15min readPDF Version

The game of business has changed.  Disruptive models, new solutions and dynamic change is the order of the day.  Winning or losing is happening faster than ever before. And they are linked to words like agility, speed, UX[1] and CX[2].  In the game of business, companies are rafting in a perpetual storm, down a river of bubbling lava.  No one will survive trying to ride out the storm.  It will get too hot! Soon!  The way to emerge as a winner, is to drive your digital transformation journey. Grow wings.  Get out of the old game. The turbulence is mental and therefore the journey different for everyone.   And if you don’t drive it, you are at the mercy of others…

A significant number of companies in processing and manufacturing industries are contemplating or have already embarked on digital transformation. This journey (yes, it is a journey!), like most adventures going into new territory, is fraught with challenges, unforeseen circumstances and many pitfalls that would take out even the most seasoned adventurer.

A host of investigations into the risks, dynamics and opportunities that come with digitalisation have been published, with most agreeing that companies should prioritise getting ready for the journey by focusing on three enabling objectives:


1. Get the Organisation ready

Firstly, is your current organisational model fit and ready to tackle digital transformation and are the fundamental building blocks in your business ready for digitisation?  One needs to get the DNA of the company digitised, i.e. the core documents, processes, policies, rules and procedures before going too far with misguided tech-driven deployment.

2. Have a clear Strategy

Secondly, you need to have a digital transformation strategy in place. IF you have not developed this, I recommend that you get a consultant to help with this process. Sorry, you are no longer an early adopter. Lessons have been learnt from risks taken. Explore your options but move fast. Digital transformation does not happen by itself and your management and implementation teams will need a clear path on how they are tackling this journey with strategies, implementation plans and risk management in place.

3. Have the right Skills

The third priority enabler is to ensure that you have access to the required skills and (importantly) capacity, in order to have a successful journey. Digital transformation might not be the same as sending someone to the moon, but why would you send anyone but your A-team on arguably the most important mission for your organisation? So human resources management, both skill and deployment, are critical to a successful digital transformation journey.

But who do you pick for this all-important adventure?

I recommend the Syndicate 14 to collaborate and get the job done. Let me elaborate:

No alt text provided for this image

1.     Navigating new territory.  Explorer / Pathfinder.

Admit it, you are navigating new territory here.  Best to find your man or woman that is comfortable in the role of pathfinder.  He or she is given freedom to explore and may even need to operate at the edge of the organisation, venturing into identifying capabilities to buy-in or contract-in to get you on the way. Ahead of the competition of course. Or else you need resources to leapfrog and get yourself further along the treasure map.

Here you need resilience, a good track record and definitely allow space for failure.  You are exploring options after all – being overly conservative will restrict you from identifying the treasure your organisation is searching.

2.     Fostering new relationships / partnerships. Settler / Diplomat.

You will probably not be going on this journey alone.  In fact: just don’t.  Be sure to get the right partners on board and together develop the strategy to reach the magical “X” on the map.  You need to be comfortable to integrate into a new ecosystem.

Use your people that are good at fostering new relationships, maintaining long standing partnerships or even those with a great track record for client service.  They usually reciprocate and while they might not be digital natives, they know your company and its values and will therefore maintain your identity in these new relationships.  These are important to retain while venturing into the digital world.

Get the right partners for your new ecosystem.  A mutual symbiosis will drive growth and accelerate progress. Alternatively, watch Alien to fuel your imagination for what can go wrong.

Talking of digital natives: Look around, observe your team. Are they ready to transition into a world selling predominantly to millennials over the next decade? Better partner with those clear on millennial game strategy. You are up for guaranteed bonus points if you get this play right.

3.     Creating something new. Innovator / Creator.

OK, so you have proudly produced market leading products or services for decades. Why change a winning recipe? A swiss watch is more desirable than ever, right? Well, maybe, but take care.  I am a big fan of incremental innovation and development. Mother nature has perfected the evolutionary process after all.

But hang on dear adventurer! Look at the features page! Is the fourth industrial revolution just time going by for Mother Nature’s biological clock? I think not. More like the fourth mass extinction and we all know what happened to old T-Rex.

The time is therefore right to use digital transformation to create something new.  Redefine your business model. You might have to open up to a new approach or you will use your 9-lives quicker than a cheetah could pounce on a limping accountant.

It is therefore important to combine your evolutionary development with an objective to innovate beyond your current products / services and create something new.  OK, so it is time to dust off your trusty innovators and give them some legroom. There are new tools available and they’re ready to rumble.

4.     Fix when something goes wrong. Medic / Fixer.

Things will go wrong.  It is part of navigating the maze.  If you want a straight line to the treasure the only place you will find it is on the map from the post-match review of your winning opponent.  You will not be in the game.

Therefore, as your dashing adventurers move along the territory, they will fall into a ravine, encounter some enemy fire and shed some blood.  No point in exiting the game. Regroup, get some health and remember to click “Save” before you go to the next level.  Digital transformation projects can be daunting and require a lot from your team.  Pace them well and be sure that someone is freed-up up to check vitality and call time-out when your team needs to regroup. No point in sending troops with red status into battle.  Building resources or worse, re-spawning, is time consuming and puts you behind.

The fixer / medic might not be the usual HR solution but could come in the form of leadership (formal and informal) throughout all levels of your organisation or even the ecosystem. I’m not suggesting you plan to fail. Rather, be sure you have those around that will see the wood from the trees and not allow your team to be taken out before you get to the final stage.

5.     What comes next? Visionary / Futurist.

No alt text provided for this image

A-ha! Level 1 completed, but what comes next?  Knowing the path is not walking the path.  Fact is, the path is changing right under your feet.  You need to grow wings so that you can get better sight of the horizon.

A critical objective of your digitalisation team is to imagine the future. What comes next? What is needed next? How to organise for the next level in the game of business?

Larger companies might be able to build these teams inhouse, but more and more CEOs report that opening up to a syndicate operating as an ecosystem of leading players is the best way to get the job done.  In the world of digital transformation, no single company can accomplish everything. You need people to drive collaboration and networking among the participating companies.

How well do your various players collaborate seamlessly to solve a problem or meet a specific customer need?

No alt text provided for this image

6.     Trying new things. Adventurer / Mad Scientist

Critical question: Have you identified the right options for your business and created an innovation ecosystem around you?

Innovation brings the opportunity to try new things. But don’t bet the house. Rather setup a team in the basement, with a small budget and a quick timeline to deliver value with the digital objective.  If it fails, learn from it and move on. If it succeeds, well…learn from it and use it effectively as you move on with greater powers.  But remember: do give your “mad scientists” space to operate. To try new things. However, take care of being led by punchy sales folk driving your journey with the latest technology solutions. You need to have a reason for your journey and purpose for the tools you purchase at the start of each level.

7.     Getting everyone ready for growth.  Pioneer.

Someone from the future famously said: “don’t try to bend the spoon, because there is no spoon”. Well, kind of the same thing with the map. Actually, there is no map. But you can shape it. Regardless, wherever you go you are pioneers. No other company like you, no other journey like yours. Simply a new world spawning as you move along.

It is therefore critical that you get everyone ready for growth. Your digital transformation journey will bring growth at unprecedented levels – personally and professionally for all involved and importantly (of course you need to get it right!) growth for your business. Here you need leadership that is clear about where the journey will take you, what is in the treasure box marked “X” and how this will benefit everyone.  The message is clear and the message is constant. An unwavering belief and continuous organisation of resources to deliver this belief.

“Good times are coming, we just need to get through the rough road ahead.” You will be bigger and better. This is how you survive to get to the next level. The game goes on.

You can imagine that it is probably important to look after this resource and ensure he/she hangs around.

8.     Getting the mind right. Coach.

“Absurd” you say. “We are not gamers. Business is not a game. This is serious!”. OK. OK.  I get it, you can’t really press “Save” and you can’t switch-off to play again later when your homework is done. You only have one life (there are options, but…) and your competitors, ruthless. Ah hah!

Then get your mind right.  There is a scoreboard. Winners and losers. Players come and go.  Rules are changed by an evolving marketplace and fickle customers constantly redefine what they mean by “value”.

Get your mind right.  Get the team’s mind right. Get the collective syndicate’s mind right.

But it is not only the mind for the game, but here specifically we also need to be ready for digital tools. Your team needs to be ready to use new tools, applied in new ways, delivering your business to new customers, a combination never seen before.  It is interesting, thrilling, scary, daunting, satisfying, terrifying and engaging – all at the same time.  Be sure to have a coach that stays calm, who has travelled the waters and who can read the weather and the GPS all with the same aplomb. If the culture is not right, you will be doomed.

Everyone will need to think digital, how to deliver the transformation successfully and how your business will benefit in the new digital environment. Then get it done!

9.     Fostering buy-in.  Evangelist

Sure man. We have the board on board. And the executives. And Senior management. OK, maybe only the specialists, enthusiasts and the new guy. What about the rest of the organisation?

Hello Player 1 “CEO”. This is not the time to give one instruction to the rook and think you will take down Deep Blue. Getting through this journey requires constant affirmation of what this game of chess is all about. Every piece on the board needs to know the objective, the rules of the game, the movements allowed for each piece and where the opponent will strike each’s weaknesses. As the rules evolve, you need to update all players to remain competitive.

This is an iterative process and each opportunity for play must be used to reaffirm the objective with each player. Define a clear project schedule, definition of success, KPIs and a dashboard to monitor progress.  Give clear and consistent feedback. Support where necessary, get outside assistance before you need it. Bring the attention to the game if players go off-track.

Also, don’t go at it alone.  Ensure you have a team of evangelists working the territory and fostering the buy-in to succeed in your digital journey. And involve as many players from all levels in the organisation as possible. Digital transformation is not achieved by the IT department alone.

10.  Teaching the way.  Teacher / Sensei

Nice! You have a team that is working on the new tech. A team working with partners on how you will collaborate and integrate. The way has been defined. Great. You still need to teach the way.

After getting the culture (mind) ready for change and the organisation ready for this digital transformation that will bring manna from heaven, you better deliver.  Deploy enough teachers to ensure that everyone gets to learn what they must learn. On time and in full.  Yes, you have to test the team too.  Make sure the phases of the deployment and what needs to be delivered are well understood. Drive metrics. Train for the metrics.

It is silly to deploy systems and expect self-learning. People WILL go back to what they know and what worked for them in the past. Your expensive new system will operate like a sieve and you won’t have the data to exploit improvement.  Foster expertise, train the trainers, celebrate the super users, but please do be sure that everyone gets a chance to play the game.

The worst of course, is to keep screening the promo. The perpetual delays in the release of “Duke Nukem Forever”. This is coming, that is coming. It never comes. A certain way to kill your digital journey before it started.

11.  Getting the right people. Leader / Captain

Wow man, this list is getting long!

I know. Maybe you don’t have all the players as individuals. Some players will need to adopt more than one role.  It is important that you select the right team.  In reality, the players also need to select other players.  There are too many specialist roles required to deliver digital transformation for a single person to be tasked with setting up all teams and collaborations.

So, Player 1 “CEO”, you need to be sure you know how to select the right people that can select the right people.  You will need to be clear on what you want to achieve and how you will measure success. We’ve talked about it, right?

Listen. Let’s pause here. There are some exceptionally complex subjects all thrown in under the vast umbrella of “digitalisation”. Make sure you have the right people for strategy, planning, deployment, testing and improvement regardless of what you are pursuing. It is not all the same IT Wizkid operating from the basement that will be delivering all of this…

12.  Improving the workplace.  Interior Designer

Has someone told you that digital transformation is not only about new cloud-based software solutions? No? I’ll tell you anyway.

Digital transformation is about changing your environment. Your ecosystem.  It is how you play, with whom you play, with what you play, when and where you play.

As you develop your strategy you will realise the importance of working your operating model. Where things come in, how it is processed and how it goes out. You will redefine what your customers (will) want, how you will serve them and how value will be transferred. You will see how workflow can be changed for the better and waste removed from the system. Before it is digitised. You will observe repetitive tasks in a new light and wonder why you have not automated a long time ago. Critically, you will be alarmed by how you have held back on the development of your people and will feel anxious to reskill / upskill so that these loyal members of your team can be sustained in a digital world.

If it does not look better, it will not feel better. If it does not feel better, it will not work better.

Make sure that you have the right people that can redesign your business processes, operations and interfaces so that the automation and digitisation sits comfortably on top of this strengthened foundation, rather than being the electric spark applied to try and make an elephant jump.

13.  Ensuring the right tools available.  Q – Quartermaster

In James Bond films, 007 can always rely on Q to provide him with the best tools for the job. The same is applicable if you want your digital journey to be successful.

In the process and manufacturing industries, the old days offered a convenient tier of solutions: consultants, engineering contractors and a mix of automation and ICT service providers. They are still there, but with digitalisation a whole new world of technologies has opened up in the hardware, software and services space.  You need to be able to select the right tools for the job. You will select these from many options and partners out there.

I say again: be careful of technology driving your digital strategy. Your business should drive the technology you need. Know that the right people are giving you the best advice. On time and in full.

14.  Leveraging new models and tech.  TIIM (Technology Integration & Interaction Modeler)

Finally, your dream syndicate team is nearly complete. Someone needs to bring this all together.  The mysterious world of digital calls on new skills to be integrated with tools, bots and robots, worked in a new way delivering to new customers.

Meet TIIM. Your business needs a TIIM. Maybe a few of them. Develop them from inside, get them from outside. Use your ecosystem to define TIIM and make sure he/she is equipped for the ride. If all goes well, budget for champagne. Top scores abound.

P.S: TIIM does not like the old way. He/she needs the new way or else they leave.  There is great demand for TIIMs.


What to do?

Do you have the required skill and knowledge in-house? To ensure successful digital transformation, you need people on your team who are eager to learn and adapt, who are curious and embrace change.  Organisational design for a digital world, as well as the commensurate talent selection and their deployment, development and engagement are now more important than ever. In addition to the experts and business process owners (all essential and equipped through impressive work experience) you also need to have Diginative millennials in key positions.

If you have not planned your strategy and organisation, get help. The journey is arduous and can be so much more satisfying if you have a clear plan and the organisation to deliver.

Enjoy the ride. Next Level starting soon…