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My predictions for 2017 (*wink)

It’s the time of year again. All experts are gathering around the crystal ball to predict what we will be doing in the next 12 months. Of course I need to chime in because if you operate under the “Digital Sherpa” metaphor the “Shaman” isn’t that far off…

So here we go with my 5 best shots:

  1. All technology driven initiatives to digitally transform the mechanics of relationship management, business development or productivity will fail.
  2. “On premises” is dead. If someone tries to tell you, it’s not: there some personal stake in maintaining the legacy involved.
  3. We will see less Chief Digital Officers and more digitally empowered, mature and passionate people in leading and executing roles. It will become a very tough environment for consultancies.
  4. The artificial separation of “intranet” and “internet” will be torn down because it literally makes no sense.
  5. We will reflect on 2017 in December and make similar predictions again because corporate politics, power struggles and lack of disruptive thinking will keep things at a slow pace…no matter how quickly the field evolves.

Opinions?

Merry Xmas. Happy New Year. Make life count.

phil

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If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…

Summary: I’ve deliberately chosen the title to be a little *smile provocative. Of course I don’t mean it literally but where’s smoke there’s fire. So this article is about my very personal angle on the role of a CDO…more or less.

Maybe I need to say that McKinsey Quarterly isn’t my only inspirational source. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate their triggers to summarise some of my experience and complement it with their almost academical angle on my little digital world.

Unfortunately we have to make you our Chief Digital Officer

One of my colleagues at Infocentric just recently forwarded me a McKinsey article on “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”. Reading the article I actually reflected a little on my perception of organisations that decided to install a CDO as part of their Digital Transformation strategy.

Let me make a brutal statement: Digital, Social, Transformation, Web… whatever Officer. Whoever decided to invent those titles gave in to two things:

  • Our DNA is not able to embrace the digitalising world and we need someone with an (compared to us) attitude and unorthodox behaviour
  • Our Shareholders need to believe that we do something about the danger of disruption – we need a change on board level without changing anything

Again, provocative…maybe it’s the core of my article and therefore its real purpose: I want to provoke!

McKinsey put’s the famous quote

If you digitalise a shit process, you end up with a shit digital process

(Thorsten Dirks, CEO Telefonica Germany)

into a different frame: “(…) Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. (…)” (Source: “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”, McKinsey, September 2015).

Digital Transformation means to embrace digital in all its, sometimes even disruptive opportunities. Disruption is nothing but the merciless elimination of something that was pushed into “outdated” by a new eco system anyway. Sometimes it happens to entire business models. Sometimes “only” an IT, communications or customer interaction strategy will be affected by it.

If you need some bearded guy with thick rimmed glasses that wears suit and trainers to tell you that you need to address the new requirements to your business model or strategy, you might have not done your home work…per se. Like in: the people that are in charge have somewhat left touch with the outside world and how things are moving forward. That’s a pretty rough sign in general.

Learn to fail

Looking at my past years in Digital Transformation I can say with confidence that very rarely companies allow themselves to really (really!) learn from mistakes. Try, fail, try again, fail harder and then succeed, however, is something that some companies have used to re-invent entire industries. We know them as the “new economy”. And the old economy is traveling to them from all over the world to learn on how to do things differently.

Now, for doing things differently a lot of paradigms and “measures of success” have to change in the first place. “Doing things right the first time” is something that companies should strive for…when it’s about the core of their business logic. When it comes to change, transformation and evolution, well, you might need a couple of iterations. No matter if you’ve been in charge of process design for 34 years, if you hold three PhDs in science or if you have been a sales over performer in three consecutive years. Sometimes you just don’t know straight away.

The way out: “Leading” a learning culture

I suggest that leaders and top managers start to use the phrase “I don’t know, I need to find someone who does.” more often. Because in an organisation with more than 50 people it’s pretty likely that there is someone who at least knows someone how knows. If you run a multi divisional, multi regional company…well, you do the math.

If leaders allow for bottom up change (not only preaching it, but actually nurturing it) then the phrase “I don’t know” can be magical. Suddenly you get the bits and pieces of your own DNA that could be the starting point of your change if you let it. Sometimes this is called “incubation”…but even that is more of a fig leave in too many cases.

For me “I don’t know” stands hand in hand with one of Franklin Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

It does not stand for weakness, disinterest or lack of competence. It’s merely the acknowledgement that real organisational power is built from a combination of many perspectives on the same subject. Like with a tribe…

Advisors are a sign that you actually care to learn

Alright, this might sound a little like a sales pitch for my profession. Nevertheless, if I look at people that have told me: “I didn’t know, so I brought someone to our conversation that actually does know”, I immediately developed a lot of respect for them. And I am not talking about external advisors anyway. Imagine if board & strategy meetings would (at least partly) be open for the digital or digitally savvy portion of the company. If the own digital DNA (no matter how small in numbers or young in age) would complement the decades of business and industry experience to take the next leap. Complement, not replace or push out or compete with.

I have seen companies like Swisscom go on stage in a combination of HR leadership, experienced digital transformers and  trainees. They showed how they, united as a team, take a stand for the transformation of organisation and business model. It was impressive and motivating at the same time.

I strongly believe that the winners of today’s competition for digital dominance will be the companies that don’t extend the board but transform the board.

You don’t need a CDO. You need a “C-Suite that is infected by and passionate about digital“.

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Rethinking “Competition” – The Share of Voice Disruption

Summary: This article is inspired by a recent conversation with a leadership member of an insurance company. We talked about Digital Transformation and the challenges deriving from new business models and industrial disruption. He had one angle on the subject that kind of dumbstruck me and I felt silly to have never thought about it myself: the disruption through the inability to reach out to potential target groups in the attempt to get to the first A in AIDA: attention. Here’s my reflection on the conversation to share it with you.

The importance to get “attention”.

We live in a world of accelerating change and a substantial shift in generations and values. I don’t want to go down the route of Digital Natives and Millenials here. However, I suppose it’s obvious that attitude and values of the upcoming generations differ quite substantially from the one that’s kind of “in charge” at the moment.

If a company’s offering addresses more “classic” or even conservative values (e.g. retirement provision) it might be the case that the subject is definitely not top of mind anymore. Actively prompted the new generations might develop a momentary awareness but when it comes to “life determining” influencers, the conservative angles aren’t necessarily in the top position.

This means that you have to excel in getting to the first A in the good old AIDA model (of course it is  impossible to leave out the “social” extension in 2016…):

AIDA

Only if a message gets past the attention barrier there is a change to convey the essence, build a relationship and maybe even initiation (inter)action.

When I used to work in marketing and advertising (before the internet) it was already a big thing that the amount of messages that were hammering on consumers created a challenge to marketers. The fight over creativity and exceptionally crazy ideas was built on that circumstance.

The times for communicators have changed. Substantially. Irreversibly.

The Share of Voice Disruption

The simplest analogy for “share of voice disruption” is definitely if someone steps on the hose when you’re trying to water the garden…

SoV Disruption

That’s what media companies, brands, TV series, game consoles and more or less the ENTIRE internet do to you if you are trying to convey a message that cannot remotely compete with the attractiveness of the “distraction”.

Like I said in the introduction: it really really bugs me that this hasn’t crossed my mind or that I didn’t pick up on it earlier. Simply because it’s so damn obvious!

Disrupting Share of Voice in inside facing channels

Since I spend the majority of my times advising on the Digital Workplace I realised that this model (or angle) applies there as well. The amount of messages and distraction keeps increasing and the “low value” messages (aka leader talk, policies & regulations) hardly make it on the top of the list of the required recipients.

The new “Competitive Advantage”

So in addition to re-thinking business models, value proposition, ecosystem and supply chain the communicators get a new role. It will be about intelligent and resonating communications. To some extend it could be a complementary dimension to McKinsey’s model used in the most recent publication on “The economic essentials of digital strategy” (McKinsey Quarterly, 2016).

McK Exhibit Digital Strategy

(c) 2016 McKinsey & Company

For everyone interested in the subject I can only recommend the article. One of the best compact publications on the subject I’ve recently come across.

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The Digital Workplace. Essential for digital business transformation & employee satisfaction.

When I started working in the field, Digital Natives and Social Media were the key drivers for a lot of companies. Resonating on my most recent conversation I came to realise that things have changed. Organisations feel that current and upcoming business challenges require fixes in today’s productivity support. Retaining talent and unleashing their potential isn’t achieved through Social Collaboration alone. The entire subject has finally reached the hallway towards the board room. For good.

It has been a while since I found enough food for a publication. This article is inspired by three sources:

Key take away in this article

  • Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace – my thoughts on what enablement of individual and organisational instances means to hyperawareness, informed decision making and fast execution.
  • Employee Engagement is what changes corporate culture – an extension to a beautiful model that could allow us to manage expectations better and make potential and success measurement more accurate.
  • DWP has to become the ERP for information & knowledge work – my proclamation that enterprise resource PERFORMANCE will get us on the CEO agenda for good.

Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace

Michael Wide defines Digital Transformation as follows: “Digital Business Transformation is Organisational Change through the use of Digital Technologies and Business Models to Improve Performance.” If you carefully look at the statement it allows the interpretation that organisational change is driven by technology. I am pretty sure though that it’s now what he is trying to say. Over the past years – and through countless “here’s a new productivity platform, it can do everything, be happy!” project failures – we have learned: people need guidance. They need to understand why things are changing and what their stake and role is in this new world. No matter how close we move business IT to commercial services and what people love on their tablet at home, adoption isn’t something that comes for free. By the way: it doesn’t come for free for the big internet players either. They invest billions in software development, user research and experience design… The majority of companies however still start to hyperventilate if a Digital Workplace project asks for 5 millions over 3 years. ERP projects for 120 million are fine though.

Michael also introduces the model of Digital Business Agility in his framework:

Digital Business Agility (IMD, Michael Wade)

Source: Figure 3 in “Digital Business Transformation – a Conceptual Framework” (IMD, Michael Wade, June 2015) Connecting the three fields of Digital Business Agility to the concept of the Digital Workplace my take is the following:

Hyperawareness

This is probably the strongest case for two aspects of the Digital Workplace:

  • Integration with the outside facing channels & social media
  • Corporate Social Networking

The fact that it is become more and more business (and success) critical to stay on top of market, customers & competitors requires scalability. Collecting information, enriching it from multiple angles and making it available to the right stakeholders at the right time is a foundation of the internal enablement of hyperawareness. The Digital Workplace has to close the gap between the “outside” world and the internal information flow. Hyperawareness is not just about speed though. It is about “making sense” as well. Just being aware of something doesn’t help if consequences and options aren’t clear. A Digital Workplace has to provide the mechanics to classify information in a meaningful way and provide the right internal context. The delivery has either to follow urgency/importance rules or be driven by relevance, which requires a clear profiling of individuals and organisational instances.

Informed Decision Making

Michael already makes hyperawareness and connectedness corner stones of informed decision making. The Digital Workplace has to facilitate the process and allow companies to stay able to take decisions even in the scenarios of

  • geographical distribution of key decision makers
  • continuous organisational change (e.g. consolidation or M&A)
  • distribution of essential knowledge across hierarchical levels

The Digital Workplace won’t solve any of the scenarios though. All it can do is to enable people to stay on top of things no matter what the surrounding conditions are. At this point I would like to emphasise that leading informed decision making in dynamic business environments will become a key skill of leaders and managers. Companies have to stop procrastinating. In too many instances I have witnessed the “the next one in my position can take the decision” syndrome. This isn’t helping though because the third element in Wade’s model is:

Fast Execution

Today’s knowledge is tomorrow’s old news. We live in a time where a multi-day turnaround of customer requests, no matter if B2C or B2B, isn’t sustainable. Speed matters. It is driven by a new level of market transparency and the globalisation of markets. Customer’s aren’t bound to their local environment anymore. Today’s world offers a global market for goods and services – and jobs. If Fast Execution cannot be argued through customer value (even though it should) it can definitely be argued through employee satisfaction and eventually retention. Talking to business stakeholders and employees the main complaint is: speed of change. A lot of talk. No walk. Visions of a bright future and great opportunities have lost their leverage to keep people on board. In this context a little wake up call for change makers: talent and high performers are the first ones to leave after badly managed change, because they can. They will find and pursue other opportunities. One character trait of the new generation at the workplace is “mobility” – geographical and employment related. In an age where communication across the globe is better than before and hire-to-retire isn’t an option for the most, talent retention becomes a completely different ball game. This leads me to the second external source of inspiration:

Steve Smith’s article on “How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement”.

You can find the full article here. I’ve stolen the key image though, to have the reference point to my next thought right here: Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement

Source: Steve Smith’s LinkedIn article on how to apply the Maslow pyramid to Employee Engagement I adore how Steve has put the different levels of employee engagement in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept*. It allows a differentiated point of view on the potential audience of a Digital Workplace. This differentiation is essential for two main factors:

  • expectation management on leadership and management level
  • potential & success evaluation

Expectation Management

We have to make sure that executives and managers realise that the only way to unleash the intellectual power of an organisation is to engage with it. Engagement however can mean different things:

  • create the right environment for people to engage or achieve self actualisation
  • go ahead and be a role model; don’t expect bottom up change management for corporate culture
  • engage with the engaged and give them a voice and visibility so they can reach the level of self actualisation through impact
  • None of this can be delivered by a Digital Workplace but it can make all three hell of a lot easier and pleasant.

Potential & Success Evaluation

One of my key questions around a new service on the roadmap for a Digital Workplace is “What’s the expected impact? How big is the audience and – independent of its size – what’s its foot print in the company?”. It’s a false promise to believe that you can reach everyone. It’s a much better aspiration to only reach a few but make it really matter. Then success measurement will happen on a different scale as well. “Volume” (my most hated KPI in internal DWP measurement) suddenly has to be replaced by “impact”. It doesn’t matter anymore how many people join a community, how many likes a document has or how many shares a profile got. The substance deriving from the community and the effect of all the likes and shares will be way more important. This means that you can happily rely on the distribution Steve’s pyramid implies. If the upper two segments really kick it then you’re all good… Maybe one additional aspect: success measurement could go as far as measuring “transition” within the pyramid. Maybe moving people up the pyramid could turn into a nice management goal, couldn’t it?

Conclusion: The DWP has to become the EPR for knowledge and information work

If Digital Business Agility can be substantially enabled by the right services delivered by a Digital Workplace, if Employee Engagement can be facilitated by the right opportunities to express, connect and deliver impact of knowledge…where should we take it? I believe we should take it to the next level. Today, in August 2015, ERP projects to optimise process flow and standardisation in work execution still (and sadly) trump business productivity and communication projects. One reason might be the wrong way of putting it on the executive agenda. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. If we give the acronym a new twist and turn it into

Enterprise Resource PERFORMANCE

then we might be able to move up a notch on the CEO’s agenda. I’ve learned (the very very hard way) that EFFICIENCY doesn’t matter to most (not all though!!) decision makers. EFFECTIVENESS – the ability to grow without hiring – seems to be a much stronger argument.

  • Do things right the first time (aka re-use)
  • Utilise resource to the max and avoid “down time” (aka avoid admin overload)
  • Use resource where it work’s best (aka talent management)
  • Combine resource for economy of scale (aka connectedness)

I believe this is the new way to go:

Effectiveness – Performance – Growth

Let’s go…the board room awaits us!


(*) I felt the need to slightly disagree with the “I’ll leave if something much better comes a long” bullet of the engaged cluster. Gallup puts engagement before satisfaction as a key driver for employee performance and retention. So I didn’t believe initially that engaged people will leave that easily, not even for a “much” better opportunity. It would not resonate with the characteristic of people that consider themselves “vital to the business”. If you are really vital and then jump ship you might end up losing your face, which would get known beyond company borders. Then I looked at myself and my past business moves and I realised: engaged people do jump ship. Cautiously, but they do jump eventually.