Digital Transformation – a waste of time and money?

The latest and greatest, in an overflowing armoury of silver bullets, is ‘Digital Transformation’. This type of change programme requires both a new way of thinking and usually a lot of new skills and new tech. It is a pretty complicated affair.

This complexity is made a million times worse when organisations inexplicably lump all their other change initiatives under the banner of ‘digital’ too. For example, and to name just three, Agile Transformation, User Centred Design and Journey to the Cloud change projects all will fit snugly into a Digital Change Programme.

So, what’s wrong with that you may ask? Well, nothing in theory, but there is the small matter of size and why you think you will succeed at all? Certainly, if you are a big company and are already stumbling on any of the ‘lesser’ components of digital transformation then logic would tell you that a much larger programme is almost guaranteed to fail.

As I alluded to in a previous article sometimes we just have to say to prospective digital transformation customers ‘don’t bother, it will be a waste of time and money’. Certainly, in our experience, any initiative with the words ‘global transformation’ associated to it is a doomed one.

Of course, there are always the odd exceptions and a few large organisations transform successfully but usually because they were forced to do so. For example, UK Governments digital by default agenda is one that should be singled out for praise, however, they are still some way off realising the £billions of annual savings that justified their transformation in the first place.

So, what should you do if you are a big enterprise?

Well, if you already decided to go the traditional transformation route, you may want to consider ‘chunking’ up’ the programme into much smaller components. Unsurprisingly, given our expertise, we always start with trying to help operations work more collaboratively with their IT department. This sounds like a big culture change, and it is, but there are some simple techniques and tooling that you can use to show the benefit before having to win the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders involved.

The key is to start with something small that if implemented successfully has irrefutable financial savings. We will explain how we would go about this in more detail another time. 

The second, and our much-preferred option, is don’t try and transform anything at all. This means setting up a new well-funded, start-up business within, or to the side of your existing enterprise. This approach is not only exciting but deserves several articles on its merits and how you would go about it. So, I will leave you some anecdotal evidence that it really does work instead.

If I were to have asked the average Brit ten years ago, who would make and own one of the most commercially successful Digital IoT services in the UK I am fairly confident none of them would have said British Gas. However, the Hive remote mobile phone thermostat and their telemetric smart boilers have been an enormous success. Did British Gas try and transform themselves from a utilities provider into a funky new-tech engineering business? No, of course they didn’t. What they did do was recruit some highly intelligent and gifted people and said here’s some money, go and make this business a success, and they did!

 

 


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