The Digital Transformation Maze

The Digital Transformation Maze

As an Apple Account Executive, Samsung business developer, and management consultant, I have direct experience of 9 different clients attempting digital transformation. Here are the 8 lessons.

Lesson 1: Apply startup science

Start ups are not baby big companies and big companies are not grown up startups. Big companies excel at running today's business well. But building tomorrow's businesses means leaving slow, big-plan decisions behind.

Apply Lean Startup thinking, which wraps the centuries-old scientific method (observe, hypothesis, test, analyze, and new hypothesis) in a new memorable way. Experiments become Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). And new experiments become Pivots. Large companies know their domain, so, they can generate informed hypotheses for validation.

Hyper-popular Design Thinking works best for discovering customer needs for products/services, rather than building a business.

Lesson 2: Escape from same

Seek blue water. Check the ripple, not the splash. It's the second bounce of the ball that's interesting, not the first. Do something different. That's the point of practical strategy.

How do you compete differently? And the real way you compete, not an abstract aspiration. Work this out first, then, think about how to embed this into your digital strategy and experience.

Next, plan out how to deliver this digital strategy. Defer device decisions until you have a solid strategy and experience design. 

Lesson 3: Story the experience

Don't get lost in detailed customer journeys and experience maps.

Take Jack Dorsey's (Square and Twitter) advice. Walk in the users shoes. Write user narratives, which read "like a play."

The original Apple store design was a single page. And Amazon uses "narrative" memos for all major decisions. 

Use design thinking to trade-off the desirability, feasibility, and viability of a solution.  Avoid the prophets of disruption. Big competitive challenge and a bad customer experience? Then, disrupt. If not, follow the lower-risk path of improving what you have. 

Lesson 4: Rough out the ROI

The point of any product is profit. And any project is, ultimately, an investment opportunity.

Right-brain creatives need their left-brain colleagues to rough out the expected value of their joint work.

No need for complex quantification. A simple model of the key value drivers and a rough sizing of the expected pot of money is all that's needed. 

Finally, agile development means changing funding from big-bag-of-money proposals to fast, fund-and-test requests for small iterations. 

Lesson 5: Think tool, not device

Addicted to Apple, married to Microsoft, or seduced by Samsung?

Remember that even the best devices are just tools. Their value comes from who uses them and how.

Even Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple agrees, "We make tools. And, I'm excited about what good tools can lead to."  

Understand the jobs-to-be-done thoroughly before you decide on devices. Not every job warrants the best (or most expensive) device available. It's about fitting the tool to the task, not technological fashions.

Lesson 6: Hire apps for jobs

You aren't buying what vendors sell. You are hiring software for jobs to be done.

Solutions come and go, while jobs stay largely the same. The users in your company want to make progress, do better, or achieve an outcome.

Understand the work deeply by interviewing your users directly about the context of their work, their goals, and the workflow. Avoid abstract approaches such as scenarios and personas.

Tread warily around single-purpose apps, which often amount to features rather than a product that enables doing a job.

Lesson 7: Campaign for change

Change usually gets lost in the excitement of new devices and slick software.

But changing behaviors is the hardest of hard things. Instead, treat change like a true campaign.

This means a campaign plan.

First, create a campaign concept -- a vision of what you want to achieve.

Second, understand the political factions, forces, and incentives needed to make the changes happen.

Third, design a messaging strategy. Start with a headline, supporting reasons, and wrap it all in a story. And treat words with the precision of code. This means the only possible words in the only possible order.

Finally, respect employee's time by using straightforward, friendly frameworks. Befuddling busy people with exotic change methodologies -- such as SCARF and ADKAR -- will reduce, rather than increase, your chances of success.

Lesson 8: Demo progress, but respect failure 

Instead of bullet-point lists, apply the MIT Media Lab motto of "demo or die!" Don't say. Show.

Demonstrate what you've done, not what you're going to do. Announce achievements, not aspirations. Show what has actually happened, the hypotheses tested, the failures. and the lessons learned.

Extend the journalist refrain of show-and-tell to show-and-ask. Reap the benefits of rapid feedback, by minimizing the time between an action and feedback.

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