The Digital Transformation “à la Française” : let’s hurry, but slowly…

While 2018 still is in its prime, please receive all my best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year. Should you be awarded all that you long for – and even more – but also enjoy excellent health so as to launch your most ambitious projects, as well as take up the highest challenges.

While dealing with many challenges, turmoil is at its highest with GDPR entering into force as of May 25th 2018.

GDPR : General Data Protection Regulation – May 25th, 2018

I can witness a panic wind blowing onto companies, especially middle-sized ones, that have hesitated to hop on the transformation train so far. I also perceive multiple worries and questions for others, who entered late, and all-too shyly into the GDPR dance.

Hence, 2018 is promising, the use cases are going to be exciting, and widely different, one from the other, as most of the companies move at a very slow pace on the track of a homogeneous and efficient digital transformation.

I grab this occasion to remind you what I regularly outline during business workshops or speeches, the necessity to have men in the middle.

If I were to ask you to choose between two images, to tell me which one is defining best the stat-of-the-art of digital transformation for French companies, which one would you choose? This one :

Or rather this one :

As a matter of fact, you the first one is closer to the current situation…

This picture shows the digital transformation as is mostly handled, a motley collection of technologies, aligned in a row, as a totem for this transformation. Hence, it would be limited to some software, some applications piled up one after the other, with no real synergy, and most tragic with no logic and coherence in regards of usability and processes.

Our young geeks, all of them as brilliant as any, master all these tools perfectly, but work one beside the other, without being really in connection, or linked to a common goal. Because in this way of seeing things, you do not have to communicate, you have to have Slack. You do not need to think about data collection, storage or scheme, you have to have MapReduce and Python. You do not need to imagine KPI’s and address better ways to present them, you have to have Tableau… I am stopping now, but examples are numerous. So what ?

Luckily, companies have eventually understood that the digital transformation is not only about technology.

Would a plumber use the refrigerated truck of a cheesemaker? The answer is blatant, sure no! Each craftsman will use a vehicle that is relevant to his craft, adapted to his specific requirements, defined ahead of the truck acquisition. Same for a company : establishing first the digital investment strategy in line with the company’s objectives and needs, will prevent huge money and time losses. And beware of not being foolish by focusing only on owning the trendiest tools.

In this respect, I have two instructive anecdotes:

  1. Not long after joining Ensighten, I have met the Marketing team of a big group, whose only purpose during the meeting was to understand the technical features of our solution, and not at all how it could fit into theur strategy. It took less than 6 months for them to call us for help; having bought our solution, they were overwhelmed by our technology, and they were needing help for revamping their data policy and organization. In front of too many data points, their service was simply unable to absorb efficiently the induced effects. Tool chosen for what is was, not for what it would bring.
  2. I also remember this meeting, in 2014, with a senior manager in charge of innovation for a digital marketing group. He listened politely to my speech, but was absolutely convinced that the law would remain soft in regards of personal data processing and cookie manipulation. “One cannot simply kill a business model” was his basic reasoning, and hence sustained his confidence in his model. 4 years later, here we are. I told him so… It would have been more cautious to analyze the potential impacts, should my hypothesis verify one day. I must admit I was ahead of trends, especially when talking about cookie ban. But today, he has to act in an emergency mode. And for the first time in this company history, their market capitalization has decreased, sign that some analysts have lost faith, at least blind faith.

What should be done, how should we act ? Very simply. Start by working on reestablishing people’s communication, and putting some common sense into the organization. Look for the correct balance between man and machine. And in this respect, the second picture above makes much more sense. I see a technology that is fully aligned with people’s needs, nurturing their ecosystem.

Utopian or really productive ? Switching from one state to the other, what a transformation is, actually, is requiring human support, in designing and managing the operations, adjusting the process to the necessity of times. Alike an orchestra conductor, man has to synchronize all instruments and conduct the musicians, so that the music piece may be played in full harmony.

Of course, I clearly understand that mindsets may not be altered all to easily. Switching from a vertical way of working (silos) to an horizontal mode (collaborative), may push many people to wonder what their future duties may be, how they will handle relationshsips to management and work force, and also about their place in the organization in general. Some responsibilities may be harder to endorse,  should tasks be split onto several services or areas. Worse even, in such a configuration, how do you allocate costs and revenues? For sure, novelty implies uncertainty. Believe me, I know what this means. Still, doing nothing is the best way to let others take control, and eventually to lose one’s position on the market.

So, do not delay until tomorrow what you could do today.

Go ahead! If you handle you tranformation properly, I guarantee a harvest of unpredicted wins, a discovery of hidden markets, an increase in revenue, and of margins, an easing of human relations… And if you believe that you are missing the relevant people to lead this process, why don’t you get some help? A manager with an experience of managerial relationships, a vision of data strategies and a knowledge of the digital and data ecosystem (like me) is exactly what you need!

I shall then continue to drive my point home, about a “sustainable” Digital Transformation, and I shall publish a series of posts in the coming weeks, so as to illustrate practically how an organization may avoid pitfalls and optimize their business.

So we say, see you soon, then?

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