The Journey to Date
Figure 1: Home is where the heart is, home is rural Ireland (view from my old bedroom)
I was very fortunate to have grown up in rural Ireland, but it is a part of the world where the local population are notoriously agnostic to the embracement and effective utilization of digital technologies. Our household was not particularly tech savvy growing up, to say the least; my own father has just recently embraced the idea of FaceTime. To that effect, there is certainly an element of “a child on Christmas morning” when I learn of a fascinating new technological advancement and perhaps it is my limited exposure in my youth which has ignited my interest in this topic now.
Figure 2: The great man in action. Took all of 30 mins to write and send this text.
I also consider myself lucky to have been granted the opportunity to intern at IBM last summer, which showed me that this is an area that I need to become a subject expert in, and having a passing interest is no longer enough for me to effectively do my role and pursue my career goals with IBM. I joined the company at a time when COVID-19 had taken a strangle-hold on our way of life, forcing us all into new habits and sending daily business meetings into cyberspace. Video hosting platforms like Zoom and WebEx became our go-to for meeting with colleagues from the comfort of our home offices (bedrooms). For some the transition was easier than for others, and I recently saw a quote which summed up 2020 in a nutshell; “you’re on mute”.
Figure 3: Out of my comfort zone in my digital office.
Through my personal experiences to date, I have developed a passion for digital technologies. However, I now understand that my knowledge levels have only scratched the surface in terms of the capabilities of technology to not only make companies work faster, smarter and more efficiently, but also to fundamentally change how industries operate and most importantly, how these technologies are being developed and utilized to bring value to the customer, and improving our overall all way-of-life.
But I believe this also represents a challenge from an educational point of view when you consider the speed and rate at which digital technologies are changing and evolving. And for that reason, I am less concerned with learning about the various intricacies of the technologies themselves, than I am with developing the skills that will enable me to learn and develop in the digital environment- learn the methods not the madness so to speak.
The Journey Ahead
It is a fascinating time to be studying digital transformation. The last 12 months have shown organizations that in order to survive, they have had to embrace digital technologies in a way they may not have been doing so previously. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation within enterprises big and small across the globe, and I am excited to learn about the best practices for effective transformation, as well as the opportunities for the future. Microsoft have recently announced better-than-expected quarterly results citing the “dawn of a second wave of digital transformation sweeping every company and every industry”, which serves to enhance my own enthusiasm at being able to gain a better insight into the companies who are successfully riding this wave, with digital capabilities now representing the currency driving every company. In addition research from IDC suggests that by 2022, fully 80 percent of revenue growth will depend on digital offerings and operations, which indicates that many organizations will survive or die based on the success of their digital implementation strategies.
It is also incredible to see how companies are utilizing social media and embedding different social networks into their digital transformation strategy. Recent figures on the importance of social media in all our lives would suggest the reasons why; active social media in 2020 passed the 3.8 billion mark, and it is estimated that the average person has an account on more than 9 different social media networks, spending a daily average of over 2 hours engaged on social media. I still shudder when my iPhone sends me a weekly usage report every Sunday. For now, I’m excusing my usage as ‘research’ for this class…….so watch this space.
Not surprisingly, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform with over 2.5 billion users and so it is no surprise that companies are using the platform as a crucial tool in their transformation journeys.
Figure 4: The power of Facebook
There have been many success stories of digital transformation but the case of Dell Technologies is certainly one that caught my own eye (I have always kept a passing eye on the fortunes of Dell having grown up close to one of their largest European factories). What is interesting about Dell is that they have recognized the importance of the company-employee-customer dynamic and the inherent alignment of those relationships when embarking on their digital strategies, and how they utilized social media to do so, a strategy which is allowing them to drive sales, brand visibility, and employee engagement. These are the types of strategies that I am certainly excited to learn more about, and especially about how companies are utilizing digital technologies and platforms to create competitive advantages.
Figure 6: 5 Ways Digital Creates Competitive Advantage
I look forward to digging deeper into the common pitfalls of why companies are struggling to adopt digital transformation, what is hindering its progress, and also the characteristics of leaders who have been successful in efficiently implementing digital technologies within their organization. Years of research have estimated the success rate of digital transformations to be somewhere in the region of 30% but, McKinsey conducted a study which showed only 16% of respondents attributed success to large-scale digital transformations. Common pitfalls sighted included a lack of employee engagement, insufficient management support, poor cross-functional collaboration, and the absence of accountability, all of which puts the focus on the organization rather than the technologies themselves.
This potential for organizations to control their own digital destiny is reinforced by the research conducted in the textbook for this class, which reiterates how digital transformation is ultimately about people, emphasizing the importance of strong leadership to succeed. EY have identified the following six habits of digital transformation leaders
- Focusing on customers first and foremost
- Accelerating AI to drive growth
- Driving innovation through ecosystems and partnerships
- Nurturing talent with new incentives and strategies
- Activating governance plans for emerging tech
- Powering innovation by leveraging data and being agile
I’m looking forward to digging into each of these and in particular how the concepts of Agile are critical to successful implantation of digital strategies, having just recently being exposed to working in an Agile environment.
As I look forward to the semester ahead, I leave you with the words of one of the founding fathers of digital transformation, and a man who dominated this week’s headlines:
“There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies will carve out new strategic options for themselves — those that don’t adapt, will fail.”
— Jeff Bezos