Keeping momentum doing less with less.

BrandPost By Bryan Kirschner
Oct 09, 2020
Technology Industry

Taking a discovery-driven approach to transformation

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Credit: iStock

By Bryan Kirschner, Vice President, Strategy at DataStax

It’s possible to be “correct, but unhelpful.”

I had this experience while talking with an accomplished digital transformation leader just recently. He agreed with me that data-driven enterprises get compounding returns from the scale of their data, the scope of their data, or both.

But he also offered that the way I described the strategic implications in a previous article–“doing more with more”–was out-of-step with what people in many organizations were currently experiencing.

For in sectors negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis, the pressure to cut elsewhere and re-deploy resources in order to maintain fidelity to this principle is intense.

Or, as he stated it: we know we need to be more choiceful. But doing so is feeling more than a little bit brutal.

“Choiceful but brutal” struck me as an insightful summary of what I’ve been hearing from other executives. They still have conviction that digitization and data are the best paths back to growth. Many are clear that they are moving faster than they were pre-crisis. A recent survey of CEOs by KPMG drives this home: two-thirds report digital acceleration, with nearly 22 percent saying they are years ahead of previous expectations.

Yet many also cite cancelling multi-year programs in order to focus on top-priority digital investments. And some are keenly aware that jobs are at stake.

In this context, a frame that may be both correct and also helpful to organizations under pressure may be more akin to doing “less with less”–not by aiming lower but, rather by taking a sharp focus on immediate benefit.

Finding opportunities that can be carried out in a quarter, a month, or even weeks still creates a path toward those compounding returns on the scope and scale of data.

The inspiration for this is what Rita Gunther-McGrath and Ryan McManus describe as a “discovery-driven” transformation. The discovery-driven approach, as they describe it, works conceptually like reverse engineering: imagining the outcome you want to create and then figuring the minimum you need to change in order to get there.

The key pivot is away from broad, general-purpose capabilities with a long lead time (e.g., building a data lake) to discreet and specific improvements, diving into questions such as:

  • What key customer or partner interactions are the most error-prone?
  • How might we increase customer transaction volume?
  • How might we increase customer transaction value?
  • How might we reduce churn?

Rolling out “curbside pickup” functionality to the Home Depot app in a matter of weeks is an archetypal success, but there are other less spectacular but still meaningful examples. As one analyst pointed out,  Home Depot’s in-store mapping feature gained greater value during the crisis by making it possible for customers to feel more safe and efficient when they visited a store.

Burberry is working to give customers the experience that they still want in a new way. As the company’s senior vice president of digital commerce describes the current context, “The luxury industry is well known for its travelling consumer… they may not be travelling as much as before but may well retain the affection for the brand and the propensity to purchase.” They are using their direct communication platform and analytics to enable clients to connect to staff at the right point in their customer journey virtually as well as physically.

And that is a powerful stance to take, because the root cause of businesses being negatively impacted by coronavirus is customers being prevented from doing what they valued and enjoyed pre-crisis.

Quickly finding ways to restore more options for consumers to get what they already wanted, in new ways, is a win-win and a race worth running.

Read about the need to use data to personalize and solve customers’ highest priority needs here.

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.