The overwhelmingly digitally disrupted market landscape, that has accelerated its changing pattern during the pandemic-hit era and now is in the recovery and rebuilding of the economy, has left very little options for survival of non-digital native businesses, but to go though their own DX journey in all their relevant areas of functionality.
These days, if you are a CXO or rank among the Executive Team, you already are a Digital Transformation Leader, as your most time-sensitive, business-critical mandate that is hopefully completed or well underway. The future of your organization is literally in your collective hands, and you cannot afford letting it slip!
I have been a transformation advisor, writer, public speaker and coach in both Enterprise Scaled Agile and Digital Transformation, working with several private (Fortune 500) organization and the public sector, and I would like to share with you some of the best features of top DX leader that I have observed, and worked with over the past 10 years:
Accept that it is time to change fast!
We have arrived in a point in history that an unprecedented number of new competitors, armed with high agility and strong digital nativity, are swarming the market at an accelerated pace.
These seemingly small contenders may have small bites, but their aggregate effect have already caused serious financial damage to the large and established incumbents through eating through their revenue channels and have even pushed some of them off the cliff.
Digital transformation is a serious change with many moving parts. To make it even more complex, your organization needs to “Digitize” and “Digitalize” and travel with your existing customers while going through this journey.
It is estimated that over the past decade about 70% of Tech Savvy organizations (e.g., Telecom, Software Services …) and 93% of traditional organizations (e.g., Automotive, Food, Oil & Gas …) have failed to complete their DX journey.
Digitized, means that your organization must be able to present its products and service through digital channels. The days of hard copies and disks and even USB keys are long gone. Organizations need to also explore the market for more “Digitized” product idea and experiment through Customer Centric design approaches and Rapid Prototyping.
Digitalized, refers to adopting digital age ways in product and service offering. That includes:
- Turning your products into platforms so your customers can use it to build their own business and through that expand your revenue and reach.
- Looking at your customers as your strategic assets and expanding into your customer’s own networks, collaborating with them in creating a better solution. Re-invent your digital marketing approaches and providing an ever-improving personalized experience to your customers and giving them a reason to introduce your organization to their networks.
- Braving the market through rapid exploratory approach. Adopting Customer Centricity and engaging your customer as early as the first stages of product design and using short feedback cycles through rapid prototyping and leveraging the customer participation in that to retarget the market by incrementally adjusting products.
- Transforming your Data into strategic assets. Use them in Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics and Prescriptive Processing to gain insight from the past and use it to get recommendations on your next best steps.
- Change and adapt your organization’s value proposition structure to dynamically respond to threats in the market and reach for market opportunities as new technologies and shifts in trends and customer’s appetite would create them.
Digital Transformation would require you to completely re-envision the way your organization works. That includes all your systems, data pipeline, processes, culture, and of course the people. It also needs two kinds of leadership, one for each type of “Digitized” and “Digitalized” transformation, both fresh in understanding of their process, technology and cultural changes.
Accept that you do not have all the answers!
No one knows all the details of what needs to be done inside their organization to implement their Digital Transformation fully and properly. To make the grey area even larger, as your organization is embarking down that path, so is the market and your entire customer base, as they are also experiencing new trends and ideas and demands that would bring them ahead in the quickly growing and evolving digital economy.
This will add to your organization’s internal challenges trying to get to a future state “Digital Enterprise”, as your target audience is not staying in the same state you had them pictured at the beginning of your journey.
You and your organization need to maintain an open mind to quickly learn and adapt to what is in front of you and to inspect the road behind and correct the next steps. Every step, regardless of the size, comes at the price of “time spent”. The time that you will never get back. You will learn something new from each one, whether it was rendered as a success or failure.
Take comfort that no one knows all the answer or would predict the future or can ever give a perfect picture of the end-state of your organization’s transform. That is why you will need a proper digital savvy executive team, or addition of such key members to your leadership circle, to have the up to date and strong visionaries added to your think tank and leadership power.
Your fresh and open mindset and your relentless challenge of the status quo as a leader will encourage and guide your teams to rise to the challenges and focus their collaboration in achieving the planned business outcomes.
Lead your teams at multiple heights!
While your executive leadership level has already set you up to observe everything from a 10,000 feet view point, and see the lay of the siloes and streams from a Strategic Portfolio level, be ready to interact and develop insights on how things are progressing at middle and lower heights as well to not only feel the air pressure and dust of the lower ranks but to also develop a more realistic vision on how your executive team’s strategic decision is translated into the tactical implementation and how is the morale and energy level of you teams – who are in the trenches and in direct service provisioning with your clients – is holding and developing. Take your executive team with you when flying on those heights to share the view and insight with them.
This approach will also help with better translation of the strategic decision as the cascade down through the relevant silos and ultimately into your Value Streams.
Accept your leadership role in the much-needed cultural change!
There is no positive change in the body without a positive change in the mind to push through the hardship during the transition, and to sustain it when it is completed. The same goes for an organization.
While we are heavily invested in our Digital Transformation, transforming our Value Stream and Delivery Pipelines, and our relationship structure with our clients and business relationships with our partners and competitors, we should not let our own people be forgotten and left behind in the old mindset we started from at the start of the journey.
Our organizational cultural change should assist our people in buying-in the change, owning it, advocating it, and standing by it. Our clients’ journey through our value delivery practices are directly influenced by how our people feel, envision, and incorporate the Digital Transformation in their day-to-day activities. Their process expertise and technology mastery help them to seamlessly connect every part of the value delivery practice from the ideation to the business outcome we are targeting for.
While your leadership has conveyed the criticality and urgency of the needed cultural changes, you should also allow for celebration of the victories, let the teams have fun and enjoy every elevated step that is completed, and create the needed safe environment for them to raise awareness to observed issues and upcoming problems, to learn from the failures and share their experiences across the organization to enrich everyone’s insight on the work ahead of the teams through learning from the gained experience of the past.
Be transparent and implement transparency top-to-bottom and across the organization!
A transparent organization is a clearly driven and well observed living organism where issues are identified and observed quickly, and the needed concentration of focus and effort is properly applied to resolve them. Such organization can accelerate sharing of identified market opportunities and options for improvements to the relevant teams and rip the rewards faster than non-transparent and lagging organizations.
Running a leadership and management policy of open doors with a safe culture to raise a flag when needed, and to voice concern when issues are forecasted, alongside sharing ideas and insights, helps management with observing and supporting the needed efforts to remedy problems and remove impediments and encouraging innovative ways to reduce waste and to raise efficiencies and performances. This differentiates strong Digital Enterprises from the other organizations.
The organization-wide transparency fosters a collaborative and agile environment where people can brainstorm, share ideas, provide feedback, and help one other.
As a Digital Transformation leader, your role is not to know every answer for every problem. You are not there to solve every problem on your own. Your role is to get the right team together and enable them (from executive level to tactical) to collaborate in identifying solution options, creating resolutions to problems, supporting one another at their levels and as one organization, own and contribute to the continued success of the enterprise in providing an ever improving experience for the clients.
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Arman Kamran is an internationally recognized executive leader and enterprise transition coach in Scaled Agile Delivery of Customer-Centric Digital Products with over 20 years of experience in leading teams in private (Fortune 500) and public sectors in delivery of over $1 billion worth of solutions, through cultivating, coaching and training their in-house expertise on Lean/Agile/DevOps practices, leading them through their enterprise transformation, and raising the quality and predictability of their Product Delivery Pipelines.
Arman also serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Prima Recon Machine Intelligence, a global AI solutions software powerhouse with operations in US (Palo Alto, Silicon Valley), Canada (Toronto) and UK (Glasgow).