Transforming for the Digital Age

Digital transformation means different things to different people. As I strive to change mindsets, I am sensitive to these distinct perspectives and the individual filters applied to terms like digital and transformation. In my view, Digital has been more narrow than holistic, while in some organizations ERP implementations are considered transformation. So, does digital transformation represent the narrow use of digital technology to improve some aspect of our organization? Or, is it the wholesale change of a set of structures, institutions and paradigms built for a different era? Although I have mostly abandoned the phrase, when I do use it, I mean the latter.

Let’s call it what it is, starting with the term transformation. To truly transform means to change from one nature, substance, form, or condition into another. I’d maintain that the pace of change has made the archaic nature of our industrial era structures, institutions, and management paradigms very apparent. Therefore, to transform in this sense means to change from the nature, form and substance of our industrial past, to a state that is viable for our digital future. Digital is foundational: the building block for which this future state is built upon. Therefore, for clarity sake, a better way to describe digital transformation is:

TRANSFORMATION FOR THE DIGITAL AGE: a change in the nature, substance, and form of our industrial past, to a future state that allows us to thrive in our emerging digital future.

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Dual Transformation

In a recent book titled Dual Transformation, the authors (Scott D. Anthony, Clark G. Gilbert, and Mark W. Johnson) focus on the challenging task of transforming the core while simultaneously creating a growth engine. They refer to it as dual transformation: Transformation A – repositioning the core, and Transformation B – creating the new. This complex tension is represented in this visual from our upcoming leadership course: Reimagining the Future: A Journey through the Looking Glass.

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Ecosystem Thinking

The notion of value creation and capture is a core component of business and the models that drive it. While historically viewed with a traditional product mindset, several emerging forces will alter this basic tenet of business. At its core, the way businesses create and capture value will change – the degree of change ranges from transformative to historical. The last several posts focused on the historical – namely Jeremy Rifkin’s view that we are heading towards A New Economic Paradigm. The foundation of Mr. Rifkin’s argument is a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) platform that takes the marginal cost of production to near zero. Enabled by the Internet of Things, this General Purpose Technology (GPT) Platform could alter our landscape more dramatically than previous GPTs (steam-locomotive-printing press, electricity-auto-telephone). What happens to value creation and capture in a near zero marginal cost scenario?

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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: Descriptive to Prescriptive

Next up in this transformation series is the eighth enabler: the evolution from descriptive to predictive analytics. At the heart of future success lies the ability to leverage insight for competitive advantage. Yet, analytic capability and data driven cultures are lacking in most organizations, and most executives when assessing their positioning on a descriptive-to-prescriptive scale answer level one. The table below defines each level:

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Collective Intelligence

Next up in this transformation series is the seventh enabler: Collective Intelligence. One of the key themes throughout this transformation series is the clear movement from an enterprise entity to an extended enterprise of stakeholders. This extended enterprise – or what I alternatively call value ecosystem – increases complexity and requires a new management approach to be effective. I use the term collective intelligence as an umbrella phrase that combines the critical need for both collaboration and analytic excellence. This includes other forces like crowd computing, crowdsourcing, co-creation, and wisdom of the crowd – all of which stem from the connectedness of our world, and the growing realization that value creation requires a broader community.

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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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