By Bryan Kirschner, Vice President, Strategy at DataStax\nAirplanes have a \u201cstall speed,\u201d below which their wings can\u2019t produce enough lift to keep them in the air. While that obviously makes it important for pilots to keep an eye on the airspeed indicator, the underlying reason for a stall is fundamentally about disrupting airflow around the wing.\nEven if a pilot puts the pedal to the metal, stalling can be equally inevitable if the aircraft is flying at too sharp an angle.\nAnd for any given aircraft, there\u2019s an optimal \u201cangle of attack\u201d to generate the most lift without introducing turbulence (historically called the \u201cburble point\u201d).\nThis glimpse into the physics of flight offers us a lesson in the dynamics of digital transformation.\nNavigating from a smooth takeoff to successfully landing a truly transformative impact on an organization likewise requires being mindful of multiple signals and minimizing turbulence.\nHere, we\u2019ll explore three key ways that we\u2019ve observed to keep digital transformations on course.\nThink big, ship small\nBy nature, data-driven digital experiences are ripe for flywheel effects.\nIdeally, delivering great digital experiences wins you more interactions with more customers, generating data that can be used to drive the next round of new and improved experiences. This creates a virtuous cycle.\nIt holds true for a scenario as bounded as \u201cone team, evolving one app.\u201d\nThe secret to getting a flywheel spinning is to be willing to ask big, bold questions, \u201cHow could we exceed our competition\u2019s NPS by 20% through data products?\u201d\u2014while starting the journey with immediately actionable steps.\nDon\u2019t try to define an ideal future experience on paper, waterfall-style, and debate whether all the details are right. Instead, ask, \u201cWhat\u2019s the most failure-prone part of a process, now, and how can we fix it?\u201d Or, \u201cWhat data about their current interactions with us might our customers value, and how can we provide it to them?\u201d\nShipping code and data features quickly enables you to (at worst) fail with learning, and (at best) open up new ways to create value for customers that weren\u2019t previously possible to deliver\u2014or even discover.\nThis is the way to avoid stalling right at takeoff. Don\u2019t try to rationalize the data dictionary across the whole company or clean all the data, everywhere, before taking action. Determine where to focus those efforts by focusing on the data for which you see ways to make an impact\u2014now.\nRelentlessly productize (data)\nEmpowering and equipping teams that are closest to the customer relationship or a business process to innovate and move fast is a proven pattern for successful transformation.\nIn a large organization, this can mean dozens or even hundreds of teams, each hopefully spinning up their own flywheel effect.\nIn this context, \u201cspeed\u201d has to take a back seat to never cutting corners on one thing: always, always, always treating the data being produced as a product. That means assuming that data will be used, on a self-service basis, by some other team, and treating it accordingly.\nThis creates conditions for a secondary flywheel effect. As teams that own a process or customer segment make progress on their data-driven, digital journey, \u201cmash ups\u201d of data into new services becomes valuable.\nImagine you\u2019re a retailer and your ability to predict customer responses to targeted offers increases alongside your ability to predict product availability from your supply chain. You\u2019ve now unlocked the opportunity to combine data in order to tailor offers to maximize purchases while minimizing the probability of exhausting your stock. (Or, if you\u2019re a wholesaler, to offer customers smart advice on when to order extra, giving them an advantage over competitors who\u2019ll wind up with bare shelves).\nCreating\u00a0 a culture committed to ensuring it is always unambiguously easier to discover, understand, and tap directly into data that already exists is a way to prevent another threat of stalled progress.\nThis is, in effect, finding that \u201cburble point:\u201d how fast you can climb without introducing turbulence. For example, if one team has created a well-understood, data-driven definition of a \u201chigh value account\u201d and, rather than become a customer of this data product, another team builds its own definition and dataset, you\u2019ve made a single view of the truth harder (and lost the chance for the teams to collaborate on evolving it together). Or, worse, imagine teams copying datasets for the sake of speed or convenience, creating data sprawl and inconsistency.\nBet on compounding returns\nIf you\u2019re successfully orchestrating these two flywheel effects, the scope and scale of your data estate is going to keep on climbing\u2014and that\u2019s a good thing.\nDon\u2019t create stall conditions by underinvesting in the capabilities of your data infrastructure.\nBuild for an expectation of compounding returns from data-driven digital transformation progress, which might multiply rather than incrementally increase the amount of valuable data in your data estate. Because, fundamentally, if you\u2019re not seeing flywheel effects, that\u2019s the problem to fix.\nBy way of example, in research conducted with hundreds of companies by ClearPath Strategies, those who are running multiple modern, data-driven workloads such as real-time inventory management and personalization are also more likely to be running a 360-degree view of the customer.\nAmong those running a 360-degree view of the customer, 80%\u00a0expect to have at least five times as much data under management in the next five years, with nearly a third (32%),\u00a0expecting 10 times or more. Almost all of them (96%), say their data architecture can either already handle that volume or they are actively executing on plans to make it so.\nMany of us have many years of experience in a world where the mantra of enterprise IT was \u201cdo more with less.\u201d Today\u2019s reality is that turning data into a driver of revenue and growth means a new core competency: every organization should be mastering how to do \u201cmore with more\u201d consistently and for the long haul.\nPrepare for a smooth flight\nMuch in the way that a great pilot uses an understanding of the physics of flight to give their passengers a smooth ride, knowing the dynamics of digital transformation can help executives lead their organization to a successful outcome, with little turbulence along the way.\nTo learn more visit us\u00a0here.\u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0\n\nAbout Bryan Kirschner:\n\nBryan is Vice President, Strategy at DataStax. For more than 20 years he has helped large organizations build and execute strategy when they are seeking new ways forward and a future materially different from their past. He specializes in removing fear, uncertainty, and doubt from strategic decision-making through empirical data and market sensing.