Going Beyond the Buzz of Digital Transformation
Digital transformation has been the buzzword for the last few decades. By addressing traditional problems with the introduction of technological solutions, an organization will achieve digital transformation. The overarching goal is to integrate technology into every area of the business and in return customer value skyrockets.
When I joined Cisco in the late 1990s, I was part of a global initiative getting the company Internet ready. The IT teams partnered with every function across the company to achieve what is now called digital transformation.
And we even held briefings with customers on how we ate our own dog food. Although it had a less sexy name back then than digital transformation; we were facilitating Cisco’s overall productivity through web-enablement and e-transformation. Everything buzzed with a ‘e-’ back then. Getting on the web was new and people walked around with cool t-shirts that had urls.
I remember one session I co-led with cross-functional leaders from across the globe on e-sales, which was a huge digital transformation for the company. The goal of e-Sales was to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the field sales organization by leveraging Internet solutions to drive productivity, customer awareness and competitive advantage.
By involving the key leaders in the process, there were less hurdles faced in making it happen. There were three key driving forces for the transformation that occurred 23 years ago:
- The senior leaders had a vision of how the organization will function in the future and the need to have all functions integrate digital solutions to drive customer value. It was foundational for the company to walk its talk and eat its own dog food! There was acceptance of experimentation and learning as part of the overall process.
- There was a dedicated budget to drive the transformation and also integrate our own technology as part of the solution. We also saw the budget as an investment of people, processes and technologies, which were integrated in making the shifts.
- Open communication and dialogue were drivers in openly discussing resistance and pushback. Walking the talk meant that some of the top performers stepped out of their day-to-day roles to lead these e-initiatives.
Digital Transformation is Not the Star of the Show
Digital transformation does not have to be a buzzword. It is not a simple transition to make. But when we lead with why we are doing it, we get less hung up with running a change campaign and more focused on integrating the technologies that make the experiences more valuable.
The secret is to focus on the human side (dynamics) and never lead with the technology (the mechanics).
When I studied theatre, I had to learn every aspect of production, including lighting. I found myself running lighting for a play and the best piece of advice I received was, lighting is successful when no one notices it. It simply enhances the show.
This advice lives on for digital transformation. Focus less on the tools and more on how they improve communication, value and relationships. Make the star of your show the reason you are in business in the first place. Talk less about the technology and demonstrate the value to employees, customers and partners.
It’s never about the technology; it’s about what we are creating for ourselves and each other that matters.