3 ways to tackle Digital Transformation

At the end of last month, I joined several others from across the planning, advertising, and media community for an evening of talks, videos (and endless memes) as part of the quarterly Google Firestarters event, hosted by Google and curated by Only Dead Fish founder Neil Perkin.

The focus of the evening was ‘Deciphering Digital Transformation’; diving into what is one of the most talked about issues for many organisations, who are quickly adapting their capabilities in order to understand and command the digital field. Pressing questions for the event were; what are the key ways in which agencies can navigate this complex territory? What role can they play in helping their clients on the journey? What are the skills needed to equip the strategists of the future to address these new challenges? And what can we learn from those businesses already undergoing significant change?

By way of an answer, we were offered three different perspectives on dealing with transformation: people-led, agile-led, and product-led.

People-led: Emily Webber, Tacit London

  • Connect people that support each other
  • Stop talking about (and shaming) people as individuals – start talking about them as groups
  • Distil digital capabilities through communities of practice
  • Communities of practice allow for decentralised learning
  • Learning is more effective when done together
  • It’s all about collaboration- building on top of each other’s ideas
  • Organisations should treat learning as a whole
  • As organisations transform they need to assess: What skills do people need? What do they have already? What skills do they need to learn? AKA “Delivery Mapping”
Delivery Mapping

Delivery Mapping (Dan North and Chris Matts): A skills matrix to understand organisation and individual needs

  • Match people up within the organisation that can impart skills
  • Communities of practice mean people getting better at their job together (learning and sharing and solving problems
  • Working together to create a standard output and checks
  • People who talk to each other more are way more successful
  • Feedback loops helps us learn faster

Her final word of advice for the room was that “with an empowered network people can really fly”.

Product-led: Tim Malbon, Founder, Made by Many

  • The central organising principle at Made by Many is The Product
  • Think of the digital product as by-product and transformation as the reason for working with someone – reverse the polarity
  • Rapidly test and evolve the product and model through prototyping
  • Catalyse transformational change; build the capabilities to make change continuous; measure and evolve the strategy
  • The ‘product’ is the catalyst and lever for big change
  • Think about what you are transforming into- ask where are we going to?
  • Ideally product transformation leads to an agile state (innovative, self-organising, cross-functional)
  • To develop a successful digital product:
    • be customer centric
    • lean and agile
    • innovate continuously
    • intentionally manage organisational change

Lastly, he told us that although having a fast/high impact/quality product is important- it’s not always about having the maximum number of features, sometimes it’s about doing less to get ahead.

Agile-led: Lucia Adams, Transformation Consultant

  • Everything you think you know about the digital transformation is wrong
  • Organisations approach it with the idea that is it 90% digital and 10% human, but in reality it is 90% human and 10% digital
  • Forget about the lone digital expert in organisations- change is not a single thing, it’s a form
  • Dispel the idea of overnight success (slow hunches build over time in layers)
  • Dispel the idea that we can plan and then execute when it comes to digital transformation- instead it’s about collisions and discoveries
  • Forget about command and control and remember “error sets off the truth
  • Don’t look for total overhaul, instead exaptation

ExaptionAnd finally, Lucia drove home the point that for any business undergoing a transformation, is it important to remember that “change doesn’t happen in isolation.”

If you want to learn more about Firestarter events and access write ups of previous events, visit the Only Dead Fish blog http://www.onlydeadfish.co.uk/only_dead_fish/google-firestarters.html


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