Which is the right technology to invest in?
AI? Blockchain? Web 3.0? Metaverse? Which is the right technology to invest in for future growth?
In my work with leaders of respected “Mittelstand” businesses in Germany, I see the pressure they are under to transform, and also to choose the right technology. Yet, all too often, as Benjamin Mueller, a professor for digital business at the University of Bremen and an associate researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology writes, companies “dedicate too many resources and too much attention to the technology side of digital transformation projects” instead of considering the purpose, products and processes that enable lasting change.
The digital vision is the center of every digital transformation process and the basis for a successful digital strategy
The first step in any digital transformation is creating your digital vision. The digital vision is the center of every digital transformation process and the basis for a successful digital strategy. It’s the goal of your transformation and goes well beyond just the technology needed to achieve it. You can think of the digital vision in layers, building up like a mountain, with your purpose – or your “Why” – coming into closer view at the peak as you move along your transformation journey from “What” to transform, and “How” to transform.
Start with Why
As Simon Sinek has so famously said, “Start with why.” You would choose a peak before you start your mountain climbing challenge. Choose your transformation “Why” first before moving on to planning the journey. For sustainable change, make sure you are changing the business for a reason you believe in, and that is valuable to your customers and your employees. Then you can be sure you are changing not just for a hyped technology, but because it is meaningful long term and aligns with your company DNA.
Avoid false starts
Having a strong Why makes a tremendous difference, also in financial performance in the end, because it enables you to create the momentum across the organization needed for successful change. Most companies are focused on “What” and do a little bit of the “How.”‘ They encourage innovative impulses and digitalization, but often only in specific departments. The result can be expensive patchwork solutions that unnecessarily delay the digitalization process, and ultimately don’t achieve the potential success.
Create your digital vision to describe the company’s long-term target and aspiration. In doing so, think big, incorporate trends and untapped potential when developing this picture. Ask and answer fundamental questions like:
- Why do we do what do?
- Why do we get up out of bed every day?
- Why do we want to change and improve our organization, and the world?
Define your How
Once you have your “Why” you can move on to the next layer of your vision, “How,” meaning how do we work together on this transformation journey? These are your values. And, like with any climbing expedition, conditions may change while on your transformation journey. Your “How” guides how you will make decisions as you test and learn from your results – and as the unexpected arises. Your values are the answers to questions like:
- How do we work together?
- How do we communicate?
- How much do we want to include others?
- How innovative do we want to be?
- How diverse do we want to be?
Derive your What
Using our climbing analogy, climbing teams can chart a clear training plan and route map only after they have the peak in view as their primary motivation, and once they have trust in how they will work as a team. Likewise, when you know why and how you will transform digitally, you can begin to plan “What” you will transform. Using everything you can know today, create a plan for the route you will take to reach your why. There isn’t a master plan for digitalization. Each digital vision is unique. Understand your DNA, your core value and consider how this could grow in the future. You can use a business model canvas, or simply start with questions like:
- What are the exact products we offer our clients?
- What are the services we offer, and at what pricing?
- What other value can we provide to our customers?
- What are our customers asking for? What are their pains?
- What challenges are they facing, or will they be facing in the future?
Test your vision
My experience shows digitalization must be supported by all departments, the entire team, and most importantly encouraged by management. The people both within and outside the organization must be involved. It is vitally important that an “analog” vision and a “digital” vision do not exist simultaneously. Test whether or not your digital vision is as motivating as it can be by asking the following questions:
- Can the digital vision be explained in only a few words and understood by all stakeholders?
- Do the employees feel like they have been involved in the transformation process in a timely manner?
- Will the digital vision be actively embraced by all parties in everyday work?
- Can executives and employees recognize the key elements of the digital vision?
If you can answer yes! to all of these questions, then the digital vision is viable and provides a solid foundation for deriving the (digital) corporate strategy and concrete strategic goals.
Provide a clear view
In today’s VUCA world with vast possibilities for change, it’s business critical to develop your own vision as precisely as possible and communicate it to the world. The rapid development in digitalization affects not only our day-to-day lives, but also our work life, and demands flexibility from us. This is especially true for businesses because they have to be agile in adapting to changing situations without losing sight of the big picture.
As I have written before, communication is a large factor in digital transformationsuccess, and it begins with communicating your digital vision clearly. According to MIT Sloan Management Review research, “Where CEOs have shared their vision for digital transformation, 93% of employees feel that it is the right thing for the organization. But, a mere 36% of CEOs have shared such a vision.”
To help guide your organization the destination must be one that all can see. It needs substance. For lasting success, decision-makers will need to use courage, foresight, and transparency to integrate all parties in the company into the process of visualizing the journey and the peak. And remember, digital transformation is never complete. When you reach that visionary peak, the next peaks on your ongoing transformation journey will come into view!
To find out more
- The Digital Vision is 1 of 8 areas in the enable2grow Digital Transformation Wheel. Download our Digital Fitness White Paper here for a full description of each of all 8 areas as well as case studies.
- You can assess your own organization’s fitness level by taking our online Digital Fitness Check here.
- If you would like to discuss your specific challenges or digital growth goals, feel free to contact us. We are always happy to run alongside you!