Transformation: The Second Best Time Is Now

BrandPost By Bryan Kirschner
Jul 06, 2020
Technology Industry

There’s no time like the present to embrace transformation. Equipping teams to act with urgency and aim high benefits customers when the stakes are highest.

istock 1197780081
Credit: iStock

By Bryan Kirschner, Vice President, Strategy at DataStax

Transformation accelerates when leaders enroll everyone in a mission to overcome needless delay. My first article explored the first of three patterns for success leading the way to a better, next normal–build conviction, not consensus.

The second is to embrace urgency.

Change takes time, which is one reason big, successful companies, in the absence of a clear and obvious disruptive threat, sometimes feel comfortable taking a slow-and-steady approach to change.

But “change taking time” is also a reason why big successful companies ought to act with urgency.

Part of Target’s digital transformation required evolving the IT organization from 10,000 employees into a focused force of 4,000, 80 percent of whom are software engineers and developers.

That didn’t–and couldn’t–happen overnight. Leaning in three years ago made them ready for a 282 percent increase in e-commerce, almost overnight, this Spring.

The third and final pattern is to aim high. Research from the Center for Digital Transformation at the University of California, Irvine quantifies “strategic vision” as something at which companies performing well ahead of their peers excel.

To me, it’s a defense against incrementalism turning a string of successes into an insidious doom loop.

Most everyone wants to make progress toward a more digital, data-driven business. But most managers and hands-on practitioners in enterprise IT also bear scars from failed projects.

An entirely rational way to increase the odds of any one project’s success is to aim for less ambitious goals.

Over time, left unmanaged, drifting toward a portfolio of real–but modest–progress does two things.

It makes choosing to aim high feel even more risky by comparison. And systems, services, and tools may be unintentionally underbuilt to support an emergent opportunity–or a crisis.

A strategic vision is how we, as leaders in our organizations, equip teams to make decisions in relation to the whole digital portfolio and what it means to the business model.

To put a fine point on this: post-COVID, the scope and scale of overall business continuity a CFO can promise her Board in the event of another pandemic will affect the cost of capital.

In every industry, more creative and extensive use of technology will be necessary to win the confidence of employees, stakeholders, and investors. But more importantly, the outcome for every organization, each its own way, boils down to being able to do more for customers when the stakes are highest.

How and why that can be inspiring is crystal clear in the way one hospital’s chief executive describes a strategic vision driving digital transformation: “We have to operate a hospital within a hospital, taking care of the needs for patients who have had strokes or a newborn delivery or need surgery while dealing with an otherwise healthy 35-year-old who picked up Covid-19 at a social event.”

Whatever that looks like for each of our organizations, it’s a mission we should embrace with urgency, high aspirations, and conviction.

About Bryan Kirschner:
Bryan 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.