Right now, it’s hard to escape the fact that the UK is going through a period of upheaval that the established political parties can barely cope with. UK politics is being disrupted by various forces including globalisation and technology. The pace of this change is now incredible. But it’s not just politics that’s finding it hard to keep up with change; disruption is everywhere.
Mobile technology has been a key agent in speeding up change but every business in every industry is being asked to adapt at an immense speed. The businesses we work with at CAF, indeed any business, need more than just the latest technology to secure a place in the future; they need the ability to think and to act quickly.
I gave a talk recently at a conference on Digital Transformation organised by Progress Softare, a Chelsea Apps Factory partner. Its focus was on thinking and acting quickly. I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic here too.
It’s not just about technology
If ‘Digital Transformation’ were just about technology, then any sensible business would have a chart plotting the next tech innovation – from IoT to Wearables to AI to VR to Shopping 2.0 – and could then create a strategy for each of these in advance. Everyone would have this sewn up already. No one would need to transform. You would just need to turn up with the right tech.
It’s just not that simple. But if it’s not that simple, if it can’t be fixed just by buying tech, then what is it about?
Attitude and speed
It’s about attitude (as well as aptitude!) and speed.
Every business, like it or not, is a ‘digital business’. They might happen to do something other than technology first and foremost, but now every company must act like a technology business to satisfy consumer needs and desires.
Because today, everything is now about the customer. Businesses have, in the past, been able to grow without necessarily putting the customer first. Brands had experience and trust on their side.
Nowadays customers care less about who you are and are willing to try new things from new providers. They are ready to engage anytime, anywhere, with new brands and new ideas. In fact, they expect to do so.
Digital becomes about delivering the seamless customer experience that consumers now regard as commonplace. This means that “being digital”, or transforming to become “more digital”, is non-negotiable.
At CAF we work with many established, large scale businesses, helping them on a transformation journey of one form or another. This primarily involves arming them with a new attitude and approach, to empower them to think and act much quicker.
We also work with startups. The difference is that startups don’t need a ‘transformation programme’ as such, because it’s already in their DNA.
It’s not simply that startups have great tech. No, it’s that their approach to technology, strategy and delivery, and speed at which they are able to work, means they are inherently set up to foster innovation.
Being more ‘startup’
Now, we’re not advocating that big businesses attempt to emulate startups. Nor are we suggesting that the two are entirely different form each other – or that the learning is a one-way street. There is plenty that startups can learn from established businesses, too.
But the agility that is cultivated in startup culture is the key here.
Speed, the ability to do a lot with a little, and having the capacity to test ideas, to learn quickly and to change direction if necessary, are all part of what it means to be a startup – and what it means to ‘be agile’.
Nowadays everyone understands the benefits of ‘being agile’. It reduces risk and facilitates innovation, by allowing you to test ideas, learn and iterate, before fully committing to new products and features. You can read more on the benefits of agile, here.
But while the advantages of agile are clear, embedding these practices into a large organisation, with long-established processes, can be challenging.
The trick is not to over-think.
The companies that fail are those that procrastinate. They deliberate over the best way to get the right agile model into their business. The ones that succeed are the ones that get agile into their business, quickly, in some form or another, and then iterate. After all, this is what agile is all about.
Start now, start small, do something and learn from it.
“Think quick. Act quicker.”
So does digital transformation equal agile transformation? Digital transformation often encompasses multiple change programmes, focused on implementing all types of new technologies.
But to us at CAF, digital transformation is first and foremost about a shift in gear. It cannot happen without that essential leap from planning everything in advance, to being able to act now and change direction if required. It’s a jump from being technology centric to being customer centric.
If you spend too much time thinking about this stuff; you’re not actually doing this stuff – and that’s a problem. Because whatever business you are in, you are competing with startups who have launched new products, tested them with the market and are on their third or fourth iteration of the next great thing.
This has all happened in the time it takes some big businesses to develop a strategy.
The reason many people work with Chelsea Apps Factory, is our ability to help big businesses to think differently and act quickly. We arm them with the tools they need to embrace an agile approach and embed this new way of working into their organisation.
We help them realise agile transformation for themselves, by equipping them with the attitude and the speed of startups. We enable them to test their great ideas, quickly, and to iterate based on real customer needs. This is what our Five Day Challenge, for example, is all about.
Sure, we build some stuff, but it’s our ability to facilitate a new way of working that really drives results.
Contact a member of the CAF team to see how we can help you to think quick, and act quicker.