Updated: Feb 2
One of the most difficult things about any transformation is defining the end state. "When do you know the transformation is complete?". It is even more complicated as you start thinking about the overall enterprise. As you think about Digital Transformation, there are probably three stages of it:
Clearly articulating the difference between these three becomes a bit of a problem. Guess what everything is digital.One of the analogs that best describes it is the journey of autonomous cars and human behaviors around it.
In 2002, when I first migrated to the United States, one of the many fascinating things was Yahoo or Map Quest maps. Me and my fellow immigrant roommates would enter the destination, print the directions, and pretty much everyone in the car navigated "take the exit","ugh we need to turn around off the next exit", "take left in two lights" all of these were typical statements.
This to me is a perfect example of Digitized Enterprise. All the directions are in a database, you can pull a query, check, and manually take actions. Today, when I see such situations it is symptomatic of an enterprise that is either just digitizing itself (or) has done a half-ass job of digitizing itself.
Companies that are implementing or re-implementing ERPs are a great example. They have spent years documenting their processes, defining business rules, implementing it, supporting it with hyper care, complained about it, and eventually compromised to use the ERP solution. The processes are digitized, the information is all there, and decision making is akin to our car rides in 2002.
This worked in 2002 and was a competitive advantage. Not anymore.
I very vividly remember this day. When I first met my (now spouse), we were going to explore a farm in rural parts of Amherst/South Hadley, Massachussets. I had always been the "always in cities consulting guy" and some of this was fascinatingly uncomfortable to me! She had a Nokia GPS and I was a very new iPhone 3G user. We put the directions in the Nokia GPS and started driving. It kept telling us turn right/turn left and at some point said "missing satellite connection". Guess what there was no visible humanity around. Like a shining knight with an armor, I pulled my iPhone 3G, tried to find a sliver of a line on the signal indicator, it worked and we moved over to the iPhone literally since that day!
The dramatization aside, this is an example of an Intelligent Enterprise. The digitization is put into use systems alert you about most of the decisions, you follow that but make judicious choices in extreme circumstances.
Companies that have now implemented a data warehouse, pulled all the information from ERP into this, and have started creating dashboards are all a great example of this.
When a transformation is led by the tech department, it stalls here. The business says it's not working for them and the tech says business isn't doing anything with it. This is where the log jam and a pool of dissent begins and also the place where Enterprise Agile ways of working comes into play.
Business and tech teams hunker around a specific problem and start solving them via inter disciplinary teams. Most companies don't make this leap as it begins to challenge several underlying tenets of a company's DNA or silos or people's skillsets.
Look around today. You are pretty much entering the destination in your device and it gets you there with minimal intervention. The digitization and intelligence is robust to help you get there. It even tells you "hey the store you are going to may close by the time you get there" (or) "show you the nearest eating joint or rest area" (or) "other people are beginning to collaborate and say there is a pot hole or cop near by".
This is a new type of an enterprise - called the Autonomous Enterprise. It is still a tad immature. An enterprise where digitization and intelligence is robust and the "computer" is working along side the humans. Siri or Google Maps is the third person with you in the car navigating for you. The computer is subliminally with you. You can continue to correct the maps as well and with every turn you make somewhere the system gets better finding more routes to get to the same place.
This requires re-orienting the people with different behaviors - like don't fall asleep behind the wheel, stop looking at the phone, follow the speed limits, and others.
The next phase of this Autonomous Enterprise is the auto-driving functionality of Tesla or a WayMo. The external environment is auto detected and internal decisions are automated. The cameras and/or the LIDARs recognize the crazy environment outside, compute millions of data points in less than milliseconds and automatically make the decisions. The humans are doing a few different things - 1) Sitting inside the car and training it 2) Doing other things - sometimes fatal like falling asleep behind the steering wheel and in those split moments when computer fails not being there to course correct an action.
This is the next phase of Autonomous Enterprise. The skillsets needed includes training the enterprise to get smarter via computers to an extent that it came the right decisions for us. This also means, we need to learn new behaviors and high-value actions so as to not fal asleep behind the steering wheel.
Where is your company in this transformational journey?
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