February 2, 2021

Going Digital – The Journey

The world has changed…permanently! How people get information, are influenced, exchange ideas, interact with companies, engage with brands, and buy product has gone through a revolutionary shift within a very short period of time.

There is no debating the impact of the ever-evolving world we live in. Organizations must evolve within our digital economy or be left behind. We must play within the digital channels and commerce practices where our customers live, or be lost to non-relevance. All of us are aware of this “why” we need to change, but translating to “what” and “how” can be a daunting task. Please read on to learn a smart approach for setting your digital journey forward.

Framing the “Going Digital” Mission

Critical… awareness of technologies is important, but avoid getting pulled into the technologies-of-today vortex day one. Treat “going digital” not as a technology project, but instead a quest of defining A NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS.

This is extremely important as it drives us away from prioritizing technologies and instead focuses on behaviors, actions, and outcomes.

The way we define and reference “being Digital” should survive time and the ongoing arrival and obsolescence of technologies.

  • Don’t think websites and mobile apps, think targeted content and messaging – providing the right message to the right individual at the right time
  • Don’t think ecommerce, think learning and adapting to customer decision and buying journeys
  • Don’t think Facebook, Twitter, …, truly discover where your customers, suppliers, and partners interact digitally today
  • Don’t think solely of outbound marketing content, identify intelligence (data) to pull-back that is critical for piloting the business

This starts from the top and inclusion of all functional areas to define the mission of business evolution. Often under-estimated is the level of change introduced broadly across functions, resulting in deployment chaos and even failure of the mission. Process owners, functional leadership, and technology leadership must be true partners throughout.

The target is framing what the business model must look like to be relevant and premier within your market. And this “Going Digital” mission must be backed by quantifiable business targets. While the mission represents the bold journey transitioning from old to new ways of competing within your market, the business targets provide critical metrics for measuring success (examples include market share growth, revenue growth, scaling customer reach, manufacturing pace, supply chain optimization, etc.)

This “new way of doing things” represents the new operating model and should be ever-greened over time… we must acknowledge that the world we live in will continue to change rapidly!

Set the Technologies and Roadmap

With your “new way of doing things” model in-hand, now is the time to investigate and determine the right set of technologies and processes to bring the mission to life. This is a great time to pull in a partner who “has been there before” and possesses relevant expertise designing solutions, related deployment strategy, and process transitions. On the latter, it is critical to dig deep into processes necessary to drive the model and leverage your technology transition. Again, this requires direct involvement from process owners and functional leaders for both their expertise and buy-in to the model.

What is the roadmap? The roadmap reflects the journey combining your technology execution, organizational adjustments, and process evolution. The roadmap will outline phasing of incremental milestones that lead to your “new way of doing things” destination. The scope for each milestone is dependent on the rate of change your organization can absorb, the complexity of technology deployment, and most importantly linked to messaging and rollout execution to customers, suppliers, and partners.

In any roadmap model, an early go-live milestone is critical to generate energy. Target and hold true to a minimal viable product (MVP) as an early milestone and incrementally stage milestones from there… Alan Shepard’s 15 minute Mercury 3 suborbital flight was the first of twenty celebrated NASA manned missions leading to Apollo 11 delivering Neil Armstrong to the moon. Things best happen when success and learning advance through incremental steps. The message is “don’t aim for the moon as the day-one launch, follow the roadmap”. Leverage agile practices to travel the journey, celebrate milestones along the way, make necessary course corrections, and commit to a program of moving from one milestone to the next.

Execution, and Don’t Forget the People

Admitting this to be an overstatement to emphasize a point… the technology is the easy part. Your entire organization must embrace the mission and have buy-in for the journey. Internal and third party technology partners will deploy the solution. In contrast… the greater challenge is leading organizational change critical for success.

What’s the highest risk?… process adoption and skills evolution by individuals across the organization. It is imperative to identify where jobs and roles change, discover where new skills must be developed, and lead individuals toward the “new way of doing things”. This is where your HR and training organizations play a huge role in driving success. Change is perceived differently by each individual. Coaching must be tailored so that each person understands the greater mission, their purpose and role in bringing the mission to life, and a genuine feel of support in their personal development journey.

Success is achieved from amplifying the mission and purpose, creating excitement and energy within teams, and cultivating the right behaviors and ownership for each team member. The simple message… don’t forget the people!

Mine for Gold

The focus on cultivating the right data as intelligence for piloting the business was noted earlier. Don’t lose focus on this during solution and process designs. Allocate time to construct a solid definition of data critical to managing your business and include this capture in roadmap development. Start collection of this data day-one.

This data serves as your fuel for competitive evolution. In its simplest and initial use, you gain insights to “what happened”, enabling you to react and tune operations. Over time the information leads to opportunity for constructing models of predictable events and behaviors. This is where data science becomes your tool to “mine for gold”. Mature organizations leverage predictive analytics to win in their market. Reporting on “what happened” can be viewed as looking in the rearview mirror. Leveraging predictive analytics for “what will or might happen” is navigating through the windshield.

Recognize you will discover over time uses of the data impossible to envision today. Playing on messaging from the previous section, don’t forget the data!

Closing – Living the Journey

First, you might be thinking “this sounds a lot like Digital Transformation”. No secrets… it is, but the phrase purposely was not used as it exists without a clear definition and means something different to everyone. The intent was to start with fresh terminology.

Second, engage expert third parties to help you with the journey. Bringing in outside expertise is not admitting / signaling weakness of internal talent. It’s about bringing in experience to avoid mistakes and accelerate wins. For your team members, learning via osmosis (from inserted experience) is much more productive than learning from trial & error.

In closing… best wishes toward envisioning the model that transforms your business, disrupts your market, serves your customers, and elevates the careers and lives of your team members. Then bring that vision to life!