Leaning to swim without jumping into the water?

By Diederik Wyffels

No matter how many books you read about learning how to swim, at some point you will have to jump into the water …  The same is true for Digital Transformation.  You can read a lot of books about it.  You can even order your own “book of dreams”.  But none of this will get you much closer to a transformed business.

Digital Transformation is a complex beast.  It impacts the business, technology and culture of companies.  Each of the components is equally critical for a successful outcome.  The business people are key to understand the business environment. They need to be aware what the competition is doing. They need to understand what their customers want.  They need to understand how products and services need to evolve.  And they need to be critical to their own operations to make them more efficient.  By doing so they will be able to bring ideas for innovation forward.  The IT people need to understand how technology can help fill in these innovations in an agile way.  IT people need to create the technology environment where this is possible.  Finally, management need to be in the driving seat.  A real business transformation requires also organisation changes.  A task which needs executive sponsorship.

Still none of this will happen if the culture is rigid and doesn’t allow for experiments.  At the end of the day, it’s about changing people and what people do.  And that is one of the most challenging tasks in a transformational journey.

Back to the swimming.  At some point you must jump into the water. By preference with some security measures in place.  The same is true for digital transformation.  Rather sooner than later you will have to give it a try.  Small steps, fail fast and learn from it.

The first step in a Digital Transformation journey is what we call at Nimbuz the “Cloud Exploration”.  It has 2 tracks in it.  A technology track aiming to identify quick IT wins in the cloud journey.

We start this track with a Cloud Exploration Workshop.  A hands-on experience for IT people, taking them through an overview of the Microsoft Clouds, relevant to their business (Azure, O365, Dynamics 365).  The workshop is a combination of information sharing and hands-on first experiences.  Putting your feet in the (cloud) water.  From the start we aim to identify scenarios for quick wins.  When you look at your current IT infrastructure and your application landscape, you will be able to identify opportunities to bring something to the cloud.  Topics like disaster recovery come to mind, but there’s much more.  And it’s not just identifying.  When done properly, already in the early stage of the journey some things can be migrated to the cloud and generate an immediate return on investment.

The second track in the exploration phase is a business track.  The Nimbuz business track offering is named “2+2+2”.  Let’s call it “secure the first jump in the water”.

During this “2+2+2”, a set of key users is put in a bath of digital transformation.  We start with two weeks of discovery and ideation, where business, IT and management are put together in a structured approach to identify meaningful yet simple opportunities.  We host discovery and inspiration workshops as the start of cultural change.  We assess the digital maturity of the company in different transformation domains. We work along the 4 domains that Microsoft is using: employee engagement, customer experience, product/services transformation and operational optimization.

Together with the key users we identify where the biggest gaps are between what their market is expecting and what they are doing.  We choose one of these domains to work on and enter the ideation.  Through one or more ideation workshops we come up with business scenarios for transformation.  In the next two weeks we’re doing the design work for the chosen initiative.  And finally, we’re taking 2 weeks (more or less) to build and deploy the pilot.

A digital transformation can never be a “big bang” approach.  Or top-down.  Or waterfall.  Or no matter how you want to call it.  Even if you would manage to make it work from a technology and business point of view, it would fail from a cultural point of view.  Hence the importance of taking the whole organisation on a journey.  A journey that starts with small steps.  Learning while doing it.  When done properly, those small steps do have a return on investment by themselves.

In these times of Digital Transformation, nothing remains constant except change itself.   Rather than building big plans and get stuck in theoretical models, start by exploring and experimenting.  Do it in a structured way.  And remember nobody ever learned to swim without jumping into the water.