Insights | By Howard Tiersky

How to Speed Up Your Digital Transformation

If you’re engaged in digital transformation but still aren’t where you need to be, then you probably want to speed things up. The world is changing at a rapid pace and coronavirus only accelerated that even more.

It's like being in a race and the other runner is faster than you—the farther you run, the farther ahead that runner gets. You need to catch up.

But why aren’t you transforming at the rate you need to?

There is one primary thing that holds companies back from going more rapidly in their digital transformation: alignment. When your organization isn’t truly aligned around the transformation, all the efforts that are being put in place very often are just pulling against each other.

There are four main areas of alignment that you need to get right within your organization. When you do, the speed of your digital transformation will take off.

1. URGENCY

You may very well have people within your organization who are not necessarily convinced that you need to change.

They are probably not going to argue against the idea that there is an opportunity to be better, but they will likely have all kinds of arguments and rationales for saying that maybe you shouldn't move that fast, invest so much, or change so radically.

Let’s face it, change has negative consequences. It creates disruption. It can make certain roles irrelevant. It requires investment and takes time and focus away from other things that you may want to do.

But change is absolutely essential for survival and you need to get alignment around that urgency. How can you do that?

Part of it is demonstrating the impact of transformations in the marketplace, pointing out what your competitors are doing to stay relevant, painting the picture of what your business will look like without the needed improvements, and creating, as they say, the burning platform for change.

It can also be about inspiring people to get on board. Painting a picture of the positive opportunity of change and how it will impact customers, the company, its employees, and the individual stakeholders you are trying to persuade.

2. VISION

We can all agree to change. But that doesn’t mean everybody is fully aligned on what change to make.

It may very well be that you’re pulling the vision in one direction but there's another, slightly less powerful force that’s creating an enormous amount of friction, pulling in the other direction.

Getting everyone aligned around vision is essential. The question is, which vision of the company is going to be most successful?

Part of it is about brainstorming different alternate visions. What we do is use a research-based process to try to evaluate which of these visions have the greatest likelihood of success.

There's a lot of components to a digital transformation vision. But to me the most important one is the customer experience because that's where the money comes from.

If you have a customer experience that successfully influences your customers to do the things you want them to do, you're probably going to be in really good shape as a business.

3. PLAN

If everyone has a different idea of how to get from where you are to where you want to be, then that's going to be another one of those tug wars. We can agree on several things, but if we still disagree on the plan, we're still pulling against each other.

Getting clear on the plan is essential and there are many ways to do this.

Try not to be a stickler for everything you need. Sometimes you have to be willing to give a little if there are multiple paths to get where you want to go.

There are plans that will fail, but there are often many paths to success. You want to encourage everybody and be willing to have some sense of compromise around finding the right plan.

4. WILLINGNESS TO TAKE RISKS

A lot of people have this feeling that slow and steady wins the race. They don’t like to rush things out the door because they have a brand to protect and they have to have a high level of quality. They need to make sure that they’re doing everything right.

And who can argue against quality or against doing things right?

Well, I can argue against that, because it’s often better to be fast than right.

Successful companies in the digital space do not figure it all out at once. That's just not how it happens.

What almost always happens is they keep firing arrows and, based on how close or far they are from the target, they adjust until they hit the bull's eye. And that can take weeks, months, or years of continuous change iteration.

If you're taking the approach where you need to strategize a little bit more or you have to incubate a little bit longer, then that’s holding back your actual ability to have a digital transformation project going on.

Don’t get me wrong. I'm not saying you shouldn't think things through, but you have to do it rapidly.

Also, there has to be a cultural willingness to accept imperfection—the idea that failure is part of success.

Instead of trying to prevent failure by thinking everything through thoroughly and slowly, get it out there and accept that every one of those arrows won't hit the bull's eye.

It’s just another indicator of what you need to do to adjust the bow and your aim to get it in the center.

That mindset is key to speeding up successful transformations.

ALMOST EVERY PROBLEM BECOMES SOLVABLE

Now, you might be thinking that you have other problems, like you have outdated technology in your company. Well, then let me ask you: Why do you have outdated technology?

If everyone knew how urgent it was to have a modern digital platform that will allow you to get what you need done, if everyone had a common vision of what that technology should be, if everyone agreed on a plan for building that capability, and if everyone was willing to take risks to get it done quickly, would you still have outdated technology?

When you get those four things worked out, which really adds up to just getting alignment, all of your other problems become very solvable.

The problem is not outdated technology. The problem is getting alignment around what to do about it.

And you don't necessarily need 100% unanimous agreement. If you did, you'd probably never be able to move forward with anything because it's not usually possible to get absolutely everyone aligned around something.

When we talk about alignment, we mean getting a majority or all the key people.

Of course, it's not a democracy, so if your CEO is the one person who's not aligned, then you probably have a big problem. But if you have your CEO and 90% of his direct reports and a reasonable percentage of the people below that, then you probably have a good starting point.

BUT LOOK OUT FOR SABOTAGE

One other thing that can also hold you back with digital transformation, even when you have alignment around a good portion of the people, is sabotage.

You need to expect that any time you're driving a substantial transformation, there are some people within the organization who are its enemies.

We have to be realistic that most people will act on the basis of their own personal interests, which may not be the same as the interests of the greater organization.

It may be a minority, but if some of those enemies are powerful, influential or just crazy determined, they may be able to create problems for you and slow you down.

Forewarned is forearmed. Try to figure out who the enemies are. Pay attention to their moves. Don't be naive about their motives.

When you see potential slowdowns happening, you have to see it for what it is. 

It’s probably sabotage and you need to take action against that because success is not getting original alignment, or getting the funding, or getting your project approved. Success is getting to the finish line.

Driving organizational alignment is a topic that I expound on in more detail in my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. The book talks about how to communicate about an ongoing digital transformation, counter the resistance to change, and grow the support base and not let it shrink. Get access to the first chapter for free at https://WinningDigitalCustomers.com.
Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM`s
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.
Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM's
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.