Digitization has become a must for organizations that want to stay relevant in today’s marketplace. Digitizing streamlines many of the day-to-day operations of a business, allowing it to offer seamless delivery of value both internally and externally with customers.
To digitize an organization is simple in concept, but that simplicity can be deceptive. In reality, digitization is like any other process of transformation: it has common roadblocks that must be addressed and overcome for successful implementation.
There are two fundamental and interrelated issues that often challenge organizations in their attempts to digitize:
- Reconciling digitization with existing processes and infrastructures, and
- Determining how the creation of digital experiences may transform the service offering
Addressing these issues successfully often requires a willingness to think beyond familiar parameters and find creative solutions based on open-minded exploration of all available possibilities.
Expanding the horizons of thought
One prevalent organization design mindset I’ve often observed is the tendency to limit oneself to options based on current capabilities. For example, a company seeking to create a great customer experience may begin designing from the perspective of the systems, physical facilities, or channels of distribution and communication that are already in place. The discussion then becomes one of “how do I leverage my existing talent, processes and infrastructure to deliver the experience the customer wants?”
The obvious flaw with this approach is that while it is often wise to make use of existing capabilities, existing capabilities may or may not enable the best solution to the problem. A design team that refuses to explore other options, or isn’t looking at new and innovative ways to utilize existing options, risks overlooking more efficient or more profitable solutions.
Let’s take a look now at how the second issue plays into the equation.
Are you asking the right questions?
Recently our team inside AlignOrg Solutions was looking at adopting a new methodology. One of the questions we had was: “How will we train people—both on our own team and beyond with our clients – on this methodology?” Until now we have largely used face-to-face training methods within a classroom setting. Because we have a lot of experience in the classroom, our initial instincts were to immediately ask, “How do we deliver this in the classroom?”
Historically, design teams have concentrated on two questions: what experience do we want to create, and how will we deliver it? That is exactly the path our team was starting to follow. However, it’s quite possible that our customers are not looking for a classroom experience at all and would be better served with training that occurs outside the classroom altogether.
This experience brings up a classic error of omission that can be avoided by inserting one additional question into the sequence:
- What experience are we trying to deliver for our customers?
- How do our customers want to have that experience?
- How would we design that experience?
Asking that critical second question is key to successful digital-first design. Without that question it is easy to end up designing a solution based solely on current capabilities and ways of thinking rather than truly exploring what would really solve the need.
Organization design for the digital age
Finally, it’s important to consider the timeframe shifts that digitization requires of an organization. Most IT projects undertaken by a traditional organization using a waterfall methodology can take years to get approved, developed, tested and implemented—and by that time more often than not the marketplace has moved. As a result, the thought of building something that might be a digital solution can seem overwhelming and almost impossible to many people. Many organizations never consider options that might be ideal for the customer because they know they’d never get it done within the constraints of their internal processes and capabilities.
This is why it can be so helpful to move towards Agile ways of working – especially in the digitization process. Once organizations understand how to design processes, systems, and experiences in an Agile way, many organizations will say, “no problem, we can deliver something our customer wants, let’s do it.” (For more on Agile ways of working see our Executive Guide)
4 rules of thumb for digitization
To sum up, keep the following points in mind when looking to digitize your organization:
- Ask the question: “What CAN we create with the different kinds of available technologies and tools that will deliver value for my customer or the organization?”
- Ask not only what and how, but whether it is even relevant.
- Involve stakeholders from outside the normal circle of discussion or influence, to help prevent getting stuck in an insular mindset.
- Consider moving to a more Agile approach and looking for minimally viable solutions. Instead of trying to find the perfect, do-it-all kind of solution and risking it becoming obsolete before it even sees the light of day. See what your team can come up with on the fly to achieve the basic functionality that is needed right away.