Another normal Monday morning hallway exchange with my boss:  <I smile> “Good morning boss, how was your weekend?” Boss: “Have you read this article from the MIT Sloan Management Review?” Me: “Ah…no, how was it?” Boss: “Oh, I haven’t read it because I don’t have the time, but the title looked very interesting. Can you read it and summarize it for me?” Me: “Ah, I…” Boss: “Thanks, I look forward to reading your summary this afternoon”. On the way back to my desk, <In my Mind> “of course I can summarize this article that is my middle name ‘Cliff N'”.

So here you go, you all get to benefit from my Monday Morning work.

The majority of you reading this probably own or run companies in this range which means you may want to pay attention.

morning coffeeAt one time or another you have probably crossed paths with a salesperson pulling out all the stops to convince you their technology, gadget  or patented software, is all your organization needs to receive a competitive advantage. In a nutshell, the authors explain that the digital maturity of an organization is not based on the amount of technologies utilized or level of “geekiness”, but the result of three factors: Strategy, Culture and Leadership.

The research report, “Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation”1 (Kane) is a collaboration between MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte.  The information within the article is based on several sources; the results from the 2014 Digital Business Global Executive Survey, Deloitte practitioner experiences and a list of 20 executive interviews.  A list of questions and the statistical results are attached to the article.  Parent organizations with revenues below $249M made up 57% of the executives surveyed.  Less than $1B in revenues made up 68% of the executives.

Strategy is King

Strategy has the largest effect on an organization’s digital transformation. This is probably the reason it is singled out in the title of the article. This seems simple, and most of you reading this probably already have a plan (strategy) to solve problem-X with technology-A, solve problem-Z with technology-D and so on.  The difference here is that the digitally maturing companies have a strategy which aims at the digital transformation of the entire organization and not just individual technologies. This is an example of the difference between a digitally maturing company, and a less digitally mature company as they are referred to in the article.

The strategies of a digitally maturing company include scope and objectives that cover the integration of technology and processes, along with developing the awareness and need for technology.  Think of it as the plan for integrating the physical processes and people with technologies.  A majority of respondents agree that “Improved Efficiencies & Customer Experiences” are the top goals which will require cross-functional or business wide transformational brainstorming ideas. The digital transformation needs to include a basic change management strategy which helps feed into the other two factors of Culture and Leadership. A mindset change is required to make the organization aware of the importance to be agile in analysis and decision making. The strategy should also include the skill development, buy-in of employees and retention of the workforce.

A Culture for All

When it comes to the maturing company culture, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on increasing collaboration & creativity of the employees.  As pointed out in the article, there are creative methods which may or may not include technology which the company can utilize during the transformation; it could be something as simple as physical changes in the work environment.  A third emphasis has been on increased “Risk Taking” by employees and leaders. Didn’t see that one coming did you? But don’t worry, I’m sure the authors were not suggesting a VW type of career-ending risk taking.  A level of risk taking that is much more positive than that. The type suggested would support employee’s collaboration, creativity and the ability to fail without fear of losing a job or future upward mobility opportunities.  Another point to keep in mind when transforming your culture is that employees of all ages have a desire to work for companies which are focused on a digitally maturing journey.

Leadership Pro

And as usual, what we find in every other article is the need for leadership support of the project or transformation; without it there will be no success.  The point is also relevant  in this research article, but taken to a new level.  Those employees mentioned above with the desire to work in a digital technology focused company also expect their leaders to possess the skills that will support the digital progress of the company.  Leadership with the required digital skills need to be assigned to lead the organization’s maturing digital transformation, and they need to be given the appropriate resources for this goal.  And a reminder to those leaders as mentioned above, embrace risk and failures to make gains in the journey.  A small wink to any boss with digital skills of a sloth: there are ways to develop an employee’s perception of wondrous digital skills (at least the basic skills).

No matter if the respondents were from low-maturity or maturing technology organizations, the majority of people surveyed agree that digital technologies are absolutely required.  Based on the points in this article, get moving down the transformation path to digital maturity as soon as possible, or take a VW style risk and get left in the competitive dust.

Time for number six cup of joe, have a nice rest of the week.

  1. C. Kane, D. Palmer, A. N. Phillips, D. Kiron and N. Buckley, “Strategy, Not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, July 2015.

Paul Dustin, MS, PMP

Paul is an Operations Excellence professional with over eighteen years of functional leader experience and consulting project management work combined. He brings a unique perspective to his projects with extensive experience in lean manufacturing & sequencing environments, Project Management Professional Certification, and the goal to accept nothing less than success for each client.