Digital Transformation Gets Real

Posted by Guido van den Boom on Apr 15, 2019 12:37:15 PM
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The global business community seems to agree, we’re now entering the third wave of digital technology in which artificial intelligence will be the main driving force. In tremendous ways, and at an unprecedented speed, this third wave will revolutionize the way we interact with each other and corporations interact with us. Whether we are eating, sleeping, working, sporting or relaxing, a world without digital tech has become unimaginable. We’re seeing the first signs of
this all around us already. Take, for example, how the insurance provider Lemonade (Lemonade.com) uses AI to determines a customer’s risk profile, or how speech analytics is gaining ground in call centers.

For businesses, the “adapt or die” adage is ever present and survival of the fittest means developing nimble, adaptable processes driven by digital technology. Failure to follow the course of this evolution spells disaster for any company. For most incumbents, it’s hard to keep up with the changing pace of customer demand and behavior, not to mention the threat of new entrants who have already embraced new digital technologies, such as AI, robotics, and AR. In fact, a study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimated that, in the next decade, 40 percent of today's companies on the S&P 500 will be gone. This is “disruption” in action.

This article is published in AGILE NXT. Agile NXT is a new magazine full of inspiration for professionals on the emerging Agile journey. It challenges you to think differently and improve yourself, your team, and company a little more each day. 

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Digital Tech Adoption Issues
Having been on the inside of many companies since the late ‘90s, and having witnessed their first steps into the world of the internet, I would dare say that technology has always been first and the people operating it have come second. And unfortunately, this is still the case. Considering people's real needs, fixing their day-to-day issues, or providing possibilities to make their jobs easier, more meaningful, or more fun, has not been the top priority. From the massive ERP transformations in the ‘90s, via e-commerce in the ‘00s, to mobility and digital marketing in the ‘10s, again and again, tech has been imposed by senior management rather than co-created with staff. 

User-adoption and change-management best practices fell by the wayside with lacking budgets. Meanwhile, the conviction that new tech could be used after a single product training resulted in underutilization or no utilization at all. Sometimes a decision to invest in a completely different technology was made because there was, seemingly, “no fit with the company’s requirements.” Despite numerous lessons in humanizing its purpose, such as “only deploy tech that solves real business issues,” and “‘identify all stakeholders carefully,” and “make training and coaching fun,” the technical aspects of projects often prevailed. Moreover, the business cases highly-paid staff members and consultants had been working on for months were never realized. Although lately, an improved focus on UX/UI and user-friendliness has slightly increased adoption levels, it is still merely a drop in the ocean. 

But in this third wave, CxOs, tribe leads and managers no longer have the luxury to allow for failed IT projects due to low adoption rates. They need to adapt to the new digital normal as quickly as possible. According to the TomTom Telematics’ Senior Managers Study, conducted in June 2017, “Almost a third of business leaders in the UK admit their organizations are laggards when it comes to adopting new technologies.” 

Digital Tech Adoption Through Agile
There is light on the horizon. I'm convinced Agile ways of working will realize a significant breakthrough in the area of new digital tech adoption by the workforce. It seems, for the first time in the history of introducing new digital technology, the human factor is gaining ground. Many companies have seen a decrease in time-to-market to bring new products, features, and services to their consumers. So, more and more, consumers are reaping the benefits of Agile. But what about the employees? How can they benefit from Agile to get the tools they need to fire up their continuous improvement cycle? 

One of the key aspects of Agile is the phenomenon of autonomous, independent teams/value streams. They can design, build and run products that ultimately contribute to and are fully aligned with the purpose and key objectives of the company. Consequently, the teams should be empowered and mandated to choose and implement the tech stack that fully supports them to optimally do their job.

For example, imagine I'm a product owner responsible for the Move customer journey and I need to drastically improve NPS and retention. And let’s suppose that the best way I can realize that is through the creation of an Omni Channel Move service - a killer personal app, a Move webpage, and an app for store personnel. If this is the case, I’d better make sure the people who are
designing, building and running this have the tools at their disposal to enable them to do the job fast, well, and while having some fun.

Thanks to Agile, we'll be seeing much better user-adoption rates of new digital tech in the workforce of the future, because the ability to achieve objectives will depend primarily on access to fit-for-purpose tools. Moreover, demand will come directly from the workforce, rather than forced top-down by management. 

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Topics: Agile Transformations, Digital Strategy