A superhero approach to digital transformation
Superheroes may not be the first things that come to mind, when you think about digital transformation. Perhaps you are thinking about business strategy and how to secure the future of the company. Perhaps you are wondering where to get started with all the new technologies. Or you are thinking of something completely different.
But if you think about it, superheroes are the masters of transformation. They use all kinds of technologies (remember, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) and their powers offer new capabilities to achieve the desired outcomes.
So, let’s take a leap of imagination and take a superhero perspective on the digital transformation.
Imagine you have super-powers
You can imagine the difference as being like the difference between how you, as a mortal human being would solve a specific problem, and how Wonder Woman would solve the same problem. The extra super-powers open opportunities to look completely differently at the problem, which means that the process and the tools applied will be different and the outcome may either be better or happen faster or both.
Digital technologies are a kind of super-power, because they allow us humans to do much, much more than our normal capabilities allow. Thanks to his fortune, Bruce Wayne is able to acquire and develop the advanced technologies, which make his alter ego, Batman, possible. Fortunately for most of us many very advanced technologies are available at accessible prices via cloud-based services, but of course some tools need to be developed specifically for customized needs.
See your business not as it is, but as it could be
All superheroes need a call to action, some emergency to deal with. In your case it is your business. The very future of your business and everyone inside it is at stake. Digital transformation in itself is kind of abstract although there are many models to explain it. Learning by practice and by doing is an excellent way of getting to grips with the concept, so let’s look at an example.
Your business consists of many connected processes and both the big picture and the details count, but let’s take a specific concrete example from our line of business in Acumex: negotiations in trading or procurement.
The first question you can start with to get going is:
Do you negotiate today as part of your trading/procurement activities?
If the answer is no, the follow up question is: why not? Maybe you are not familiar with the benefits of negotiations. Maybe you are, but you face other limitations (for instance not enough time or too complex). Now, this is where you imagine having super-power technology. What would you do differently, if you could overcome these limitations with technology?
If the answer to the first question was yes, you may nonetheless see some limitations in your outcome of your current negotiations. Perhaps it is difficult for your team of purchasers to coordinate their activities? Perhaps you have too many product lines to be able to negotiate the details? Or your spreadsheet files are too complex to actually give you a full overview of the situation. Also here, you imagine what the situation could be like if you had super-power technology.
What would you do differently, if you could overcome these limitations with technology?
At this point you may start seeing some new opportunities in your business. Perhaps you can skip some processes completely. Perhaps you can go much further and deeper in others. Perhaps you can negotiate more frequently in less time. Perhaps your team can negotiate based on shared knowledge.
Once you look beyond the limitations in the processes defined by human capabilities you can rethink them. This is no longer incremental optimization. It is transformative and in the process you can unlock value tied in the old processes and create new ways to generate revenue.
What is in the Batcave?
Imagination running wild is quite fun, but at some point, of course, it has to materialize in your business, which requires some real, functioning technology. Every superhero has a set of super-powers. It is important to understand their use and limitations.
You need to have an idea of which technologies are available to you. This is not much different from going to your shed to see which tools you have to repair your roof. Different tools can do the job, but some are more suited for the job than others. It may feel more cool imagining your shed is the Batcave, but in any case you need to know the inventory.
Bruce Wayne starts with an empty cave (except for the bats), so he studies what is available inside his company, learns from suppliers, talks with experts, reads material on the internet and finally adapts it all to his purpose. It doesn’t happen at once. First iterations fail and need to be improved. He also realizes, that it is not enough to have the right tools. He, the human being, also needs to train and be in top condition for the job. It is not magic. It is knowledge and hard work.
Now, the same options are available to you. You can get acquainted with the principles of new technologies such as AI (in all its shapes), blockchain, robots, internet of things etc. by talking with suppliers, reading material on the internet, attending conferences etc. The more you know, the better you can shape your thinking around your specific purpose. Nonetheless, you need to see it as an iterative process with experiments, failures, learning and progress, but this is how you develop super-powers. It is also how you train the organization and develop the human skillset.
As you practice and grow your understanding of the principles behind the technologies and how they can be applied, you will look at your business processes in new ways. You will look at them with a digital first mindset and gradually your Batcave will fill up with new super-power tools.
Start the transformation process by re-imagining your business as if you had super-powers. Ask a lot of "what if"-questions looking beyond current limitations. Give your imagination tools to work with by training your understanding of the principles and build an inventory of technologies and providers to call upon when needed.
Remember these 3 steps:
1. Aspire to be Wonder Woman
(long shot, because she has magical super-powers, but a great aspiration to pursue)
2. Accept that Batman is also pretty cool
(technology-powered human being, looks and feels almost like super-powers)
3. And train like Bruce Wayne
(human beings need to be in good shape and up to speed to leverage the technology)
Hope you found some inspiration in this way of thinking about digital transformation. For more inspiration you can follow Acumex on linkedin, read our blog posts and our Simple Ideas series on our website.
In Acumex we specialize in technology related to negotiations in trading and procurement. Reach out to us for a talk about that and for other inspiration on your digital transformation journey.