By Greg Lush
Your interview went fantastic and you remain to be pleasantly surprised on how forward-thinking everyone appears to be — this may be a great career fit. With the first round of meetings behind you, they invite you back to "get a feel" for the company by spending a day with several future teammates. Edgar, the accounting manager, welcomes you into his office. He is warm and inviting, and after some small talk suggests that you look at a presentation about the company. As he shuffles through the stack of folders on his desk your enthusiasm begins to wane. "Ahh, here it is," Edgar announces as he pulls the tattered paper copy of PowerPoint 1997 slides. Progressing through the slides, covered with early 2000’s clipart, you tell yourself it is all okay as you look forward to meeting with Angela from Sales. Certainly, the front of the company must be using tools from this decade! Angela did not disappoint, we met in a small conference room with a 48" Microsoft Surface touchscreen. Standing next to the screen, Angela starts the conversation, bouncing from email to email and navigating to her cloud-based file management tool DropBox. Something is off. Why is it that this company, which appears to be only using Office 365, is using other file tools? My sense is an organization that has invested and mastered the ability to "talk a good story;" however, when the first layer is peeled back, they appear to be culturally stuck 20 years back. While they may be innovative on their core business, it appears that business practices take a back seat. Your goal is to land on a company that has some staying power, and these folks are on a fast-moving train headed to 1980, so you decide it’s not for you.
Have I just described your organization? I suppose if we polled folks at your company, we would get many different responses. As you contemplate "alignment," which is necessary for successful digital transformation, the habits of the company, leadership/management team, department leads, and individuals will need to be altered. Achieving transformation for an organization is not a trivial task. Contrary to popular belief, this does not have to be a top-down edict. As a matter of fact, the top-down approach will get folks to change their ways; yet, typically change will be limited to the vision of those "barking the orders.” Unfortunately, this is not transformation, it is simply compliance. Mentioned previously, and important to say again, extracting value from your digital investments is one-part technology and nine parts people. Positioning yourself to be immersed in how the business operates will afford you the opportunity to correlate micro-processes to the available technology stack. Certainly, the idea of translating business speak to technology speak is not new — the real change is the velocity of new products, code-free digital tool configuration, heightened expectations of clients, employees and partners. So how do we look at and respond to this challenge to get us closer down the path of true digital transformation? Here are a few important points to consider.
- Adoption of transactional systems
- Most business challenges today will require technology solutions. To be clear, a business challenge is not defined as upgrading an existing system, while these actions need to be addressed, they do not generally require transformation. Instead, upgrades of transactional systems can be bunched into two buckets: implementation (readiness) and deployment (go-live). Although our experience is littered with these types of examples, and we may have even convinced ourselves that we "drove adoption," the fact is we checked the box once the system was live and moved on to the next crisis.
- Examining daily routines
- The idiom "you know what you know" comes to mind when I think about folks' daily routines. If I walked up to you and asked, "Frank, how can I help you become more efficient by using your digital tools better?" His response may be, "I am good, thanks for asking." Instead, I would ask, "Frank, if you think about all of the actions that you take with your computer over the course of a week, which is the most inconvenient?" By the way, this does not always work, as having never been asked that question, it can be challenging to answer. A back-up position if the person seems stumped — ask them to show you what tools (digital and paper) they use through the course of the workday.
- If your organization has or is planning on deploying a cloud platform (ie: Office 365), then you are in a great spot. These holistic cloud platforms are packed with applications, many of which are bundled into the most common licenses. To solve everyday problems, you must put the effort into learning your cloud platform’s technology stack and how these tools can impact your business. The combination of your keen understanding of the technology stack and connection with the business leveraging your new-found listening skills, you should be in good shape. Transformation can only occur when the seed has been planted, in most cases coached out of the business user, and methodically cultivated to become a strong and reliable part of each person’s daily habits.
- Changing the "way" that you compute
- Don't just change the computer system, change the way that people compute! Sure, I have heard it all and the excuses like "we will never get them to use the tools" and "this is a training issue" are, well, a bunch of crap. Those may have had some applicability in the past, when a strong separation existed between your enterprise software, IT, and the business. Now the lines are way too fuzzy — who would have ever thought that a marketing department would be tasked with leading digital change? If that is not a sign, I don't know what is. Come on, smell the coffee! How does that Pink Floyd lyric go? "Nobody told you when to run?" Hey, knock, knock… RUN!
The next time that you lead a meeting, make sure that you are using your available digital tools. For instance, in the past you may have brought in your paper notebook and #2 pencil. Instead, consider using the notebook tool (no notepad, old-timer) on your computer along with a modern meeting invitation and task management application. You will be amazed how just one person, changing the way that they compute, can influence a community of people. If you are on any social platform, you know how simple it is to get a movement started — many are more comfortable following than leading. Yet someone must start, how about you?