May 2020 – Andrew Bird
A group of us were huddled in the client’s boardroom.
The usual scene. A complex yet scribbled diagram up on the white board. Beside it, a presentation from a well-known global software vendor. Highlighting how their features were 3x faster and better than the competition.
Although not everyone was aware, the conversation was starting to go around in circles. Assumptions were being made of how these interconnected solutions were going to be the ‘silver bullet’.
Then a simple question was asked.
How’s this going to affect the end client? The human at the end of the line.
Everyone paused. The sound of crickets chirped. Then the head of digital stood up and started to draw lines between the different silos on the board.
At this point, we decided to take a step back.
This year, enterprises are expected to invest $1.3 trillion on this thing we call “digital transformation”
Although, research tells us that 70% of these initiatives will not reach their stated goals. Yes that’s right, 70%.
That equates to over $900 billion worth of spend that will miss the mark (source: Why Digital Transformations Fail, Forbes).
With these number in mind, we’re not sure if things can keep going like they are.
Digital and technology exist to support the broader business. Not the other way around.
A significant challenge front of mind for nearly every organisation is how they can close the gap between their end clients, organisation wide strategy and technology.
Too often, digital and technology ends up driving people, strategy, and process.
Rather than organisation wide strategy defining what technology will contribute to this direction.
We see too often, organisations trying to define a digital strategy that is not intrinsically linked and driven by the bigger picture. As the numbers highlight, countless digital projects end up on the scrap heap. Delivering no return and foregoing opportunities that were never realised.
Largely, because they were being viewed from the perspective that a new solution had to be offered. Anything was better than doing nothing at all.
With good intention, significant investment has been made on digital and technology projects that have not been tested against what value and outcomes they will deliver to the business and at the heart of it, its actual customers.
Figure out your business strategy first
If your strategy is being driven by the latest platform or tools, you need to go back to why you’re doing it in the first place.
In a recent conversation with one of our customers, the MD quoted “We have various committees on digital transformation; we have digital transformation initiatives; we are going full steam on digital…but no one can explain to me what it actually means!.” This is now a typical response from many in the business.
With digital shifting from a stand-alone function into something that now can permeate across the entire organisation, it is now even more critical to get right.
When digital transformation is not first looked from the perspective of the broader business strategy, it ends up often just accelerating the stuff where no real link can be drawn to how it creates a better client outcome.
It shouldn’t be “our organisation needs an Artificial Intelligence – Strategy”. A perceived need for an AI solution should be guided and tested by the direction of the wider organisation.
From outside looking in
The organisations we see that are using digital well, are the ones that have started from outside looking in.
Bringing their end customers into the conversation right at the start. Immersing themselves in problems and unknowns that are front of mind for them that urgently need to be solved.
Forming business strategy from inside looking out often forgoes many opportunities of starting with the client. The so called “smartest person in the room” internally doesn’t compare to a conversation with real world customers.
Through a human centred design approach, immerse yourself in your client’s sphere of unknowns. Bring them into the heart of your strategy decisions.
Then look at digital through the lens of this end customer. Your organisation wide strategy will be built on solving real client problems.
Digital and technology can then be weaved in as critical elements to drive forward this strategy.
So, where to start?
Begin looking at digital and technology as critical ingredients that can enable business strategy. Avoid shiny new platforms and promises that may otherwise steer your direction and focus.
Bring your end customers directly into to the conversation at the start. Don’t wait until your strategy is done and digital platforms are chosen.
Leverage the energy and motivation to act, by setting a plan and taking a methodical approach to driving forward.
Pause. Take note of what your clients are really saying.
Form your business strategy first.
Then we can be more confident of eliminating those countless digital transformations that miss the mark.
For real life examples where we have applied this approach with significant outcomes or to learn more, get in contact here.