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Having the words ‘digital transformation’ in the title of this post feels cliché moving into 2016. However, after years of helping companies on their transformation journey two things remain constant. Firstly, most companies still have a long way to go to realise the true benefits of digital. Secondly, change is hard.
Make no mistake that digital can, and will, transform your company.
Whether you’re in the driving seat or not will be the
differentiator between success and failure.
No matter where you are within your own digital transformation journey, I hope these 5 Steps help you frame and overcome your own challenges.
What have reptiles got to do with digital transformation? Well, everything. Neuroscientists point to the oldest part of our brain, the ‘reptilian’ brain as the source of our resistance to change.
In actual fact it’s this part of our brains that keep us alive in the animal kingdom. We assess every situation and subconsciously process it for signs of danger. This is also true of new ideas. It is said that when presented with a new idea, the first reaction is to be critical of it. The newest part of our brain, the neo-cortex, then kicks in and post-rationalises your decision making to then give the idea the green (or red) light.
You only need to look at this September 2015 McKinsey survey that uncovered a strong positive link between digital performance and risk-taking cultures. Those taking risks are ‘enticing the reptile’ but are also actively overcoming it by consciously engaging their neo-cortex to push forward into the unknown.
Want to know why so many companies can’t keep up with Apple? It’s because they compromise, have meetings, work to fit in, fear the critics and generally work to appease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Late launches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others.
— Seth Godin, 2010
Practicalities: When presenting new ideas, preempt and address concerns. Listening and being patient is key. Then, slowly reveal the potential positives of the change(s) you’re suggesting to get buy-in. Oh, and read more from Seth Godin.
A team of cross-functional heroes is your best bet when navigating the unknown.
Because change is hard, you need a tenacious individual or two to take the project and team through times of difficulty — and most importantly navigate uncertainty. Make no mistake, rapid change and high doses of ambiguity are not for everyone. Choose wisely.
As a bare minimum you need a team who intimately;
a) knows the end-users of your product or service
b) understands the context of the use
c) represents the strategic interests of your business
d) is skilled in the technologies you’re looking to employ
Practicalities: You need these people full-time on the project. They should ideally sit together (or if that’s not possible communicate constantly). They should ideally have a dedicated ‘war room’ or space of their own. If you don’t have the right people fulltime on the project you will limp along without the fast progression you need to be successful in digital. Don’t skimp.
Once your heroes are assembled I highly recommend setting up a ‘Accelerator’ or ‘Incubator’ within your business if you don’t already have one.
Why? Well, this empowers your heroes to progress unhindered by your businesses ‘old ways of working’ or ‘best practice’ (which although important, is the antithesis of innovation as it’s ‘doing what you’ve always done’). This approach fosters the ‘startup mentality’ that you need to transform your business from the inside out.
This is how startups leapfrog companies — they are unhindered by the old rules. Keep in mind that it’s very important that you have success/failure metrics for each project within your accelerator so the business can objectively gauge their investment(s) at any point in time. If a project is not meeting its agreed milestones, kill it, and move on. If the project is showing signs of success, invest in it further.
Secondly, it’s critically important that you follow a process for idea generation and solving problems that uses ‘design thinking’. There is a common misconception that design thinking is for designers only. This is simply not the case. In a nutshell, design thinking revolves around empathising with the end user of your product, service or experience while working creatively solving problems.
By employing design thinking you’re leveraging informed decision making to move from one state to another while keeping the end-user front-of-mind throughout the process. A documented process ensures the team, with their specialist knowledge, can contribute in the right place at the right time. Having a great process in place permeates design thinking ‘by design’.
Practicalities: If you don’t have a process that promotes design thinking, you’ll need to create or acquire one. At Tigerspike (where I reside) we created a design thinking framework named ‘Kallide’ to ensure we foster smarter collaboration that keeps the end-user front-of-mind at all times.
Let us assume your heroes are firing on all cylinders within a fantastic environment, the business is aligned, and an idea has been selected to take to the next stage. That’s a great achievement and now it’s time to deliver.
Firstly, don’t aim for a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). You should be aiming to create a Minimal Lovable Product (MLP). You can spend the same amount of time, and even implement the same features — but by using your design thinking framework, you can create products people love. What’s the point of viability if no one is using your product?
Secondly, test your ideas with real people. Learn from this and evolve your ideas. Keep the product lean and get to market as quickly as you can without compromising on quality. The world of digital moves at lightening speed so shipping quickly allows you to further validate your idea without the market passing you by.
Thirdly, automate all the things. No matter what the size of the project, test automation increases the quality of your product (makes it more loveable), but also reduces your costs as you implement more functionality. Conversely, if you only manually test, the cost will go up as you implement more features, and it’s likely your product will become less loveable.
Finally, gather data. But, ensure it’s the right data. This ties back to setting the stage where you began to think about success/failure metrics for the experience during your design thinking process.
Practicalities: Ensuring your multidisciplinary team has the right skills is critical for shipping great products within your organisation (outlined in Step 2). Agreeing with the team and your stakeholders what a loveable product consists of is important to communicate. Use the insights gained from your user testing to back up feature and experience decisions you’ve made.
You shipped something — nice job!
Let’s get promoting. If you’ve created a consumer application promotion is a no-brainer. In fact, you most likely would have had a number of conversations with your marketing department (if you have one) about how to get more humans using your services. But, we’re talking about transforming your business using digital — so promoting internally is just as important as external promotion at this point.
Internal promotion is key to getting more support to start a following. It’s only with a growing following that you can communicate the benefits and leanrings of your projects to overcome more and more reptilian outlooks. Who knows about the project? Can you share it? Oh, you’ve created an Android app and everyone in your organisation has a Windows Phone? Not to worry, make a video to promote your product. Low/no budget productions are fine for your internal audience.
How should you iterate your product? It’s important you now track the metrics you set out to measure in step three and build on the existing experience. Essentially, ‘launching and learning’. You will find once you launch that you’ll want to change some things. That’s ok, but make sure you’re measuring progress against your set success/failure metrics. Make sure you iterate features through talking with, and observing your end users.
Practicalities: For creating low-fi videos use your mobile to film a short video introducing the experience you’ve created. Explain the aims then film a demo of you talking through the features of the experience. Finish off talking about how you’re measuring success and the next steps for the project. Use iMovie or similar software for editing (Note: I don’t do any editing when making a video like this, I just do it in one take to save time). Share the video via any means possible. Email, intranet, YouTube — whatever means you can to promote your great work internally.
I hope this post helps you in some small way with your digital transformation journey. Yes, you need C-Suite buy-in. Yes, you need a sense of urgency and you need to create a following (etc) — but I strongly believe you can do a lot with a little. If you show people within your organisation your wins with video you will slowly, but surely, excite people.
If you can excite people, and induce a casual curiosity, then you have a fighting chance of showing the reptile the benefits of trying new things.
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