This list of 99 Facts pulled together by SAP continues to build the case for inevitable change. The title of this SAP presentation  is “The Future of Business”. Here are some of the key facts from various sources. There are embedded links in the content that take you to the source documents. Enjoy.

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Blurring the Boundaries


This current executive presentation captures the breadth of the digital enterprise transformation series. It can be found on SlideShare – appropriately titled Blurring the Boundaries.

The presentation is a call to action for leaders everywhere. A slide in the deck asks the question: as status quo thinking prevails, what drives action? The first half of the presentation builds the case for action. The second half describes a framework to enable that action.

Digital Enterprise Transformation – Wrap Up


Over the last three months, I have presented a framework for thinking about transforming the enterprise to the type of enterprise that can succeed in the year 2020 – What I call a digital enterprise.

Throughout this multi-part transformation series, I have focused on those forcing functions that push us to transform – the drivers that stir us to action. Old models that were created for another time cannot lead us into this future – we must think differently. We must invent the models that define business in the decades ahead.

So, I wrap up this closer look at transformation with the hope that I’ve convinced you in some small way that we are indeed heading towards what is likely to be the most transformative period in history. My hope is that leaders everywhere think differently to usher in a period of prosperity and societal advancement. Instead of talk of disruption, let us talk of enablement and advancement. May we each have the wisdom, vision and courage to lead in this emerging transformative period.

For a review of this entire transformation series, here is an intro and link to each of the prior posts. As a reminder, forcing functions are those things that force the enterprise to invest in a future state. The enablers are those facilitators of change that allow us to address the forcing functions and build a path towards the future. Click on the underlined title to access each post.

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Sense and Respond Systems


Next up in this transformations series is the sixth enabler: sense and respond systems. These systems are critical to the transformation agenda, as most of the disruptive technologies likely to impact the enterprise in the next decade have data at its core. The resulting data explosion promises to complicate information management for most companies. As the speed of business accelerates and the amount of data flowing through company ecosystems expands, the need to sense stimuli and enable a real time response intensifies. Fortunately, rapid advancements in the price and performance of technology make realizing this sense and respond paradigm achievable and economical for a wide range of use cases – but this is arguably one of the most difficult components of transformation road maps.

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Value Ecosystems


The next focus of this transformation series shifts to the emergence of value ecosystems and their role in driving the Enterprise of 2020. As we look at the Apple ecosystem and offerings like the connected car, mobile commerce, energy efficiency, electric cars, eHealthcare, and energy performance contracts, we can see the lines between industries blurring. Some even question the relevance of Industry constructs in the future. As this phenomenon accelerates, more and more companies must identify the relevant ecosystem(s) that enable their growth strategies. These value ecosystems are complex and relationship-oriented, representing future growth opportunities that are increasingly outside a company’s traditional business.

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Growth


2014 will see an acceleration and expansion of transformation programs. All the dynamics are in place to create a compelling reason for companies to transform. This 14 part series takes a closer look at transformation and the likely path it takes in the next decade. This is the first piece in the series. Links to the other parts of the series are included at the end of this post.

In my last Post , I focused on three recent thought leadership pieces:

  1. Middle class job Creation – Geoffrey Moore
  2. Disruptive Technologies – Mckinsey
  3. New Machine Age – Andrew McAfee

These pieces continue to describe the transformative period that lies ahead. As we look at this and other thought provoking pieces, our job as leaders is to assess the potential impact to our organizations. Readers of my Blog know that I have focused my own assessment on the enterprise of 2020, or what I have been calling the Digital Enterprise. So I have worked to develop a high level road map based on my own perspective and experiences, ongoing executive dialog, and key pieces of market thought leadership. I will use the next several Blog posts to summarize my thinking. The road map is focused in two key areas: The forcing functions that drive the need to transform and the enablers that require investment to get us there. Forcing functions are those things that force the enterprise to invest in a future state. The forcing functions and a vision to address them are critical, as far too many leaders continue to sit on the sidelines with no impetus to invest in this future enterprise.

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Geoffrey Moore: Middle Class Job Creation in the Digital Era


Geoffrey Moore recently authored a Report focusing on middle class job creation in the Digital Era. These same forces that Mr. Moore describes in the context of job creation are disrupting the very fabric of the traditional company. This is a fascinating look at the state of middle class jobs in developed countries. This diagram from the report effectively summarizes his views on the topic. The grid focuses on the nine basic areas of employment inside an enterprise, across a product and a service business model. The columns are further divided into complex (B2B) and volume (B2C) businesses.

Impact of Digital Economy on Job Opportunities

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Digital Enterprise Road Map Series: Part 4 – Systems of Engagement


Geoffrey Moore introduced the Systems of Engagement concept about two years ago. This vision for the future of Information Technology is gaining broader acceptance – but a surprising number of executives are blind to the coming sea change. Is it hype or reality? For me, this question boils down to one certainty: traditional companies must infuse their organizations with digital DNA – and I believe systems of engagement accomplish this. They raise Digital DNA quotients by using consumer technology to make companies more effective. This notion of effectiveness is a key shift from a two decade long focus on efficiency. That’s not to say the importance of efficiency has diminished, in fact I’d say the next phase in the search for efficiency gains is upon us. But at the same time, effectiveness will headline a decade long journey focused on growth. The same platform that enables next generation efficiency – Mobile, Social, Big Data, Analytics and Cloud Computing – forms the foundation for effectiveness through systems of engagement.

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Digital Enterprise Road Map Series: Part 3 – Social


My belief that digital is still very misunderstood is growing stronger. Instead of understanding digital to be the transformative engine that drives sustainability – it is still viewed as an offering or channel. Those are indeed critical pieces of the digital story, but it’s not the whole story.  Those very innovations that drive our current disruptive environment – transform us to deal with the aftermath. Our customers have shifted – and we can’t shift with them if we are inhibited by traditional views of digital. I participated in a recent think tank discussion, where people talked of digital’s small contribution to revenue, concluding that it was not worth the focus.

Heavy sigh!

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Digital Enterprise Characteristics


In the past two months, interest in the characteristics of a digital enterprise is accelerating. I believe increasingly, traditional companies understand that viability in the next decade drives the need to evolve. The list of characteristics has been refined through ongoing dialog and now looks like this: 

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Digital Enterprise Road Map Series: Part 2 – Experience


In part one of this six part series; I focused on Holistic Strategy – the first step on the digital enterprise journey. In part two, the focus shifts to experience-based differentiation. With the rapid commoditization of products and services, the speed at which new market entrants emerge, and the rise of Consumerization, experience is the new battle ground. When I talk of experience, I mean stakeholder experience. Ultimately, it’s about creating differentiated customer experiences – but to get there, the experience we create for our employees and partners is critical to that end goal.

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LinkedIn: The Biggest Ideas of 2013


In the latter months of 2012, LinkedIn launched a Blogging platform for some of the world’s best known thought leaders. As part of that series, 50 posts were gathered to provide a perspective on the biggest ideas for 2013. I have categorized each of the posts and have provided a link below. There are great perspectives provided in some far reaching categories – including my favorite topic: Digital Enterprise.

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How Would you Fill in the Blank: ____ Enterprise?


“This is the dawn of the mobile enterprise and as a result, digital strategists must think beyond the idea of a social business”. That’s a quote from a recent post titled Investing in the Mobile Enterprise, written by Brian Solis, a Principal at Altimeter Group. Mobile, much like social, is clearly a critical element of the future enterprise; but so are Big Data, Cloud Computing, and who knows what else in the coming years. One thing is clear: the future Enterprise will not resemble the current Enterprise, as we enter a very transformative period that promises to impact the very structure of our organizations.

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The Digital Enterprise and New Ways of Thinking


This recent Article titled “Sayonara Sony” by Adam Hartung provides a great example of the dangers of not evolving as a business. I can’t help but think that this story will play out countless times over the next three to five years. In Sony’s case, it is a stubborn reliance on industrial age thinking that has driven their downward spiral. Those companies that won’t abandon their specific reliance on legacy practices will suffer the same fate. We’ve moved on from the industrial age. We are in the midst of an information age that requires completely new ways of thinking. Sustained innovation is the new mantra, and the emerging digital enterprise will not function on long standing management theory. Leaders need to realize this and adapt – or suffer the consequences. They need to embrace the characteristics of the new digital enterprise: 

  • Sustained innovation
  • Engagement and insight-driven
  • Mobile first
  • Context-aware
  • Business Technology NOT Information Technology
  • Relationship-based
  • Flexibility in operating & business models
  • Experiential versus transactional
  • Prescriptive

The best leaders can adapt – but we’ve never seen a time quite like this before. There is so much unchartered territory and things are changing very fast. Therefore, leaders need to be flexible, they need to be students of the disruptive forces that are driving change, and they need to be open to new ways of doing things. In short, they need to disrupt, before being disrupted. If not – it’s “Sayonara fill-in-the-blank”.

From an Extended Enterprise to a Digital Enterprise


I find myself reflecting on a common phrase as I watch the digital enterprise unfold: “history is repeating itself”. So much of what is happening today, feels like a second and more attainable version of what was happening about eleven years ago. Back then, I remember developing a framework for the extended enterprise – a popular way to describe the inclusion of other value chain members in end-to-end business process. The Internet was going to change the game by providing the infrastructure required to extend a company’s inward-focused business processes to the value chain. It was to become the catalyst for value chain optimization.

I thought back then about the delivery of innovative product and services comprised of differentiated internal services and value-added external services. The Enterprise would in effect be a functional specialist within their value chain, focused on connecting with partners to gain access to information and services. There would be a divestment of assets, as companies focused on their core competency, making external optimization, synchronization and integration critical success factors. Companies would realize that the ability to adapt to market change was inversely proportional to investment in fixed assets.

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