Going Beyond Digital Transformation

3 minutes to read, posted on March 18, 2020, by Peter Mullen

It seems that every major company has worked their way through a digital transformation program at some time. They are often launched when a new CEO or CIO decides that a change is required because the company is obviously heading in the wrong direction. Alternatively, a new market entrant shakes up their industry to the point that what they have done for years looks irrelevant – change becomes essential for survival.

But what’s the reality of these digital transformation projects? A management consultant points to an image of chaos marked ‘today’ and then a calm and tranquil place that they call ‘the future.’ Many consultants talk about defining your ‘future state’ as step one, so you can then work backward to the present and define the required steps. They also charge real dollars for this wisdom.

The problem is that as a famous young American philosopher once said: “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

That’s the reality of running a business today. How can you define the way that you want your business to run three years from now? How can you list all the required steps needed to get there and then actually take those steps one-by-one when you will not arrive at paradise for three years?

In those three years, your competition may have changed, your supply chain may have changed, a virus pandemic may have spread across the world, and the technology industry may have invented a completely new device that replaces the need for smartphones. Where is your future state strategy when everything that affects your business is changing every month?

The reality is that every great business needs to be changing continuously. Gartner once called this ContinuousNEXT – an evolution that goes beyond the dated concept of digital transformation projects.

ContinuousNEXT makes change management an integral part of every operation and process within your company. This requires building a corporate culture that embraces change and has the flexibility to evolve as things change. This requires a different approach to many areas of the business, such as continuous quality assessment, continuous data protection, continuous backup, and for the people, continuous performance management.

This short video from Gartner offers a further introduction to the idea, but in short, I think the Gartner definition really does point a way to the future. The truth is that we are standing on the edge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and watching as the scope and velocity of change dramatically increases. In this modern business environment, your main rival in 2021 may not even exist today or may enter your industry from a completely different area – look at how Amazon now dominates the cloud computing market or Apple is a major player in payments. Competition no longer follows the old rules.

Digital transformation is a dated concept that needs to be left in the business school history books. Executives today need to be aware of how their customers, industry, company, people, and technologies are all changing continuously and how they should constantly adjust to deliver the best possible service.

This is what ContinuousNEXT describes and I will go into some more detail about the Gartner approach – along with more of my own ideas – in my next few articles.

Photo credit: Bryan Mathers

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