The State of Digital Transformation in 2015

The theme of the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT in Paris next week is “Designing the Digital Transformation”. This title is not a randomly chosen title. The agenda and various tracks are set-up to create a thorough guide through the Digital Transformation that we believe is at hand.

We think this is the next logical step in the Enterprise 2.0 journey and that the digital transformation demands changes now!

We also thought it a good idea to ask a couple of thought leaders in the Enterprise 2.0 community about their take on the subject.

A Turning Point

All in all 2015 is recognised as a turning point in the digital transformation. Although the term seems, as with most, driven by the industry and marketing. It also takes time, and 2015 will be, at best, the start of this turning point, it will move well into 2016, not all companies will pick up  on this, as is always the case.

Also, this continues process might get a huge kick in the butt with the now available digital possibilities, but it’s also one other step in the whole story of upgrading the way we work. A process that started well over ten years ago.

It’s a hot topic but companies have not yet embraced what it takes to make the digital transformation. – Céline Schillinger

Building Blocks

Depending on whether change is driven by technology, philosophy or idealism (or capitalism), the building blocks vary. The choices, therefore, vary too. And is very depended on the background of our esteemed surveyists.

An obvious starting point is the implementation and availability of a digital platform. There are many choices here, but in essence it has to support a range of capabilities; Mobile (BYOD, BYOA), Cloud, Apps and connectivity with the outside world (e.g. partners and customers). And consequently, (big) data.

However, these tools are, by definition, supportive. On there own they mean nothing, they do nothing and without the proper infrastructure and environment, they are even completely useless.

At the basis, current business models and -goals need to be revised, or updated. The customer experience will be brought front and centre. We can no longer deny the fact that managers and boards don’t make a company (although they can brake it), it’s customers and employees. Business models (and goals) should reflect this.

Define target organisational capabilities required to meet changing market dynamics, and then try to achieve these capabilities through innovation of the organisation, the business model, products and services, and customer engagement. – Lee Bryant

In the end, People are your most important building block, they have to do the work. Nothing else matters, if you don’t care about your people.

Social as Enabler

Again, as with most parts of the transformation, social is also a part of the whole. It’s a big part, but social alone cannot deliver a successful transformation. It is a tool.

And this tool is good for enabling diversity within a company and peer encouragement. The term might have reached it’s sell-by date, but for lack of a better term, we’re stuck with it.

There’s lots of transformation without social elements. We have to make sure that the “social” part doesn’t get lost in favour of standardized digital automatisms. – Carsten Rossi

How to use Social

Although not everybody sees Social as an enabler, there is still a significant part for it to play in the digital transformation. And if we accept that, what are some of the requirements for it to work?

The scope of a successful social platform is quite significant, again, various points are brought to the surface. One of the more important ones is the ability to adapt to a new platform. Meaning, a low threshold for adopters, a platitude of convenient and necessary information should be found (easily) on the platform.

Not only that, the use of the platform should be in line with the business objectives. It’s not a free-for-all, it has to serve a purpose. Therefore, employees should be fully aware of the relevant business objectives and how they apply directly to them.

Social changes the fundamental ways people interact with each other, with information, and with company brands. If Digital Transformation is akin to growing a forest, then social is the wind, water and weather that makes it possible to thrive. – Rawn Shah

The Organisational Structure

Though we won’t get rid of the org chart any time soon, there are new structures on the horizon. These newly networked organisations already exist is some forms (in some companies). The Wirearchy beneath the existing (and very structured) organisational structure is something that, in practice, already exists.

In a nutshell, the wirearchy is the organic network, as opposed to the predetermined hierarchal network.

At first the existing networks will need to adopt the digital transformation, here flatter and freer is desirable. More communicating among various eco- and microsystems, co-designing solutions among different departments, reducing silos and increasing innovation. Different models might exist simultaneously, especially considering the need to be flexible regarding outside influences and shorter term projects, each demanding it’s own approach and structure. One size does not fit all.

In order to achieve any of this, a more “softer” hierarchy seems mandatory. Adaptations like these are impossible within a strict Command & Control business culture.

But, changes in the networked organisation go beyond the boundaries of the company. It might be a requirement to have more loose frameworks. The ability to quickly find people suitable for a certain time-bound projects, small pieces loosely joined. Retaining great flexibility and obtaining a great network of professionals.

Wirearchy made practical .. interconnected networked groups of purpose focused on getting things done. – Jon Husband

How to Enforce the Digital Transformation

There are two sides to this coin. Firstly, you do not want to enforce anything on the community, the employees. The essence is (as this writer understands it); in order to have any hope of being successful with digital transformation (or any change for that matter), a company must have the right environment for this change to happen as organically as possible. The more you push, the less results you’ll have.

It is important to realise the difference between those who want these changes and those who are quite comfortable where they are. The last might never adapt to this new way of working, but they still make up part of the business.

Don’t enforce it! To mandate is to disengage and to alienate. There are many people who do not choose the world of digital and networks. That is not their preference. Those of us who believe in digital should be helping people who want to explore and adapt to it. In the short-term, that is how momentum will be built. Others will then copy if they see it is successful. – Richard Martin

Beyond this, the digital transformation may be seen, in some respects, as a regular change. It needs to be done gradually, explain it to the C-Suite, and guide individual users through the process. This has to be put in perspective, since the sheer size of the change (and the many sub-changes) is something few have experienced before.

The necessity to lay a solid foundation is very important, despite the fact the commitment for this change is a long term one (initially many years, after that a permanent mindset). The various disciplines involved in the digital transformation is as broad as the various roles held within a company. IT must be involved, HR, marketing, communication, R&D, sales, fabrication, customer care, management across the board and anyone else I forget… None of them, however, can have the lead in the transformation. They couldn’t have, it would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise.


I’d like to thank Claude Super, Jon Husband, Richard Martin, Dr.-Ing. Carsten Rose, Rawn Shah, Lee Bryant, Céline Schillinger and Carsten Rossi for their participation on this survey.

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Rogier Noort
I'm a Social Business addict coming from the technical depths of IT and rising from these dark ages, through web and social, to the enlightened field of Social Business. Also blogger, podcaster, talker and listener.