The Secret Sauce of Digital Transformation. Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Technology

A few weeks ago, I was in a well-known restaurant in Los Angeles for a birthday treat. I’d been waiting to go there for ages but while the food was fantastic, the overall experience was ruined by poor service.

The greeting was underwhelming, the staff didn’t seem to be communicating with each other and everything felt disjointed. Consequently, the meal took several hours and what should have been an amazing experience turned out to be a memorable night for all the wrong reasons. I won’t be going back – even though the restaurant has since offered me a free meal as an apology.

Re-Imagining The Future

But why am I telling you this? After all, I can’t imagine any of you started reading this article hoping for a restaurant recommendation!

For me, the experience provides a fitting analogy for digital transformation. Just as great food can be let down by bad service, the success of a digital business goes beyond simply the solutions delivered. Unlocking the true power of digital transformation – and doing it fast – is as much about organizational motivation and outstanding experience as it is about the mechanics.

That’s not to diminish the importance of getting the right digital solutions in place. To stick with our restaurant analogy, you can’t make a great meal without great ingredients. Yet those digital ‘ingredients’ are simply the what. No business can succeed without also considering the why and the how.

Put another way, digital transformation is more than simply ‘digitizing’ the organization. It’s about reimagining the future and becoming agile and adaptive to change.

Making Elephants Run

For large organizations, the journey from a legacy business to a digital one is filled with risk, challenges and ambiguity, as well as inertia caused by not knowing what to do or fear of getting it wrong.

At BeyondCurious, we talk a lot about ‘making elephants run’, the process of helping large organizations gain momentum in their own digital change programs. Our proprietary methodology is based on agile principles designed to unlock everyday innovation. We believe that to navigate uncertainty and solve big complex problems, businesses must make the problem smaller, thereby reducing risk, overcoming fear, and moving from inertia to impetus.

That’s why we employ three different types of 2-week sprints – Spark, Ignite, and Accelerate – each with a unique purpose and defined set of tools and techniques. These sprints can be used in any combination, helping organizations rapidly evolve their business, culture, customer experiences and capabilities, while navigating their own idiosyncratic challenges with greater clarity and confidence.

Unlocking Innovation

That includes focusing on the area where most effective digital transformation journeys begin: people. It may sound counter-intuitive but one of the biggest mistakes organizations can make when looking to innovate at speed is to move too quickly at the beginning. Only by taking the time to collectively grasp primary motivators and barriers, identify unmet needs, and analyze key operational factors and market conditions, can they hope to set off on the right track.

For example, when the Miami HEAT asked us to take its mobile app to the next level for fans, we engaged them in a three-day innovation accelerator session to align all leaders on a future vision, define business objectives, agree the experience principles, and gain consensus on the innovation journey ahead. All before we even discussed any specific digital solution.

These early days are also the time to bring together different people from around the organization who can look at problems from diverse angles – what we refer to as pod-model thinking. This isn’t about generating votes and driving consensus. Rather, it’s about encouraging divergent thinking, synthesizing ideas, and distilling them down to key decisions and outcomes as a single hive mind. Often, it’s the difference between a painless transformation and a painstaking one.

Empowering Action

Once a business has gathered insights and agreed to a clear plan for success, the next step is to act. At this stage, whether you’re testing a business strategy hypothesis, building an enterprise platform, or developing a digital customer experience, the key is to get to the right solution.

For us, this is the Ignite sprint and it involves testing and validating solutions iteratively, moving forward with actionable recommendations. Prototypes should be created, tested, and continuously refined until the benchmark metrics are achieved. Throughout this process, pods work collaboratively, communicate constantly, and share findings transparently.

Here too, failure is quite common…and should be embraced. After all, innovation is not possible without taking risks and trying new things. The key is to fail fast, learn immediately, and pivot quickly.

Driving Optimization

Once the correct solution is confirmed through testing and validation, it’s time to implement. But even this mustn’t be viewed as the end-game. In fact, the last thing any business should do at this point is sit back and think ‘job done’. Instead, the testing and refinement program has to continue, so optimization never ends.

A good tactic is to think of launch as simply the first day of the life of the strategy or solution. As new opportunities arise, or as business or customer needs change, the strategy or solution must keep evolving and improving too.

The Secret Sauce

All of which brings us full circle. My birthday meal in LA wasn’t ruined by the quality of the food or the restaurant’s eventual attempts to fix it with a free return. What they forgot is that delivering a great experience, and building a motivated and aligned team, is as important as offering a high-quality product.

Similarly, to successfully transform for the digital future, organizations must consider their culture as well as their technology platforms. Without strategic alignment and a mindset of everyday innovation, no product or platform can save them from digital disruption.

Helping organizations commit to their own evolution and unlock the momentum within is what, at BeyondCurious, we call our secret sauce. It’s how we make elephants run.

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