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A few things bother me. One is that technology and devices are currently outpacing our anatomical ability to adapt to the dopamine dependency they create and that it’s arguably ruining society but that’s for another day. There’s other stuff vexing me too.

Is it annoying you yet, the number of companies, leader and consultants all talking about the “What” of *whispers quietly to himself* “Digital Transformation”, without too much focus on “How”?

In our recent blog posts, Rod does a great job of framing the challenges and some of the questions every business should be asking themselves. I think he’s on the money to highlight that achieving a successful outcome from asset rich, high cost, high legacy to lean, agile low cost and high value is a huge task. It involves self surgery to a degree that most will find highly uncomfortable and for many, ultimately fatal. This is precisely what it takes if you are to survive and maybe thrive.

I feel like I’ve been round the block over the last 15 years of my career having watched several legacy and bricks and mortar businesses get eaten by smaller companies with big ideas and very few constraints. I could write a book about it but it’s been done already (here are a couple of good reads here and here. That said, if I were asked to pick the most important things to actually DO once you have contemplated your potential doom, it would go like this.

Acknowledge that the people that got you here can’t fix your problems and get help:

Most businesses we walk into want to utilise technology and digital to deliver more value (lower cost, higher revenue and margins)  but when we ask them just five questions, they inevitably have answers that tell us a lot about the business:

  • Let’s discuss the maturity of your Board’s knowledge in running a Digital P&L and using modern digital product delivery techniques.
    • Which of them really understand Social, Mobile, Data and Cloud and how they have changed business?
  • Which of the C suite team here have deep knowledge in these areas and have run successful Digital P&L at scale using commodity software with very low costs?
  • Tell me what are your digital objectives and KPIs for cost of acquisition/conversion, lifetime value and annual revenue per customer?
  • Tell us more about how you design your Customer’s digital journeys?
  • How long does it take for your team to test an idea or feature or product or service to give you real data to make decisions with?
  • How do you invest in the Digital skills of your teams to ensure you understand the latest tools and techniques to build and sell your company’s product?

These are uncomfortable questions for most businesses to address as they usually result in the realisation that top to bottom, they may not have the right people, skills knowledge or experience.

To successfully change, you have to accept that the people on the ground will have to change too and that many of them won’t make the journey as the other option is that won’t be anything left for them anyway.

Related to this is the hard question about brand. If your brand doesn’t stand for change or innovation then fishing the talent pool (especially in NZ) will be like the child catcher let loose in a Kindergarten. Not too many willing applicants.

So my advice is, make bold moves, make your vision audacious and if you have to, truly spin off a Brand to be your vanguard. Without the right people onboard; don’t even start.

I leave you to ponder these points and those tough questions and next week I will talk about what I think most companies attempting this journey can practically do without getting lost in the weeds.

Guest post by Justin Tomlinson

KS