Six points to realize that your company is on the wrong digital track

By Sebastian Thielke By Jeffrey Backus Jul 3, 2015
Six points to realize that your company is on the wrong digital track

Translation of the Original Article by Sebastian Thielke


Isn’t that a nice, lurid headline? I am insinuating that you basically do something wrong and then I'm also so bold and tell you how to do it correctly. The lurid lists and articles are wonderful just for this constellation and they work because we always hope to find a little truth in these lists. Now I will also hop on board of this train. BUT – and this is important to me – please view this list as open questions you ask yourself, rather than as a rating of you doing something wrong. The digital pressure Now to the topic: Everyone is talking about Digital and many people in charge and companies ask themselves hectically: “How do I do Digital?” You know, actually you do it already. In a variety of ways, you consider how to improve the organization by using digital opportunities. Most certainly, you have – without knowing – solutions, implementations and initiatives at the company that are driving the digital. You deal with topics such as document management, knowledge management, Cloud, IT Services, mobile, and many related topics. Let me set your mind at ease at this point. You are digital, and have taken the first steps.

The demand of the digital transformation So what is new about all that word jumble and the media and specialist hype? What is new is that the pressure of the market, customers and competition will bring you not just see your business model exclusively in the analog world, but to proceed with processes, infrastructure, behaviors and jobs toward the digital world. And here is the magic word: Business Model. This is where the considerations have to be: How can a digitization help me to secure my market, to focus on the customers and even to shape something with my competitor for a mutual and profitable coexistence? You have to take a look at you company. Get an overview on where you currently stand, how your digital initiatives fit together, and how serious the company is going after the opportunities. And here is the infamous list of insinuations:

Digital initiatives and changes are projects

The most common mistake that is made with digital initiatives is that you view it as a project. It is planned as a project, it is accordingly provided with resources, it gets the project manager and then at some point the project is over. This is exactly where the problem lies. Instead of letting projects end as a project – removing the resources, handing the normal operation over to the overstretched IT – the transition as well as the continuation within corporate processes has to take place. Especially the innovative digital initiatives and implementations need to be thought through. Don’t view these initiatives as a beginning of an end, but rather as a beginning of the transformation that will have to be continued.

Everything digital just needs to be provided, the benefits will arise

Big mistake. Actually, a mistake IT and infrastructure managers have been making repeatedly over the years. They can plan, think through and decide all they want. If the infrastructure, the workplace or applications are just being provided, it will fail in at least two thirds of all cases. The reasons for this are some simple phrases of those who are supposed to use it:

  • „I don’t have time for that, I’ve got work to do. “
  • „Not another new application yet again. “
  • „Don’t know it, don’t need it. “
  • „Oh, we have that? “
  • „That’s just something for our specialists“

The factor User and Human play an extremely important role here, as you can see. With previous Software Rollouts, the principle was Provision = Success. Now we see more and more that the people that have to deal with the applications, devices and workplaces should be accompanied. The magic words here are: Communication, Monitoring and Empowering. Your staff has a certain digital education in many cases, but please don’t just presuppose that. Not everyone manages the transition from the private environment to the corporate environment. Show your employees where to find which advantages and most of all the improvements – done quicker, found more quickly, work more flexible, working together.

It is digital, so it is with IT

The typical misconception, which comes from our specializations, departmentization and separation of knowledge. Anything with ones and zeros is with IT. This far, far from it of course. As addressed earlier, we are talking about the business model, the value creation, the business. The idea is to convert the actual model. For this all concerned will obviously have to be integrated. It’s not IT’s responsibility. They are a part, an important part, but not the only one. What about HR, Business Development, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Production or Administration? They are also engaged in the Undertaking and lead towards a functioning of the Undertaking. Shape the initiatives, the participants and the responsibilities in such a way that your company as a whole is involved. Let the corporate functions into the planning, responsibility and decision-making. You will see that everyone can contribute his or her own use cases and positive effects. Hereby you create the perfect foundation for point two.

We’ll do a Pilot at some point

On the one hand understandable that you want to see what and how it delivers. However, in reality it is the fear of failure and the implementations’ unpredictability or consequences. There is a way out of this fear and Uncertainty: Strategy and positioning. For one these two instruments ensure that you follow goals useful to you, that you have indicators demonstrating impact, as well as having clear options to respond to unplanned or unwanted events. The Pilot creates an isolated environment that neither contains processes nor use cases, let alone the business model itself. An artificial situation that has nothing to do with your business. Use strategies and plan with targets, objectives and indicators of change when faced with uncertainty and fears. Use pilots as a first step but never as an evaluation criterion for the actual benefit of your digital initiative. Accept mistakes and utilize them.

There is that one best solution

Wrong. There never will be that one solution, just like there never will be a Best Practice. Case closed. This one solution for everything doesn’t exist in regards to applications, infrastructure or for workplace solutions or devices. They are fluid in an ever-changing world, where the good will always be replaced by something better. A possible shift of the viewpoint might lead to insight: How would it be, if you could take the good features you use, and rearrange all these for a different situation? You do it yourself; it is simple, fast and temporary. It is Good Practice. Don’t look for that one and best solution. Take whatever features you need and design your solution. By now, it is easily accessible for everyone. This way you shape applications and infrastructures flexibly, agile and fitting for the situation. This also applies to methods, frameworks and approaches to action.

Everyone is doing digital, so I will too. Now.

You have fallen into the trap of new words. Actually, you have been doing digital for quite some time already. Don’t sell your own initiatives short. As previously mentioned, in many cases you are already right in the middle of it. If you really want to implement the digital transformation, then you need to act with a corresponding sustainability. Don’t just fall for the mere buzzword. At this point, you actually know exactly what you can do:

  • Design your transformation comprehensibly with all consequences.
  • Even if it sounds simple or shallow: Strategy with Targets and Objective Measurement.
  • Know where your company stands and take your staff with you, or even better, hold their hands.
  • See and shape the entire picture, not just the bottom left-hand corner in blue.
  • Shape your own digital, adapt it and make it flexible
  • Do not be blinded by trends or buzzwords. You are on your way towards Digital

What else is there left to say? View this list as a guide, not as a dogma. Free yourself from the standard of best practice and design your Good Practice with the experience of all the examples in your community and beyond. Dare and do it.

Über die Autoren

Sebastian Thielke Consultant Digital Transformation
Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 - Strategy Development, Enablement, Communications and Value added with the main focus on: People form the company.

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Jeffrey Backus