Preparing for Tomorrow’s Digital Enterprise
For a number of years now I have been adjunct faculty with the Australian Graduate School of Management. In its latest publication, The Leader, I share an important message for business leaders about making the transformation to the digital enterprise. Here is a transcript of this article:
“Smart organisations have been investing strategically in the digital economy for some time now”, he says. “And quite frankly, the organisations that have not done so will be left behind.”
“The rate of change will only accelerate. It will be harder and harder to keep up. Massive investment is needed to transform systems and processes for the new economy. And it’s not just traditional IT investment that is required, but a focus on social, cloud and big data.”
“Competitiveness today is about agility and rapid deployment”, he says. “There are companies in the US that are deploying changes to their customer-facing websites and portals five or six times a day! Most companies here think they are doing well if they do that five or six times a year.”
“It’s not just about keeping abreast of new technology”, says Jeffrey. “You have to embrace a whole new way of doing business. Technology is one of the pillars of the digital enterprise. But there are two other essential elements.”
The way work flows and is processed is vital. According to Jeffrey, businesses that are bogged down in archaic processes will simply not survive.
“If you’ve got a business process that requires superfluous, serial sign-offs, or you’re significantly hierarchical and siloed, then you’re gone”, he says. “You’re probably operating at a speed slower than glacial.”
And speed matters. “Good enough is actually good enough in many instances”, says Jeffrey. “You need to ditch your hierarchies, cut your sign-offs and just get out to market.” Jeffrey cites ‘Lean Start-up’ thinking to exemplify this point. “You do not want to spend years creating the perfect product which, by the time you get to market, nobody wants.” Build, Measure, Learn is the Lean Start-Up mantra that leaders need to take on board, says Jeffrey.
With speed being so important, he says you are better to get a minimal viable product to market and then gauge the reaction from customers. Learn what works for them and what doesn’t. Then go back and build some more.
The third pillar of success in the digital age is – you guessed it – human capital. And this is where the conversation in some organisations gets a bit awkward. A significant number of people in your organisation today may not make the shift to the digital economy.
“It will be a harsh reality for the CEO and director of HR to acknowledge they just can’t get the square pegs to fit the round holes. If they want the organisation to be agile, they need a nimble and adaptable human resource capacity.”
Jeffrey is adamant: the entire enterprise needs to be focussed on digital, on making change, and making it rapidly.
“For a lot of people that is very scary”, he says. “But the organisation cannot afford to be held back by those individuals. The naysayers will have to go.”
On the relevance of social media to the enterprise, Jeffrey’s enthusiasm is infectious. “Don’t think for a second that social media is just for the social life of individuals and not for business.”
“The social dimension is vital for the digital enterprise”, he says. “Your customers are immersed in social media – your website and traditional offerings cannot rival the impact of such a pervasive medium. You need to be leaving a social footprint.
In fact, Jeffrey says, the term ‘social media’ will vanish in the next couple of years. Social will just be the norm, like the water fish swim in.”
“So if you think social media is irrelevant to the enterprise, your business will be left high and dry”.
Jeffrey’s ultimate advice for CEOs is to “create a burning platform around digital, and build a coalition of executives who will institutionalise change throughout the organisation.”
“The shift to digital in almost every aspect of life is transforming business as we know it. Unless you make the change, your organisation will not survive. You need to move the people you currently have to a digital mindset – or move them out.”
And a final word of warning: the Gen X and Y digital natives that you’ll need in your business are becoming choosy. “You’re going to need them”, says Jeffrey. “And unless you can transform your business and speak their language, you’ll have a hard time attracting them.”
Jeffrey is very clear about what’s required in the digital enterprise. We are all in for an exhilarating ride in which last century’s rolling stock just won’t take the bends.
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