Not too long ago, headlines were littered with tales of Nokia and Microsoft’s “failed acquisition.” There are lots of theories about where it all went wrong. But we would argue that Nokia’s inability to make the leap from a mobile handset manufacturer to a leader in the new digital economy was the cause of its unraveling.
Granted, Nokia and the countless other companies that have lost their way had some sort of vision. While having a vision may get you into the game, it’s no guarantee of a win. Companies need to be able to effectively deploy their strategy, and most importantly, plan to adapt. And this is where Lean principles and Agile methodologies can come into play. The challenges many companies face, however, are two-fold: Today’s fast-changing environment means that you need to revise your strategy faster and more frequently, and organizational silos often turn departments into proverbial ships passing in the night.
Review, revise and repeat…your strategy, that is
In CI&T’s e-book, we discussed how digital transformation should be thought of more as a journey than a final destination. The implication here is that you should constantly review and revise your strategy. Further, the focus should initially be on deployment and engaging middle management. This helps ensure that everyone is aligned across departments and focused on the same near- and long-term objectives.
Do you know the difference between specialized teams that work collaboratively versus departments that don’t know they each exist? The former is key to success while the latter represents the dreaded silo. The problem is that silos get in the way of translating strategies across departments. Individual departments don’t communicate with each other; and they invariably interpret your organization’s transformation strategy with their own agendas in mind.
This is where Lean principles can become valuable. Organizations with a laser focus on delivering value and constantly improve are in a better position to scale their transformation efforts across the organization.
Three necessary components for deploying your strategy
Over the years, CI&T has seen what works. Here are three necessary components for a well-conceived deployment strategy as you take the leap into the digital realm.
First, be sure to incorporate shorter feedback cycles. The outside world is constantly changing and you need to validate your initial hypothesis. What may be correct today could be wrong tomorrow. And if your learning-cycle is too long, you run a greater risk of failure.
Perhaps you can use sandboxes—or controlled environments to safely experiment with new ideas—which allow you to validate your hypothesis before rolling out your strategy across the entire company. For example, when Lenovo’s Motorola Mobility wanted to explore the idea of going direct to consumer, it initially focused on one product line, after which it decided to scale worldwide. This made their approach more scientific and less of a gamble.
The second component is to focus on technology that works. This may sound obvious, but too often companies focus on technology that’s available or approved by IT. However, the team running the sandbox will need the latitude to explore different options rather than operating within the constraints of bureaucratic IT policies that hinder innovation. Think of it this way: Putting technology first is akin to having R&D embedded within your business. Instead of innovating in name only, you now have an Agile approach where everyone involved has the freedom to adapt and solve problems.
Third, organize your teams for success. Start with two core teams that cut across departments: One that is focused on the functional side and another that concentrates on customer value. The functional team ensures that your new initiatives work as they should, while the customer-value team assesses feedback from the marketplace. What you’re left with is an approach that allows you to organize across silos and take advantage of a full range of skill sets, such as UX, design, sales, etc. This structure also ensures that there’s a fluid and efficient process for creating the best possible product that your customers will value, while also reducing internal politics that get in the way of your success.
CI&T’s last pearl of wisdom…
As you evaluate the effectiveness of your own digital transformation, we’ll leave you with this Brazilian proverb: Between the beginning and the end, there’s always a middle. The “middle” is that crucial point during your transformation where your actions have the most consequence. And, in the end, your success or failure is simply the result of those actions. This is why you must deploy your strategy with speed and adaptability—and the marketplace will reward you for your efforts.