“What are we doing about digital?”

…is a good way to start a conversation about digital transformation.

Earlier this week, this very question was posed in our office.

Digital transformation has been a favoured subject of conferences and seminars for some time. Everyone knows we need to be digitally fit for purpose. Everyone knows that digital business models are often faster and cheaper than their more traditional counterparts. Everyone knows that many organisations are struggling to keep pace with the world around them.

So, where do you start?
Do you write a lengthy strategy?
Do you appoint someone to manage it?
Do you bring help in from outside?

Having digested lessons from many very clever people on the subject, I attempted to string together some cohesive thoughts.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Although writing a digital strategy or creating a digital working group seem sensible, if you don’t have the skills or culture to bring about change it’s doomed to failure before you’ve begun.

Digital is the means, not the end!

People tend to get hung up on the technology when it’s just the delivery mechanism. In fact, it’s almost better to ignore the technology to start with and figure out what you are striving to do first. Why? Because you may end up picking technology that’s in search of a problem.

Digital is not business as usual.

Digital is not doing the same work with an iPad. It is a fundamental re-think to deliver better services for users. It’s an exercise in culture & organisational change. It’s a monumental challenge that requires real commitment.

Starting is the hardest bit.

Digital transformation is a HUGE scary constantly shifting beast. I think it’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed or bogged down by the complexity of it. Faced with increasing demand and less resources, how do you pick the priorities?! Where do you start?

Here’s my current thinking for avoiding decision paralysis.

  • Start with user needs. What do tenants need from us?
  • Start small.
  • Start anywhere.
  • Work *with* tenants to make improvements.
  • Work in small iterative steps. Speed is key.
  • Record & share what works.. and what doesn’t.
  • Keep iterating until everyone is happy.. then move on to the next thing.

Will we absolutely ace this the first time we try it? Probably not.

Are there more refined methods out there for doing this stuff? Absolutely — but before we can dive into those we’re going to need to prove that this actually has legs. This is an organisation wide effort and we’re going to need to bring people with us.

By picking something small, focusing on it and iterating quickly we’ve got the potential to learn a whole lot in a short period of time with minimal risk.

As far as digital transformation goes, we’re all at different points on the same learning curve. Some have made substantial progress already, others are starting to take tentative steps.

In the coming weeks we’re going to be taking our first steps by asking tenants what they need from us in context of our apps & web services.

I’ll let you know what happens next and what we learn in the process.

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