December 30, 2018

Digital Transformation to Survive in '19

This is a cross-post from an article I published on LinkedIn.
Today I came across a quote and realised the enormity of it. The quote inspired me to write this article. It is an excerpt of some preliminary text from the book I started writing in late 2017 and am still working on while typing this article. A book for which I am still trying to find an appropriate working title.

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” - Jack Welch

The enormity of this quote is in the fact that unless an organisation can adapt to a changing world, one that is changing at an ever increasing rate, the organisation is doomed to seize to existing. Having worked with and still working in organisations that are realising that change is needed in order to survive, especially in the long run. I often encounter leadership that is acting more like a 'management-team' than a 'group of leaders' welcoming change and promote that change. A core cause of problems when implementing the required changes.

Finances to drive change

These organisations financial outlook typically show the necessity of change, but all too often those same finances insufficiently show the required pace in order for that organisation to survive.

The change I am referring to is often initiated under the name 'Digital Transformation'. A transformation many organisations find themselves in. Unfortunately, it is often met by the organisation's cynicism as it is perceived as yet another restructuring project. And in more cases than not, rightfully so. Any organisation that is looking for a sustainable means of staying competitive, will need to be able to continuously reinvent itself. It will need to adopt a practice of continuous change. As it is the only way to become more capable than the competition and excel on a never levelled playing field.

Understanding this need to adopt a mindset where 'to last' is replaced by 'for change' in the organisation's DNA, is the key to find the right sense of urgency. A sense of urgency that is a pre-requisite for a successful digital transformation.

Not just your average Agile Transformation

The 'Digital Transformation' is more than just an 'Agile Transformation', which typically takes place in the IT department. The agile transformation is limiting itself to a different way of working. Ranging from adopting an iterative approach in software development to empowering the team that develops the software also support the application in a production environment; DevOps. Embracing the build-measure-learn paradigm, these teams are not so much 'more efficient', instead they are 'more effective'. Increased effectiveness results in a reduced risk of 'bad investments'. It means being better able to act 'just-in-time'. This also increases the opportunity to be more efficient. And it is efficiency that leads to more productivity. 'More for the same' instead of 'the same for less'.

A digital transformation is one that impacts the full organisation, not just the IT department. It allows the organisation to leverage (new) technology to be more effective. Applying technology to increase effectiveness of an organisation. Improving the organisation's sustainability is what defines the difference between future success and future failure. The reason for this is that increased effectiveness allows an organisation to change at a higher rate 'on the inside' than it experiences change 'on the outside'. A prerequisite of surviving in the long run in a competitive market.

The full story

Shorter product development cycles, a typical objective of agile transformations, are only a tiny part of the full story. An essential part, but tiny in comparison to what else is needed. A digital transformation encompasses the restructuring of an organisation. With the intention to establish change (over time) organically. Change that allows the organisation to grow, or shrink, as required. One that as a trait, constantly reduces the 'chain-of-command' to its bare minimum. One that embeds 'build-measure-learn' in its core processes and where its leadership relentlessly applies fact-based decision making. Where measures of success are defined at the start of every initiative and that continuously searches for means to reduce the risk of 'not knowing'.

Although the transformation is mainly one that impacts the organisation and its processes. It is a transformation that almost religiously relies on the (digital) technology available in the market. Cloud, AI, Data Analytics etc allow us to work with all relevant information (facts) at our fingertips. But the introduction of these technologies are not what makes the digital transformation such a challenge. Harnessing them is. And since we are at the start of the evolution of these technologies, being able to change with them. As the new techhnologies become ever more sophisticated and powerful, they will set the boys apart from the men. But mind you, it will most likely be the boys that will come out on top.


The digital transformation, therefore, is one that transforms an organisation from a mindset of 'to-last' to a mindset of 'for-change'. From one that finds its future in a foundation of bedrock, to one that finds it future in being able to surf the waves. Traditional stability is focused on not having to change in a changing world, whereas adaptability is focused on being able to change with a changing world.

Thanks once again for reading my blog. Please don't be reluctant to Tweet about it, put a link on Facebook or recommend this blog to your network on LinkedIn. Heck, send the link of my blog to all your Whatsapp friends and everybody in your contact-list. But if you really want to show your appreciation, drop a comment with your opinion on the topic, your experiences or anything else that is relevant.


This article is reflecting my own, personal, opinion and does not reflect in any way the views, ideas or opinions of any organisation I work or worked for. It is based on my own personal experiences and research I conducted by myself.