Summary: I got invited to give a little talk on Digital Transformation at a Swiss business school. As part of the preparation the guys provided me with a quadrant they use to locate initiatives around digital within organisations. Looking at the quadrant something struck me: I want to talk about “relational distance” of the digital roots from business operations for a moment…and maybe the root cause for where a lot of companies stand with the subject…so here we go:
A lot of my work and passion is connected to change management and leadership in the context of digitally transforming the more classic business models. I believe that companies that produce heavy machinery, furniture or chemical components won’t suddenly turn into the next Google, Facebook or Uber. In a lot if instances the vulnerability to disruption (unlike to Finance, Insurance, Trade & Services) looks different. However, I am not saying that they aren’t vulnerable but that it’s less coming from the re-invention of their source of business but from a change in the digital maturity of their competitive and market eco system.
Because I am dealing with classic business models a lot I am frequently being asked the question: what’s the set-up that we need to make this digital thing a success? While preparing for my little gig at a Swiss business school I was confronted with the following quadrant:
It’s a model the students use to locate initiatives for digital transformation or organisational development. Looking at it I realised something weird…and it’s weird because it has literally NO academical angle. It’s imply the position of where digital (no matter if externally or internally facing) has it’s roots:
If you were interpreting the model from a pure “relations” and “distance” perspective, one could say: Marketing & (Brand) Communications has the least direct impact on the key factors (grey). In between “talking about it” are always
- come up with new stuff (light blue)
- get stuff done (green)
- make sure stuff works well (dark blue).
If you now carefully look from where a lot (if not the majority) of digital initiatives are created, driven, led and maintained you could say: digital happens TO FAR AWAY from the actual business logic.
Even the role of “Chief Digital Officers” (or similar functions) have a strong, if not implicit or organisational connection to Marketing, Communications, Branding & Co. in a lot of instances. Not saying everywhere…but it’s not really far fetched, is it?
The Winning Coalition of “Digital”
Changing the perspective on the quadrant (aka tipping it) you could actually put the group of functions on top of it that would be critical to make digital a real success.
Doing this, however, would require that all those representatives have understood what “digital” means for their building block of the business model (useful as well: business model canvas). Automatically the need for anything like a “Chief Digital Officer” would vanish because together they will be able to judge the digital potential along their value chain and act on it accordingly.
If you now put leaders on top that have the same level of understanding and believe for digital, you’d be in a very very good and promising place. You’d have the foundation for leading, implementing and evolving digital transformation directly connected to business model and operations: the Winning Coalition of Digital.
Maybe I will use this as an answer the next time I’m asked the question 🙂