Your company’s Digital Transformation is now well underway: vision, strategy, roadmap, CTO partnership and change management. The horizon ahead is clear.
But as I said last week, the digital world is not a faithful wife or husband… Competition is raging around you and the market is changing fast.
While normally a 2 to 3 year roadmap would be considered a mid-term view, in the digital world it is extremely long-term: the digital trends of today will most probably be old fashioned in 2 years.
To remain in the digital race, innovation and creativity must be at the heart of your transformation.
Innovation against obsolescence
When I outlined how to build your phased Digital Vision and its roadmap, I stressed the fact that they both need to be reviewed after each clearly defined phase is achieved. But is that enough?
Going through such a review process is a rather academic approach. If it is mandatory, you must find the fuel to supply your digital engine to keep it at the full speed.
You must organise your competition intelligence and, more importantly, a business and technology watch.
Be sure that your company has plenty of intelligent people with bright ideas. Then you just need to provide them the breeding ground to plant their seed and water it.
You must also be vigilant to make sure that innovation is an integral part of your organisation and allow innovation to partially drive your Digital Strategy and its Roadmap.
Why only partially? Your Digital Transformation needs clear direction and some stability. A pure innovation driven approach will change too often and too drastically your vision without enough clarity on its added value.
A start-up can be, and is, driven by innovation, creativity and disruption because they only have one subject to master. The number of subjects is much more extensive in a company and disrupting each of them would just drive you to a nightmarish mess.
You need an organised innovation to inject new ideas into your regular strategy reviews to keep your Digital Vision at the expected state-of-the-art level.
Knock knock… Who’s there?
FinTechs are not only a new trendy word or the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over your head, they are an inspiring source of innovation both in terms of creation and implementation. Indeed, innovation, disruption, creativity are all equal parts of their DNA and as such, should be viewed as a goldmine of inspiration for your business.
Luckily, there is nothing complicated with start-up basements, all that is required is a bright idea with a group of highly skilled and committed individuals to develop a tangible POC (proof of concept) quickly and with (very) limited investments.
Bright ideas are made up of 50% inspiration and 100% sweat…
If you were to remember only one thing about start-ups, it must be the word ‘POC’. Sorry for my simplistic stereotyping but given that, in principle, start-ups have almost no money to start, their only chance to survive is to develop a working POC as fast as possible to raise funds.
As much as possible, I recommend that you try to adopt the following approach to innovation:
- Encourage new ideas, organise their collection and selection.
Collecting ideas can be as simple as setting up a drop box in your office building or organising coCreation (collaborative creation) sessions.
If you put in place a selection committee, make sure to clearly communicate all eligibility criteria – one of which being that the idea must support your Digital Vision.
Then selected or not, each idea provider must receive feed-back about their proposal.
- Build an initial POC.
The goal is to build a tangible POC that will serve to demonstrate your newly proposed idea. This is not about delivering a full working POC to launch a pilot. The purpose is to develop the maturity of the idea while moving from a concept to a concrete asset which can be shown at the next step.
To facilitate this stage, your team needs a work environment which is not limited to materials such as a PC, a meeting room and some tools. The idea provider needs free reign to work on his/her POC, which includes: all the time he/she needs, a team of skilled individuals to work with him/her, guidance on how to achieve his/her goal… and help structuring the project to get it to the next step.
- Pitch for initial investments.
As the owner of a start-up, the idea owner pitches to the “investors” - i.e. your CEO, the CTO, the CMO and any other executives, including yourself.
He/she has 15 minutes to share his/her POC and to convince the board to invest in the development of a working POC and its business plan.
If the idea is selected, the board must immediately assign a business angel to support and guide the idea owner.
- Deliver a working POC.
The initial POC was only to show and demonstrate the potential benefits of the concept: it could have been a set of drawings, an html mock-up… Now, the goal is to develop a working POC which could be used for test panels or even for a pilot.
It is essential that it be delivered within a short timeframe (3 months max) and with a limited investment. As mentioned in my previous weeks’ posts, I recommend to using work methodologies such as Agile Scrum along side coDesign methods (collaborative design).
As with the previous step, you must remain vigilant about the work environment, which now has even more IT requirements, in order to keep the idea provider in the driving seat. He/she is the idea owner and as such he/she is the entrepreneur and the start-up leader. However since he/she is most probably not prepared to take on such a role, a good business angel is key to the success of the project.
I can’t stress enough that your IT must be a solid partner in this stage as they are responsible for preparing, in parallel, the next step.
The delivered POC and its business plan have fulfilled all promises while demonstrating the added value and the viability of the idea. The final, and thus crucial, step is to integrate it into your legacy through the industrialization process which will deploy it within your company.
If you are obliged to follow a more traditional project management process, make sure to keep the pace up and keep the timeframes as short as possible. Reason why your IT involvement in the POC is mandatory to gain time through their preparation.
And the idea owner? He remains involved in the project as a delegated sponsor and he is the one who will be in the front for all the glory and rewards. Never forget that your innovation process is an integral part of your change management program that should help to increase the number of committed ambassadors for your Digital Vision.
Fail to succeed
Evolving the mentality of a company from ‘Failure is not an option’ to ‘You have the right to fail’ is always a big challenge. Nevertheless, any Digital Transformation is full of uncertainties regarding the impacts and risks for your organisation, the business approach and, last but not least, your legacy systems.
The right to fail is fundamental to demystifying the digital world and for encouraging innovation.
Of course, you do not want everything to fail and all the time. Seeing as how you manage the investment risks, you cannot afford to blindly waste money. The good news is that you can manage failures…
- The initial POC stage is your failure sandbox.
The investments made during this step are limited; making it affordable to fail and, if you really believe in your idea, to rework the idea several times.
- The pitch is your failure filter.
Only one idea out of every ten receives investments? Of course! You can’t invest everyday in hundreds of new ideas as your capacity is limited. You must select the innovations which best support your Digital Vision and which are the most likely to succeed.
In fact, I wouldn’t use the term ‘failure’ for this step as you could have many brilliant viable ideas which are not selected because their added value is too limited, or is not your top priority, or is not inline with your Digital Vision and its Strategy. But be aware that the team members whose ideas were not selected will most probably feel it as a failure. So make sure to carefully communicate on your selection.
- The working POC is your failure reducer.
Again, I underline the value of methodologies like Agile Scrum. If you have not read my post from last week (Part 4 - https://www.shorex.com/expert-opinion/item/1043-digital-transformation-a-fatality-or-an-opportunity-part-4), Agile aims to deliver a project block per block, through short and highly iterative runs (called Sprints).
Each sprint will deliver a working part of your project, allowing you to adjust the next one based on your growing experience. Each sprint is thus your opportunity to reduce your risk of failure.
- The pilot is your failure avoider.
Last, but not least, the pilot will demonstrate the viability of your innovation in a real life situation.
Integrating pilot stages into your Agile process (for example, do a short pilot after completing 2 or 3 sprints) will allow you to adapt the deliveries in the event of any tangible issues encountered.
This will cut your failure risk drastically as your investments continue to grow.
- Lessons learned are your failure teacher.
Each failure is a chance to learn; and you must make the most of those lessons learned.
Analysing a failure is not to find or highlight any guilty party, but to understand exactly the cause for failure, what could or should be adapted to achieve success in the future.
In addition, a clear and transparent communication plan concerning failures will increase your credibility and decrease fears inside your company.
So you your new motto should be: try, test, learn, adapt, try, test, learn, adapt, try, test… succeed!
As much as a Digital Transformation is challenging and can be stressful, it is also the opportunity for creativity, motivation and… fun!
As CDO, it is my job to communicate on the many pleasures that come with digital discovery and exploration. Deep involvement in innovation is the perfect momentum to inject fun:
- Disruption is a pleasure.
Allowing disruptive concepts to become a tangible POC, and to share their benefits with the executive committee is a source of satisfaction for all participants. Your team should enjoy the opportunity to work on their crazy ideas and turn them into a reality.
For this, I will only give you one recommendation: push your selection committee to be very open-minded and not be too restrictive in the innovation selection process. You already know that the initial POC is both your playground and your failure sandbox with limited risks. Allow highly disruptive ideas because your employees will just love the opportunity to truly express their creativity. Even if only one crazy idea succeeds, it could make the difference for your company.
- Collaborative work is great.
For me personally, getting people out of their daily routine to develop an entrepreneurial and start-up mindset is my best reward. In all the experiments I have done, putting into place new ways of working together through coCreation or coDesign has resulted in highly committed teams where all stakeholders came together thanks to their common passion: find a new concept and/or make it a reality.
- Pitching to executives? Who, Me?
Yes… you. You will have idea providers who are far away from any executives and the opportunity to show off and sell their concept could be first a source of panic, then of satisfaction and pride.
Never let somebody else replace the idea provider for the pitch: he/she must be the one. He or she does not know how to present? Teach him or her. Shy? Rehearse as often as needed, his/her passion will do the rest. Insecure? Support and reassure him or her.
What is for sure is that presenting the concept to executives will be his or her best experience.
- Deploying the concept is the ultimate reward.
After all the hard work and the steps have been achieved, the innovation will at last become a reality and be deployed across the company.
I have done hundreds of projects over the course of my career and I still feel a profound satisfaction when a project goes live. Just imagine what it could be for your employees when they are not used to working on such projects and never imagined that their idea could become a reality.
Having embraced innovation within your digital strategy, it will regularly feed your Digital Vision and keep you ahead of the competition through your continuous improvements and creativity research.
So now are you done? Is innovation the ultimate step to achieve your digital vision? No, there is one last crucial step: integrate digital into your business legacy programs. See you next week.