Adam Good
Oct 30, 2017

Big-bang disruption and how to deal with it

When companies are forced to deal with world-altering changes, culture must adapt before technology to allow digital transformation.

Big-bang disruption and how to deal with it

Company culture reflects an organization’s deepest and most tightly held beliefs and values. Those beliefs and values have had years and often decades to become deeply entrenched and often played a significant role in why the organization reached its level of success in the first place.

Thinking these beliefs and values can be easily changed is a fool’s errand.

As a CDO (chief digital officer) I am regularly tasked with moving companies into the digital age via newly created customer-first strategies, go-to market programs and mobile-first engagement platforms. With this role, I have often underestimated an organization’s ability to change quickly. I've often been surprised with pushback when the culture rejects the new way of doing things.

Frankly, it depends greatly on what business vertical and industry I am working in. Industries that are in the midst of a short-fuse, big-bang disruption—like travel, finance, retail, professional services, media, telecommunications and our very own advertising industry—are seeing an explosive and immediate impact on traditional business models.

Company resistance to embracing a digital transformation is often culture-driven, as the people in the company believe in their deepest soul still that the old days of working are still more relevant than not.

Big-bang digital disruption is a force that rocks the foundations of a business, and many times over I have seen how management teams, while seeing change coming, were not prepared and/or willing to adjust and invest quickly enough.

Other times I find myself operating in a vertical group where a longer fuse, big-bang digital disruption is occurring, and it’s here that you find that applying digital transformation strategies that tend to move towards cost efficiency are the key drivers. Industries such as auto, FMCG, education, health, transport, agriculture and utility sectors are examples.

While all industries are being disrupted, you need to call on all your experience to drive the right amount of velocity. The objective is to make sure engagement paths and new revenues proliferate rather than become restricted because the disruption has taken a front seat.

These velocity decisions impact how tasks are conceived, led and resourced and in many cases how you employ culture-change management to nurture the digital-transformation program. Another important factor is thinking on a global scale, rather than the traditional local market level which often conflicts with many organizations operating structures.

Digital transformation should always look for programs that increase automation and gather and analyze unprecedented amounts of data so they can stay relevant in a competitive global market.

While cost efficiencies are necessary strategies, a digital-transformation program must have the core goal to deliver customer acquisition, engagement and usage. The program should be developed to have milestones on customer interaction. The program should look to be finding constant improvements. In the early days, it is about testing, learning, implementing and scaling quickly.

This combination means there are a vast array of capabilities and skills required to stitch together large-scale, audience-led digital transformation.

The leader of a digital-transformation program must have a clear, customer-centric upbringing. Ideally they have spent their entry career creating compelling stories across many different types of media channels, and were brought up on design-thinking approaches and techniques that can then be fused to screen customer-first approaches, tracked to agreed business models and defined audiences and financial plans. Yes, you need to be able to communicate and action all of this to have a successful digital-transformation agenda.

The leader of a digital transformation must also have a passion for the arts, blended with a scientific-method mindset to use the tools of the day, but also be innovative always—looking ahead to find an edge.

I find digital transformation strategies should be 'story told'. They must always be mindful and have an understanding of how the changes impact other stakeholders.

I also find it essential to communicate the understanding of what drives a new culture, as well as the opportunity. Culture always trumps strategy, so any digital-transformation strategy has to be collaborative at all times, seeking out digital artisans and change agents within the company itself, its agencies/service providers and its end customers.

A successful technique is to foster a partner ecosystem for co-innovation and co-creation. The team that is created for this assignment must also give the project leads and middle managers latitude to fail fast, so they can learn even more quickly.

In summary, it's not technology that drives change, but rather companies that don’t allow legacy culture to slow down a digital transformation in a fast-moving digital economy. That is, companies must become disruptors or risk being disrupted. 

Adam Good is chief digital officer wth Dentsu Brand Agencies APAC.


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