Ask the Expert: How can organisations learn from digital disruptors?

David Daly

This week’s Ask the Expert is answered by David Daly. David is the Global Deal Assurance Manager at Worldline, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He is also a member of the Atos Scientific Community where he is leading the Digital Business Transformation track. In addition he is an Atos Distinguished Expert with a focus on Agile and DevOps, as well as being a Fellow of the British Computer Society and holding Chartered IT Professional status.

Ask the Expert: How can organisations learn from digital disruptors?

This is a great question! Just over a year ago I started working with my colleagues in the Atos Scientific Community to think about what will be the “next level” of Digital Transformation. And one of our first observations was that it is all too easy to think you can just mimic, at a superficial level, what Digital Disruptors are doing. This is something I described in a blog post as Cargo Cult Digital Transformation.

We speculated that this kind of “shallow” imitation might explain why many Digital Transformations are not successful: for example, in 2016, 84% of companies who had embarked on a digital transformation failed to achieve the expected benefits.

So, what should organisations do instead? One of our key realisations has been that, amidst a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before, you can no longer plan a “one-shot” transformation lasting several years. If you do, by the time you have “finished”, the world will have changed. And rigid long-terms plans like these can prevent organisations from responding quickly to threats and opportunities as they arise.

We concluded that an organisation therefore needs to be run in a way that enables, rather than hinders, this much needed responsiveness. And then we researched the implications of this for leadership, governance, organisation structure and culture.

The result was something that we have called the Digital Business Continuum. This is an approach to running an organisation that both enables adaptability, as well as stimulating a high degree of innovation: not only to revolutionise the products and services offered to customers, but also to highly optimise internal operations. We have described the Digital Business Continuum in a recently published whitepaper (and there is also a short summary video available).

Whilst we researched and wrote this paper, I found myself learning many new things. From how diversity can enable fresh-thinking and innovation, through to why leaders need to avoid using a traditional command-and-control style, and how organisations can leverage community, crowd sourcing, and the gig-economy.

Based on this learning my answer to “How can organisations learn from Digital Disruptors?” would be as follows: focus less on “what” the Digital Disruptors are doing, and more on “how” they are doing it. And then accept that you may well need to deeply re-evaluate how your own organisation operates: radical results will need radical transformation.