Is Strategy within Digital Transformation Important?

business-social-transformationI have been invited to a very interesting conference next week called, Enterprise Digital Summit London the conference is aimed at digital transformation and driving business value with digital and social collaboration. The event is focused on business process and ROI aimed at people in business who want to find out how, as well as to listen from experienced practitioners and consultants.

The event will take place on Thursday 22nd October at The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace and the speakers include Stowe Boyd (Gigaom Research) other speakers include Professor Vlatka Hlupic (Westminster University and author of The Management Shift), Stanley Awaku (Vodafone), David D’Souza (CIPD), Kim England (Pearson plc), Belinda Gannaway (Belinda Gannaway Consulting Ltd),  Björn Negelmann (Kongress Media).

This week’s Monday blog, I thought I would focus on some of the topics from the conference and provide some tips, advise and thought leadership on the following:

What are the strategic building blocks for Digital Transformation?

One of the greatest challenges for managers is persuading senior leaders to more fully embrace digital within their organisations. Many managers have a good idea about what they want to do, but need to argue or build the business case internally in order to receive funding. In many cases, this is the major barrier to moving towards digital transformation.

In those organisations where digital is not given much prominence, it is usually because the business has not yet been affected by a real negative impact on their revenues because of digital. Leadership teams have been forced to look holistically at their organisation and consider where digital can play a major role in improving performance.

In organisations where this is not a problem, digital is likely to be either a key revenue stream, an operational necessity or a key differentiator, so digital is the key part of the overall business strategy.

blog post 5 Oct 2015In both instances, it is imperative to have a clearly informed business case that helps position how digital can closely align with the goals of the business, and not on digital trends and fashions.

Barriers to adoption of a digital strategy

What will it take to break down the barriers to digital engagement, so that organisational leaders and other senior professionals will commit themselves to digital transformation? First and foremost, they have to make a mental shift, to recognise that it’s actually in their best interests to give serious consideration to how they and their organisations must adapt to Digital Era realities in significant ways.

Getting to the tipping point, when digital engagement and transformation are considered the norm, is going to take:

Time- Change of this magnitude is going to be slow, especially in industries and organisations where there is not much precedent for the potential value that new technologies and ways of working can offer. It will take time to shift perceptions of Digital Era technologies from novelties to utilities, and from short-term fads to long-term trends.

Increased media exposure – A year ago, little was written in the mainstream press about topics like digital currency and cybersecurity. More recently, ideas like digital transformation and cognition as a service are still being introduced. The more subjects like these move from technical and niche publications to more widely-read outlets, the more likely their importance and implications will be understood.

Education and training – Both formal and informal approaches to learning – especially programs targeted to leaders and experienced professionals – will help accelerate the necessary shifts in knowledge and understanding, and ultimately behavior. Academic institutions, private service providers, and employers themselves need to make digital literacy a strategic imperative for workers at all levels in a all types of roles.

Relatable market leaders – The more examples there are of organizations that have successfully undertaken digital engagement and transformation initiatives, the less resistant later adopters are likely to be. These examples have to come not just from the consumer space, but also in business-to-business enterprises, the public sector, higher education, non-profit organisations, and more. As we emerge from the economic doldrums we’ve been in for years, organizations with stronger appetites for risk will take chances and start to reap visible rewards. When they do, others will start to follow.

Driving employee engagement

Employee engagement is the key to business success. It is the result of the psychological contract plus the experience that exists between employee and employer. The foundation of employee engagement is respect, trust, and performance. Engagement is dynamic because it changes over the course of an employee’s tenure at a workplace and overall career as a consequence of multiple events and factors.

Engagement is intrinsic and individual. In conclusion, engagement is all about “I.” It is a voluntary connection to the business and to its purpose; it includes an emotional component to the workplace in order to achieve its desired outcomes.

Employees decide if they want to be engaged. Thus, even though employee engagement entails an emotional connection, it also involves a rational component as the employee decides whether or not to be engaged given her individual circumstances. We have concluded that, even though many workplaces may seem to be similar, they are as unique as the individuals who belong to them, which in turn affects what it means for employees to be engaged with the organisation.

As you may expect, the definitions and explanations of employee engagement are as varied as the authors who have proposed them; however, they have some similarities. These definitions include emotional, rational, and practical features that are connected to engagement’s impact on businesses as well as on employees. In general, these definitions refer to engagement as voluntary. Each well-known definition includes these important components; in addition, there are other factors that contribute to move employee engagement in a particular direction. These factors are typically known as drivers of engagement.

Driving ROI

The benefits to strategic planning are intangible and show hard bottom-line return on investment (ROI). Every day, your work impacts aspects of your business. Following these tips can help you realise the true day-to-day impact of having a strategic plan in place:

Spend more time on high-impact, high-growth activities. These activities are where you want to spend as much time as possible. With these maneuvers, you spend less time going around in circles.

Identify true opportunities versus false starts. If you know what you’re best at and where you want to go, you can more quickly identify true opportunities. Strategic planning helps you put the boundaries on your business. When you ignore extraneous distractions, you use your resources more effectively and more quickly to grow your organisation.

Internal advancement, such as in your career as a leader, can come from being involved in strategy development and using it as a true guide to your work.

Achieve your vision for success. You started your organisation for a reason. You likely have a vision for your business. If you want to achieve your vision for success, you have to specifically figure out how you’re going to get there. Having a strategic plan makes success intentional.

Increase employee commitment. Strategic planning increases employee commitment — especially in this tight labour market. Helping your employees see the vision that you have for success and growth helps you work toward that goal.

Culture change and leadership required to transform

Changing an organisation’s culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. That is because an organisation’s culture comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communications practices, attitudes and assumptions.

The elements fit together as an mutually reinforcing system and combine to prevent any attempt to change it. That’s why single-fix changes, such as the introduction of teams, or Lean, or Agile, or Scrum, or knowledge management, or some new process, may appear to make progress for a while, but eventually the interlocking elements of the organizational culture take over and the change is inexorably drawn back into the existing organizational culture.

Changing a culture is a large-scale undertaking, and eventually all of the organisational tools for changing minds will need to be put in play. However the order in which they deployed has a critical impact on the likelihood of success.

In general, the most fruitful success strategy is to begin with leadership tools, including a vision or story of the future, cement the change in place with management tools, such as role definitions, measurement and control systems, and use the pure power tools of coercion and punishments as a last resort, when all else fails.

I would welcome your comments on your management experiences.

To book your place on The Enterprise Digital Summit London, visit