This is the sixth of 8 articles describing the tenets of the Digital Transformation Manifesto. Decisions Driven by Data is the fifth tenet.
The sixth tenet of the Digital Transformation Manifesto is, “We are reimagining business strategies and practices.” A law of nature formulated by Arthur C Clarke, the well-known science fiction writer, is “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In the second half of the 20th century when Clarke was writing, that seemed an appropriate line for fiction, but preposterous for real-life. However, digital transformation has changed our perspective.
I have a friend who visited a third world country several years ago on a business trip. He and his host were sitting at an outdoor café in a large mountain village and they did an informal poll to see who had a smart phone. Everyone in the village who passed their café had a smart phone. And my friend, who is a techy millennial, was embarrassed to find that everyone in that village had a better smartphone than he had. Ten years before, that village had no internet, no smartphones, and if you had tried to describe one it would have been considered magic. Now it is commonplace.
Changes like this are not unique to mountain villages in third world countries. Every process, product and even interactions are being regularly reimagined and transformed by digitally enabled systems and technologies. And every aspect of our lives is being affected. We recently sold a house to someone thousands of miles across the country who never visited the house in person. He had toured it online. A dairy farm near where my father lived uses robots, artificial intelligence, and analytics to manage the milking process and the herd. There are many days when no human being even enters the barns, but cows are milked several times a day and the quality and quantity of milk is the best ever produced at that farm. We can even monitor and activate almost every appliance in our home by using an app on our phone.
All of this would have been considered science fiction or magic just a few years ago. However, through the use of digital technologies an organization now has the opportunity to transform every aspect of its systems and processes. It can reimagine the products and their performance, the interactions with customers, when, where and how it employees perform their work, and its ability to interact with the environment in which the organization operates. The limitation now is based upon what can be imagined. That is why agents of digital transformation look beyond applying technology to what they currently do. They are inventing new products, services, systems, and applications.
Digitally transformed organizations understand the continuous nature of change that is enabled by technology. They are not satisfied with optimizing an existing product or service. They are always searching for what is next. And as they adopt digital technologies it opens doors to more reimagining. FedEx switched to digital systems for recording and tracking orders in order to save on the cost of 5-copy carbon paper. But once the digital systems were in place, they enabled new products and services that transformed the shipping experience by providing real-time information and updates to customers through the process.
Agents of digital transformation are searching for the next magical application of technologies that can change an industry or delight a customer. We have included reimagining strategies and practices as a tenet of the Digital Transformation Manifesto because of what we have seen occur across industries. This tenet drives the organization’s innovation and strategic planning processes.
In my next article, we will be exploring Culture of Empowering Leaders.
Raymond Sheen, PMP® LSS BB, is president and founder of Product & Process Innovation, Inc. He is a veteran business leader with over 30 years of executive, engineering management, and project management experience deploying new technology and improving business performance. He has consulted and trained companies in various industries and business functions including marketing, engineering, manufacturing, service, IT, and Finance. Ray is author of the book, Guide to Building Your Business Case, published by Harvard Business Review Press. Ray received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and his M.S. in Astronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a graduate certificate in Digital Leadership and Strategy from Boston University.