Agile & Digital

‘Step on the gas’ to keep up with customers and competitors

According to HBR’s report entitled ‘the pace of technology is speeding up’, 40% of us had Smart phones within 10 years of them being introduced – whilst in contrast it took 64 years for traditional telephones to reach 40% penetration. Once our product or service becomes digital it becomes subject to exponential change and progress. Because of the speed of evolution, it is very hard to catch up with the competition once a gap is established – we need to act fast.

Because of this exponential rate of change in technology, almost everything we do now also needs to run at a higher clock speed.

01 Develop a 2-speed organization/ department

In order to keep this acceleration from spiralling out of control, McKinsey suggests developing a ‘2-speed’ or bimodal organization/ department.  In their slightly catchier phrase: ‘agility, it rhymes with stability’. This involves keeping the optimized operating machine stable, predicative and efficient – the marathon runner.  At the same time as carrying out digital innovations in an agile, fast and evolutionary mode – a series of sprints (especially but not only in IT).  We need to resource and protect the latter from corporate inertia and culture.

How will you help resolve the likely tension between digital change and traditional stability within your department or organization? A key element is speeding up our traditional teams so that they do not get left behind:

02 Imagine how you could do day-to-day or new tasks 10x faster

Famously even if someone presents a great idea at Google, leaders will often challenge back with ‘OK that’s great, but how can we do it 10 timesst faster?’  As a result of this challenge, the individual or team may only manage to execute their idea 2 or 3 times faster – but that will still be a big improvement.

This way of thinking helps us into the mindset of what else might be possible with technology to help, rather than limiting ourselves to traditional business constraints.

03 Manage in real time

In a digital world, managing is done in real time. That is, using technology to provide us instant information and constantly tweaking our course, rather than waiting weeks for a management report.  This includes ensuring we have more granular data and are therefore able to take more precise control.  Big data and sensors are replacing guessing in business. The right apps should reduce the amount of time required by somebody in our team to prepare this information.

For example, at P&G Asia, regional leader Deb Henretta introduced live dashboards that help the team keep a 24/7 pulse on consumer behaviour and activity – including web page load times, consumer reviews and overall sentiment on social media regarding their products.  This is a far cry from the quarterly and annual reports they were expected to produce in the past – however it allows for the kind of nimble reaction that will help keep P&G ahead of the many tech start-ups that are itching to take a chunk of their business.

04 Consider who to partner with

In today’s fast-paced world, trying to develop everything in-house may simply take too long.  Instead many successful firms look outside their four walls for people who already have the expertise to partner with – sometimes this can even involve competitors.

For example, German car makers BMW, Daimler and Audi came together to buy Nokia’s digital mapping business – enabling all of them to have access to technology essential for navigation and self-driving cars that would have taken a long time for each to develop on their own.

Who could you partner with to help accelerate your digital transformation?

As digital consultants at Bain argue, the amount of possibilities that digital can bring can feel overwhelming – however it can help to remember “it is a voyage toward a target that will shift over time. In this environment, the goal is to create an organization that is close enough to the market to detect when change is essential and agile enough to respond fast with the most competitive solution.” At the other end of the spectrum, some companies are feeling falsely complacent – if they’ve implemented a few predictive models, they feel they’ve ‘done digital’.  However, this is just the start of the journey.

To find out more about how to rewire your culture and skills to thrive in a digital world, download our new digital white paper here.




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