Jirimiko Oranen Nov 29, 2022 4:49:45 PM

3 Cambridge lessons on winning in digital transformation

Do or die. Today’s cutting edge is tomorrow’s legacy. The concept of ‘digital’ evolves constantly. The landscape is dominated by enterprises born digital, but they, too, need to run fast to retain their competitive edge.

I recently participated in the Cambridge University Judge Business school programme on Digital Innovation and Transformation. 

For two intensive days, a room packed with top professionals from Ireland to Indonesia and UK to Africa dug into the essentials of winning in digital transformation.  

The key takeaways from Cambridge:

1. Play the long game - digital business is about ecosystems 

Riding the wave crest of digital transformation is a complex business. At its core is the capability to envision, to come up with genuinely disruptive innovation that keeps the enterprise ahead of the pack.

The products that the enterprise designs need to bring something new to the table. Platforms and services need a solid USP to win in the market. Otherwise, new entrants to the fray will overtake their place in the sun. The incumbent is always at the risk of inertia (slowness) and entropy (becoming unfocused) setting in.

Outside, the ravenous lions are circling. But luckily, so are friends.

A successful business orchestrates an ecosystem that collectively propels all concerned on a trajectory of increased revenue and supernormal profit margins. These ecosystems are converging towards cloud environments, but regardless of industry vertical, success will involve a multitude of technologies.

In this new economy, sustaining leadership has changed the collaboration mode between partners. The concept of “vendor” is a dangerous one, reactionary throwback to decades past. In an agile digital jungle, you need trusted teammates, which is reflected in how the most innovative enterprises approach their partners. 

They’re looking for innovation buddies not servants. Top experts are not keen on playing the part of an obsequious servant. And without access to top experts, a digital business is as good as dead.

2. Transform or die. Engage or die. Convince or die.

There’s the thorny issue of stakeholder buy-in. It’s terribly cumbersome, of course, but stakeholders need to be onboard. Otherwise, the transformation process will stop in its tracks. In a worst-case scenario, that’s the end of the business.

External stakeholders include potential employees, customers, owners and financiers, and the media. And then there is the staff and the thing about organisational culture.

As I’ve implied in an earlier post (link below), a lethal trait of wishful thinking lurks nearby – where you believe that the rest of the organisation knows what you know and that they agree with you.

They most probably don’t.

For example, transforming the clumsy beast that is old-fashioned industrial thinking into an agile, sprint-oriented digital animal is a herculean task. Failure often sets in from the word go.

3. Get ready to grind

It’s crucial to understand why exactly we need and want to transform. Without a strong sense of urgency and a promise of rewards, the tribe will not understand why it needs to move. The organisation needs a shared digital vision to which it can subscribe. 

The rest, in principle, is easy. You tell the forces to kick off digital and encourage them to keep moving. Easy-peasy. You wish. 

It’s a huge task. Please check out my previous post for details. If you come from the old world and need to run against increasingly digital-native competitors, you might have to challenge ways of thinking and working – and make people agree to reforge their identities. And we all know how hard that is.

First, a change of culture needs to manifest itself in the visible artefacts of the organisation, such as the workspace. Second, espoused values must direct individuals and teams in the right direction. Third, change needs to penetrate the deepest layers of organisational thinking and become ingrained in the basic underlying assumptions we make about our environment, which guide our actions. 

Unless you reach the third layer, the enterprise may end up limbo – while competition marches on.

On that note – award-winning change processes lead the way

Netprofile has worked with numerous leading organisations on change initiatives, and we have been awarded for our contribution – lately in the Finnish Comms Awards in 2021 and 2022, for instance. The range of projects runs from system implementation rounds to gelling together teams in an M&A setting. We know it’s not easy, but we also know what it takes to move the organisation in the right direction. 

Importantly, we understand the underlying business reasons for organisations to go digital, and we’re in tune with our tech clients who help enterprises to become future-proof.

If you want to discuss the topic further, please click the button below, drop me a line at jiri@netprofile.fi, or just give me a ring at +358 40 75 66 655.