‘Performing while you transform’ ─ the hallmark of a digital mindset
Those who ‘join-the-dots’ between small, iterative, and repeatable gains in relevant areas, while keeping the existing business performing, will emerge as winners
True digital transformation isn’t easy to understand, let alone master, and it takes time. According to our recently released NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report, only 40.1% of respondents perceive themselves to be well-advanced or to have completed their journey. However, there are encouraging signs that organizations’ initial feelings of anxiety about the unknown are starting to settle, they’re feeling more comfortable, and leaders are developing a more balanced, holistic view of the digital opportunity and associated transformation process.
So, what can we learn from those making the greatest strides towards digital maturity? The results of the research, coupled with our experience in working with clients across the globe, give us some clear indicators of how and where digital maturity levels are on the rise.
Digitally mature businesses have developed an innate capacity to continuously identify, test, experiment, and validate numerous opportunities … while keeping their existing businesses operating effectively
They understand that it’s not by focusing on being mature that you become mature – maturity is achieved by concentrating on initiatives that are attuned to appropriate external opportunities and encourage the correct internal responses and behaviours. This approach, when applied consistently, allows maturity gains to gather momentum and multiply.
True progress is seldom ‘exponential’; it comes from small but repeatable gains in the right areas. In isolation, they don’t necessarily amount to large-scale transformation. But, over time, incremental successes translate to tangible advances that are mature, which will help organizations establish, sustain, and extend their competitive advantage.
But at the same time, organizations can’t lose focus on protecting their existing businesses. Harmonizing how to become digitally astute with managing ‘business-as-usual’ is not a simple feat − but it’s essential. The adage ‘there’s no such thing as a digital strategy, just a business strategy in a digital world’ holds true, and as legacy organizations start becoming more digitally mature, the boundaries between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots’ will begin to narrow and blur.
Transformation is an ongoing journey of learning and adapting
The path organizations are pursuing is continuously shifting and calls for a new way of thinking and acting. Successfully maturing businesses recognize that people, mindsets, and behaviours – along with a culture that promotes experimentation and failure – will lay a stable foundation for maturity.
As organizations mature, it introduces a level of comfort from having the ability to respond to uncertainty in an appropriate manner. In assessing the results of our research, based on respondents' maturity throughout their digital journey, there’s a direct correlation between those realizing relevant, outcomes-driven value and those seeing maturity starting to take effect.
This supports the notion that once you embed this way of thinking to become the ‘normal way of doing business’, your efforts will start to become self-managing and self-sustaining. As the renowned American writer, Darren L Johnson once said: ‘Don't allow old traditions to become permanent mental scripts for managing your life in the present. Reason: you will not be able to transform yourself to think differently and be better as you grow with age and maturity.’i
As with most types of maturity, the experience and wisdom that’s gained over time increase levels of ownership and accountability by a broader audience
In mature organizations, every person has the appropriate digital skills, ways of work, and the mandate to plan and execute their activities in an integrated manner. Encouragingly, our research reveals that there’s a perception that more people within the organization are now part of the digital journey. For example, when asked: ‘How is your organization’s digital transformation strategy delivered?’, 64.0% of respondents indicated that it’s delivered through a centralized model and/or via an integrated organization-wide effort.
My top recommendations on how to advance your digital maturity:
- Have a clear vision and commit to pursuing the long-term game; remain steadfast in addressing known issues that contribute to bigger and unknown ones, which may create some initial despondence.
- Keep your short-term focus on delivering quick wins and learnings, which will contribute to your broader plan.
- Continually test and validate initiatives with customers and other stakeholders to verify that the intended outcomes of your initiatives are still aligned to value.
- Focus on developing your employees: encourage agility and innovation and cultivate a digital mindset.
The hallmarks of digital maturity are a culmination of accelerated efforts that enforce iterative success on a repetitive basis. Organizations who are able to bank key learnings, successes, and failures and leverage these insights cross-functionally and organization-wide, are emerging as winners. And the exponential effect that flows from maturity gains helps organizations to sustain and extend their advantage … and thereby master the challenge of ‘performing while they transform’.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our research and opinions on this topic, download the Executive Guide to the NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report.
iDarren L Johnson is an organizational development and change management professional, and executive business coach