Service Provider Cloud

Digital Transformation: Balancing on a 3-Legged Stool

I am consulting with a number of world-class companies that are going through a major digital transformation. In helping them think about what is required to truly transform their organization and their customer's experience, I insist they think about transformation as a three-legged stool.

The first, and most obvious leg that all companies naturally gravitate towards is changing their technology. Certainly building a flexible and adaptable set of technical capabilities is critical to any digital transformation. (See 3 Digital Transformation Predictions for 2018.)

However, what are some of the questions that need to be asked?

For instance, are CIOs trying to creating a digital platform that looks through the lens of the customer? Is it adaptable to change and evolve as your customers' desires evolve? Can you support the types of real-time, video-based, customer-engaging experience that our consumers expect and demand? (See A CIO 'Renaissance' Needs the Cloud.)

Finding your balance
(Source: YouTube)
Finding your balance
(Source: YouTube)

Having the right technology is place is critical to our digital success. However, most companies stop right there. They mistakenly think all they have to do is address their technical capabilities and they'll be good to go. (See ExxonMobil Adds Fuel to a Digital Transformation.)

That is the wrong conclusion to draw.

The second leg of the stool is business process. If all you do is overlay antiquated business processes with new technologies you will have a cooler, sexier train wreck. CIOs need to rethink how they do business and how they engage with their consumers.

This creates a second layer of questions we need to ask.

Are we proactively anticipating their future needs? Are we asking them to provide real-time feedback on what they do and don't like? Are we collecting and analyzing the data we receive from our consumers to shape our future offerings?

Additionally, are we partnering with our business and marketing colleagues to develop real-time capabilities in an agile process of creation, or are we still having "the business" launch "requirements" over the wall so that "IT" can develop something that ultimately nobody is happy with, and where does that leave us?

The third and final leg, is perhaps the most critical.

How are we addressing the need to adapt our culture and our people to be successful in this new world order? Are we creating a human laboratory of innovation where failure is understood to be part of the educational process, or do we punish people who take prudent risks and don't hit the mark on the first attempt?

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This is critically important. Some organizations might want a specific department to run their digital transformation and designate the ultimate responsibility to someone with the title of CDO, CIO or even CMO. On the other hand, an enterprise may view the digital transformation as something the permeates the whole business, with each and every department responsible for moving to the goal.

In that case, what skills needs to be addressed? Also, does the organization need to address a larger cultural need to embrace this decision?

You might also check for those dreaded silos that have sprung up over the years.

Digital transformation requires all to build three legs of this proverbial stool. If we don't we shouldn't be surprised when it tips over.

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— Larry Bonfante is an award-winning CIO and the founder of CIO Bench Coach. You can follow him on Twitter.

kq4ym 1/23/2018 | 9:45:54 AM
Re: different stools I found most intriguing the statement that it's a necessity of "creating a human laboratory of innovation where failure is understood to be part of the educational process," while asking "do we punish people," who take risks that don't work out. It would seem that's a most difficult task for management as human nature wants to find immediate causes for success and failure, which in many cases is not that easy to determine with 100% validity.
Joe Stanganelli 1/22/2018 | 9:54:08 PM
different stools I've heard of the stool in a bit of a different context -- where the CTO, CIO, and CMO all three separately represent each leg of the stool, supporting the CEO (who, thus supported, can more effectively think about transformational strategy). This was particularly the case at pre-CenturyLink Level 3.
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