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Digital is the new normal, and many organizations are struggling to align with the new ‘digital reality’. Digital Transformation is difficult. Comparing the views of several pundits along with our experiences and feedback of our clients, we conclude that transformation initiatives fail due to the following reasons:

  • Management attention tends to favor tactical and operational thinking and results (short-term fixes of current business) over strategic thinking and results (longer term, innovation, renewal);
  • Reward structures tend to induce silo-focus: optimizing the local business unit rather than building a foundation for execution that enables the whole organization to be successful
  • There still appears to be a major disconnect between “business” and “IT”. In our view, there is no such thing: business equals IT and vice versa.
  • Decision making is often hampered by internal politics and personal power plays rather than following the best idea.
  • Also, lack of a clear definition of digital transformation, lack of focus, and lack of business value are frequently a source of setback. (see e.g. Forbes, CIO Magazine, and Digital Journal).

Effective and meaningful change is possible. Yet, if we want to achieve successful Digital Transformation with sustainable results, we need to change the way we do things. Organizations require a different, collaborative approach to digital transformation to provide business value and achieve sustainable results.

In this blogpost we will:

  • Introduce our vision on Digital Transformation
  • Elaborate on the proven REALIZE-approach that reduces time between an idea and its implementation while ensuring a shared vision, engagement of key players, and benefiting from the potential leadership skills of your staff.

Our definition of digital transformation

Digital Transformation is:

the coordinated effort to change the architecture of the enterprise, with a fundamental and sustainable impact on its digital capabilities and resources.

Let’s break that down. We transform organizations in a coordinated and collaborative effort. This means we engage professionals in your organization to make it real. We change an architecture, and we change it with a strategic impact. A transformation needs to last and, therefore, needs to be both fundamental and sustainable. While we are great fans of the kaizen-mindset and their smaller, bottom-up approaches, we change an enterprises’ foundation for execution based on principles, planning and projects. This includes the transformation of core processes, data and key information systems.  In our view, both transformation and incremental changes are required for effective organizations.

Our approach to digital transformation

The world is increasingly digital, yet people still operate it. This means it is essential to use a people-first approach to digital transformation. Furthermore, the key to success is to strike a balance between taking time to think and plan on the one hand and ensure speedy execution on the other. Before presenting a brief overview on our vision for digital transformation, I would like to share some thoughts about what it means to do transformation well:

  • Do you really believe that a few people at the top of the organization know the relevant intricacies of your organization better than people down in the trenches, doing the real work? Wouldn’t you want to tap into that potential? (for inspiration, check this video by David Marquet)
  • How much up-front planning and design is required before embarking on the first step of your transformation journey? Would a rough draft of a shared vision together with a common operational picture suffice to make the first no-regrets move?
  • The best ideas only emerge by getting all the relevant facts on the table (radical truth, radical transparency) and making sure that people who know what they are doing are involved in the decision-making process (for inspiration, see this TED talk by Ray Dalio). Have you ever considered a visual, workshop-based approach to attain this? Do you want the best idea to win?
  • Performing under stress is possible, but how do we make sure that decision-making is sound? If you could, would you ensure that decision-makers in high-pressure situations make principled decisions and stay sane?

Our value proposition for digital transformation is rooted in theories of existing frameworks and a body of research on digital transformation as well as years of practical experience in helping our clients solve challenges executing digital transformations. Our mission is to help organizations to realize their digital dreams and ambitions.

We make an explicit distinction between strategy development (getting a shared understanding of what the organization is aiming to achieve) and strategy realization with our REALIZE approach (making it happen). Both aspects are equally important. However, these disciplines require different competencies, capabilities, and a different mindset. In addition, they are typically the realm of different departments and management teams in the organization. The REALIZE integrated approach overcomes these challenges.

A simple “handshake” between practitioners is not enough to attain sustainable results. Sustainable, in this case, has two meanings. On the one hand it means that we aim for lasting results: transformation is not a one-shot effort after which everyone and everything “goes back to normal”. On the other hand, it also pertains to the responsibility to make choices with an eye on future generations (e.g. green, corporate social responsibility, taking a stakeholder perspective).

Adopting a people-first approach to digital transformation means two things: organizational engagement (engagement of all key players and stakeholders in the organization to go from paper to execution) and tapping into the personal leadership (key information and skills of people across the organization, principled thinking, the inherent drive to help and drive the transformation initiative) of your team.

Making it real: 4+4+4

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How do we make it real and help our customers to achieve their transformation goals? We do this by combining workshops (design thinking, visual teams) and coaching, both at the team level and individual level.

 4+4+4 stands for:

  • In 4 days create a shared understanding with key stakeholders of the transformation goals, the vision for achieving those goals, key operational impacts and a rough draft of the transformation portfolio
  • 4 weeks to prepare for the first step: refine the vision and elaborate on the impact, refine the change portfolio and get your team ready to engage and take action for the first step
  • 4 months to achieve the first 4 successes and to get ready for what follows

This approach has been road-tested in different situations such as strategy realization in automotive industry, realizing new service offering in the lease industry, and transforming a large government department in light of new challenges and available technologies. We bring a proven approach to transformation to the table, together with the technical competence and drive to realize your transformation goals.

We think our vision takes Digital Transformation to the next level. If you want to take your digital transformation to the next level, please contact us at info@strategy-alliance.com or email me directly at bas.vangils@strategy-alliance.com.  We are always interested to hear what your view on Digital Transformation is, so please let us know!