Digital transformation – hell on Earth with a mission

16 July 2017

Digital transformation – what an awful buzzword, too often used without any nuance or understanding for a specific market while the impact of innovation can even affect organizations differently. New technologies and changing consumer behaviour are creating a growing complexity that many companies are finding impossible to pin down. So what technology is important for my organisation? How does the business model have to change? And, most of all, what route keeps me relevant and in business?

Keeping in the game

Nike no longer makes just clothes and shoes. The sports company has become a consumer electronics and IT company, successfully launching its own fitness tracker Fuelband, at the time that Fitbit was all the rage. In 2013 Fast Company called Nike the most innovative company for its revolutionary products and for creating a culture of true believers. For Nike+ it is no longer about the shoe, or even the personalised shoe, but the running performance. A sensor in the shoe or an app on the smartphone registers location and speed, enabling users to keep track of their performance and compare it with others. Nike+ offers training schedules, advice from a coach, competitions, running routes and assessments of these routes. The digital transformation of Nike is also being rolled out internally, in an innovative supply chain and in the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer in 2016.

Companies whose business depends on internet to a significant extent and for whom online contact is becoming increasingly essential are confronted by a much higher tempo of change. Software is changing much faster and, as a consequence, so is its market. For a business information provider of financial management like Graydon – a Dutch company founded in 1862 – it is essential to get its service provision online in optima forma. Because anyone can start up a new similar company tomorrow. For companies in retail, fintech and ICT, digital transformation is mainly a matter of keeping in the game.

If you go for it and you want to make the digital transition count, you have to accept that the flow of changes has a human aspect.

The only constant factor

The flow of changes and subsequent growing complexity has a huge impact on an organisation’s people. It is not just an “IT hobby”, it’s a challenge that, for the most part, older companies can’t handle, otherwise they would already have done so. Every company has legacy, not only in IT but also in corporate culture. Departments like Backoffice, Sales and Marketing have to make a big shift in how they think and work. Events and campaigns are evolving into marketing processes. The time an organisation has to get a new product to market is much shorter than it has ever been, because customers expect it and because competitors can also do it.

I see that the successful companies have accepted these changes all the way to the boardroom. They understand that to get a grip on the market; they have to accept that change is the only constant factor. As the IT methodology, scrum brings the necessary speed and flexibility but for the management it can be a hell on Earth. Scrum is not easy to control, there is a lack of transparency and you have to trust fully in the knowledge and ability of the team.

Agile product development

To deal with the different needs of the organisation and management, we developed our own method to make change manageable. Agile product development is a model for making clear choices: where are we going to focus our change? Where do we want to be better and where is the most value for the user and our client? We begin a project with a track 0, where we create and establish the vision of the product, the technology and the collaboration together with the client. That is not only the starting point for cooperation but it also immediately verifies which ideas are good for the organisation and where the focus must come. In sprints we work towards a product launch, as part of a larger roadmap to leads to ongoing product innovation.

After three or four sprints we make a commitment on the end product, based on the insights gained and the trust that has been built up. Depending on the project, we work with a single client team or a multi client team, often composed of people from info.nl and from the client. This massively improves the collaboration and ensures a greater measure of predictability and clarity, whereby stakeholders acquire the necessary transparency.

Focus and clarity

You don’t go into agile product development because it’s hip in the market. It is no abracadabra solution to all problems. It demands trust among the parties, to give scope to changes and for the end result to be a shared responsibility. Only by looking the reality in the eye together can you deal with it, consulting on each step and constantly checking the result. The whole team is intensively engaged in the choices and the development of the product.

This way of working makes your company flexible and the product development clear. Everyone knows where you stand and which path we are taking, which creates an operational calm. And that helps you get a real grip on change.

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