Activating Digital Transformation with an “aha” Moment

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How does a mere idea change to an unstoppable force? There is a “moment” of realization. That moment is the point at which the idea is so clearly communicated, and the value of it so easily visualized for people that everyone “gets it.” For some, the path to this moment of enlightenment can be a relatively straight line.

Contextualize this into the enterprise. If the idea is a new product or new service offering the product owner can get to a “marketecture” rapidly – with enough content to test whether the idea has potential. They can more easily describe the anticipated features and functions, and test the propensity to buy with focus groups, trials, and other methods. Product management then steps in with an agile approach to sprint and iterate to MVP (Minimal Viable Product) glory.

But how easy is it for those that are seeking to plan and execute major transformational change to achieve this in reality? Ideas that may fundamentally redefine how employees work and how customers engage with the organization. How easy is it to communicate and visualize that kind of idea? Not a “thing” … but a complex, interconnected web of activities that all need to deliver in an orchestrated sequence. What is the best tool to help with this kind of problem?

Digital transformation falls into exactly this difficult space. I do not mean a discreet digital initiative that, in of itself, may have a tightly controlled scope with a minimum viable product clearly at the end. I am talking about the kind of work that fundamentally challenges an organization’s value proposition by enabling new business models to emerge through the application of technology. This requires multiple digital initiatives to be orchestrated, with a broad assembly of stakeholders, each with their own agendas and metrics to come together and drive real change. Digital transformation has never been so top of mind to organizations around the world as they seek to re-invent their business model and be disruptive first movers – and yet it is one of the most complex ideas to communicate, and the communication itself one of the key causes of failing in the ambition.

Seventy percent of organizations stall in the execution of their digital strategy according to McKinsey, and one reason cited is the lack of clarity about the organisation’s digital transformation strategy. Clarity, or the ability to abstract complex ideas into simple communicable message, is at the heart of how an idea really does become an unstoppable force. And one of the most powerful ways we have learned to abstract complexity is through the models – more specifically conceptual models.

As Peter Chan, a distinguished career scientist and known for the development of the entity-relationship model puts it, “The purpose of a conceptual model is to provide a vocabulary of terms and concepts that can be used to describe problems and/or solutions of design.” So, a model can help provide the language of digital transformation, and this is an analogy I particularly like because establishing a common language is the key to understanding. Understanding, as we have established, is the key to making real change happen.

I lead a Digital Transformation Advisory Practice. Together with my team, we developed a model that helps establish a common language for our customers and other users to help them frame up their own digital transformation strategies. We call it the Digital Journey Map and it encompasses our belief that going forward organizations will be increasingly edge-centric, data-driven, and cloud-enabled.

The Digital Journey Map models out the behaviour and the relationships that need to be established across an organisation to realize the full benefits inherent in digital initiatives. Taken together these initiatives begin to the tell story of an organization’s digital ambition. That capability to tell the story that captures digital ambition in a coherent and visual way allows executives and teams charged with change to move past the barrier of “lack of clarity” and into solving some of the downstream barriers to progress. Being able to communicate strategy in a common model enables other stakeholders to “buy-in” to ideas and essentially become part of the guiding coalition of change agents necessary to progress. Having everyone on the same page across the organization, clear on the mission and intent of change, is a vital ingredient in ideas becoming unstoppable forces.

I remember, as a junior consultant, the first time I was introduced to the business model canvas by a colleague and how it created my own “light-bulb” moment on how something as complex as a business model could become understandable. It was an empowering moment – enough to be dangerous with. And today, in a similar way, the Digital Journey Map helps you visualize and communicate your own digital strategy.

One of the many ways we introduce our customers to this model is through something we call an “Activate” moment. This is part of our overall DX Advisory framework called Digital Next Advisory and is the critical first step in forming deep and meaningful relationships. In a relatively short session, perhaps hosted in one of our global Executive Briefing Centers, our digital advisors walk our customers through how the model is constructed and how to interpret the way it works. We typically customize the model to include some already learned content about our customers' existing digital strategy to help quickly connect on the model concepts. Content for that customization can come from their annual report, or from our existing relationships and insights. We use the model during the Activate moment to help explore potential new areas of co-innovation – aligned to our customers’ strategy and set in their industry context. We examine potential constraints and orchestration issues they might face today and use the model to help build a connected narrative for their path forward.

The “Activate” moment is one of a number of "moments” with which we consult and advise with organizations, determined by which is the most appropriate. Watch out for further articles from me and my team to deeper dive into these moments and the results our customers are seeing. 

If you would like further information, please contact my team through digitaladvisor@hpe.com

In the meantime, let me invite you to enjoy this introductory video: 

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About Craig Partridge

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Craig Partridge is the worldwide senior director for HPE Pointnext’s Digital Advisory & Transformation practice. The practice focuses on helping customers explore the opportunities presented by the digital era, providing them with a strategic framework through which the value of new digital initiatives can be realized. It helps customers link IT and the business desire to use technology as a strategic asset to achieve new levels of productivity and shows organizations how technology acquisitions can play a major role in helping to reshape and redefine the underlying value proposition of their business model.
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