Digital Maturity or Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation or Digital MaturityEveryone’s working on digital transformation projects.  Much like ‘big data’ or ‘machine learning’, digital transformation is a phrase that you hear every day across just about every organization. The problem with digital transformation is that its not the end goal….you don’t set a goal of ‘being transformed’ especially when you’re looking at the digital space.  Rather, you set goals around engagement, conversion and revenue that are better / higher than what you have today.  You shouldn’t be focused on ‘transforming’ your business but on maturing your business into one that can operate in the digital model for the long run. This requires much more than digital transformation; it requires digital maturity.

MIT Sloan Management Review defines digital maturity in the following way:

Digital maturity is the process of your company learning how to respond appropriately to the emerging digital competitive environment.

Part of any good digital transformation initiative should include aspects that help an organization and its people internalize knowledge about the digital landscape, but most times it stops short of converting information about the digital world into knowledge (and ultimately into wisdom).  According to the DIKW Pyramid, there are three steps required to turn data into wisdom: data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom.   Digital Transformation often stops short of creating ‘digital wisdom’ which is what’s necessary for digital maturity to occur. Without wisdom, you’re organization hasn’t quite reached the level of digital maturity needed.

With digital maturity, rather than chase new digital projects an organization just is digital.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the organization will have all the answers to all things digital, but it does mean that the people within the organization will have the skills and the tools to find those answers quickly and act upon the digital needs of the organization rather than just talk about the digital needs.

Deloitte released a study recently based on three years of research into digital maturity. In that study, they asked respondents to rate their digital maturity levels from a scale of 1 to 10 with a rating of 1 to 3 being ‘early maturity’, 4 to 6 being ‘developing maturity’ and 7 to 10 being ‘mature’. In the survey, only 25% of respondents rate their organization in the ‘mature’ category.  You can see the outcome of the survey in the image below.

Deloitte's Digital Maturity Survey

A few more interesting stats from that survey:

  • 34% of respondents from organizations at early stages of digital maturity say that their company spends more time talking about digital business than acting on it.
  • Digitally maturing companies are also far more likely than are other organizations—76% of digitally maturing companies versus 32% of businesses at early stages of digital development—to use technology to conduct business in fundamentally different ways
  • Digitally maturing organizations also take a longer view on digital strategy: They are twice as likely as early-stage companies to develop these strategies with time horizons of five years or more.
  • More than 70% of digital maturing businesses are using cross-functional teams to organize work and charging them with implementing digital business priorities. This compares to less than 30% for early-stage organizations

There’s some interesting results there there.  Digitally mature organizations are planning for the ‘long game’ rather than (or maybe in addition to) running around trying to figure out how to get a customer in the door next week. Additionally, these companies with digital maturity are using technology to do things differently than they have done things before.

Digital transformation shouldn’t be the end goal for organizations. You don’t want to just transform into a ‘digital’ company doing things the same way you always have. You want to fundamentally do things differently using technology. That’s what digital maturity is.

This might require new organizational constructs (cross-functional teams, etc), a rethinking of digital platforms (do you really need 50 different martech platforms?) and/or chasing different projects/initiatives.  Reaching digital maturity means going through growing pains, but in the end it should be worth the pain to be able to ‘live digitally’ as an organization.

Don’t just settle for digital transformation for transformation sake. Set the main objective of your digital transformation projects to be digital maturity. Join the Deloitte respondents taking the long view and using technology to change the way you do business.

Helping the Organization

Helping-a-friendI just read Tom Catalini’s “Everybody Knows IT, But They Still Need Help” where he wrote:

People know IT now. But they also need help. That’s not necessarily obvious to them, because it can be obscured by their comfort level and experience. It’s obvious to you, though, so don’t be afraid to take a leadership role and help.

Very true.

Most folks in organizations are very comfortable with the basics of technology today. With that comfort, it request much less effort by IT organizations to introduce technology to the organization.

The ‘old’ days of IT put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the IT group for introducing new technologies to the organization as well as teaching user’s the basics of usage.  Today, most employees have a good feel for basic technology. Additionally, many people within organizations are very technically savvy and are able to understand technology without any assistance from IT.

The role of the IT group has shifted from ‘gods of technology’ to that of technology enabler.  We no longer need to wait for IT to tell us about a new technology or solution. In fact, IT groups are getting bombarded by the rest of the organization over ‘new’ technologies and solutions.

This dynamic is one of the reasons that many IT groups have begun moving into a pure operational mindset over the last few years. They have felt as if they can just focus on ‘keeping the lights on’ and helping to implement new solutions and technologies.

This operational mindset is the wrong approach in my opinion. The future of IT lays within two main areas: Consulting and Leadership.

When I say consulting, I mean exactly that. The IT group needs to step into a role of helping the organization understand and use technology. Additionally, rather than sit back and wait for the organization to bring a technology, solution or project to the IT group, the IT team needs take a leadership role in helping the organization identify technologies and opportunities where technology can help.

Tom has it right. Everyone knows technology, but there is still plenty of room for IT to help organizations out.   How are you and your team trying to help our organization out?

An Educated Client Is a Better Client

This is a guest post by Elmer Boutin. 

education By Sean MacEntee on flickrI read with great interest Eric’s post of January 31, 2012 entitled Do things when you should … not when you have to. I agree with what he wrote, and it really got me going about something I’ve been mulling over in my head for several weeks: An educated and knowledgeable client is better than an ignorant one – especially if you want to help them do things at the right time.

I have a day job, but I do consult with small businesses and nonprofits on a regular basis. When I started consulting, I would do most of the work and not show anyone how to do for themselves or why I did what I did.

While I understand some clients want and need someone to just do for them, I found I really liked teaching, and those to whom I took the time to explain things responded quite well. After consulting gigs where I taught the client in more of a mentoring-like setting, I found the experience exhilarating. Teaching allowed me to have a positive impact in someone else’s efforts by giving them confidence they could maneuver around marketing technologies.

Even better, those people now had the knowledge to make better and informed decisions about strategy and tactics in their online efforts. This actually makes my work a lot easier.

Recently, I was helping the owners of a restaurant in a touristy part of Texas. They wanted to get some social media going, but had no idea where to start. For our first meeting, I put together a presentation which introduced concepts and gave suggestions on where to begin their efforts. After they digested the information and were ready to proceed, we met again. This time, I sat behind them at their computer as we walked through setting up accounts on social sites, claimed their name and location on those sites and even set up “check in” discounts.

While I know it may have been overwhelming at first, they soon got the idea and by the end of the afternoon they were claiming their spaces and setting up deals without much input from me. We’ll need to meet again to go over more advanced concepts, but I knew I did well when they emailed me the next day with the great news that several customers had already checked in and took advantage of their 10% off deals. That gave me (and I’m sure them, too) a great sense of accomplishment.

By taking a teaching/mentoring approach, my clients have become smarter. They have the confidence to move forward, to work online for their business as well as they do offline. They are learning how to “adapt and overcome” to the constant change of the online landscape.

To get back to Eric’s idea: How do we get clients to do things when they should rather than when they have to? We teach them. If we’re going to expect our clients to make those timely decisions, we have to equip them to do so. We have to give them the background knowledge to be able to look at what’s going on around them and be able to ask the smart questions. We have to develop trust with them and establish that we are the experts in whatever field we consult on – and if we can do that before the first time the client calls, all the better.

“How do I do that?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s your tip on doing something when you should: If you just asked yourself that question, then follow Eric’s (and my) lead, start a web site and start sharing some of your knowledge. Go! Do it now! If you want some advice on how to do it, ask in the comments and I’ll show you where you can get information to get going. Read the post I linked to in the preceding paragraph and see how someone else established credibility in their field to the betterment of their business.

As you take on the role of coach/mentor/teacher, both you and your clients will benefit.

Elmer Boutin is a Marketing Technologist and has worked in web marketing for almost 15 years. His first experience was as a free-lancer doing web sites for local businesses such as car dealerships and an art gallery. Later, he ran an online rental property referral web site aimed at assisting military people find homes before they moved. He’s currently Webmaster at a Texas-based decorative surfaces manufacturer. You can read more articles by Elmer at

Image Credit: education By Sean MacEntee on flickr

Are we treating the symptoms, or the real problem?

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of knee pain.  For the last few months, its been constant and regular and seemed to get worse when I would spend a lot of time on my feet.  My initial thought was that my years of powerlifting in high school was finally catching up to me and I was finally seeing the response to have over 500 pounds of weight on my shoulders (I won the national powerlifting championship in 1990 at 16 with a 550 pound squat, 350 pound bench press and 500 pound deadlift). That’s a lot of weight to be on anyone’s shoulders, but probably worse for a developing young man.

I was about to resign myself to the fact that my knees would ache for the rest of my life or I’d have to have some form of knee surgery, until one day I happened to realize that my feet began to hurt a bit before my knees hurt.  It seemed that the foot pain was a precursor to the knee pain.

I did some research and found that when you’ve got bad foot support in shoes, it can cause knee pain.  About that same time, I saw the Dr. Scholl’s FootMapping Machine and its ability to ‘read’ your feet and tell you what type of orthotics to buy.   I found a machine at my local Wal-Mart and tried it out…sure enough, it told me that my low arches were forcing pressure on other parts of the feet, which is exactly what my research said would cause knee pain.

I bought the recommended orthotics and now…no knee pain.  I’ve been pain free for a few days now.

It would have been very easy for me to call up a Doctor and describe my knee pain and my history.  It would then have been just as easy for that Doctor to prescribe surgery for that knee pain.  And…it would have been easy for me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical expenses on something that turned out to be poor support for my feet.

Instead…because I spent some time research the issue, I found that I could solve my problem with a much simpler approach.  For $50 I was able to solve the real problem causing my knee pain.

Much like the current business environment isn’t it?

Many organizations today are in pain and are looking for solutions.  They’re patients looking for a good doctor.  They’ve got a lot of pain, and there’s a lot of people willing to offer medication or surgery for that pain, but very few people willing to treat the real problem(s).

Take social media as an example.  There are problems that social media can treat well.  But…there are a lot of people prescribing social media for many different ‘pains’ and ignore the underlying problems.

For instance…if your organization has a history of poor customer service, would you first take a look at the customer service organization, culture and processes for ways to improve? Or…do you do as many organizations are doing today and join twitter,  FaceBook and other social media platforms to ‘engage’ with your customers?

Many consultants & companies will tell you to ‘get out there’ on the social media platforms to engage with your customers.  These people are treating the symptoms rather than the real underlying causes.  The pain is the blow-back created by poor customer service and many people would argue that by ‘engaging’ with these customers, you’ll somehow magically improve service.

While this might be true in some instances…it doesn’t address the underlying problems. You may improve service for a few people (or few hundred people) using social media but the underlying problem still exists….the problem of poor customer service. Social Media won’t solve the underlying problem of poor service culture or processes.

Of course…treating the symptom works in many cases.  Have a headache…take an aspirin.  No more headache…for now.

But what happens when that headache isn’t the actual problem?

What if that headache is actually just a by-product of meningitis or a tumor?  Without taking the time to really understand all the symptoms, just treating the headache may not treat the real problem.

That aspirin would help the headache today…but it’ll return tomorrow.

So…next time you see a problem in your organization, take a good long look at it and make sure its the real problem before throwing money & bodies at it.

Make sure you’re solving the real problem…not just addressing the pain.

What’s your strategy?

Strategy & ImplementationStrategy.

That one word can send shudders through many folks.  That one word has made millions and millions for consulting companies and consultants.

Can you answer the question “what’s your strategy?”  Can everyone within your organization?

If I were to talk to the front-line workers in your organization and ask them “what’s your strategy?”, will they just smile and say they don’t really know?

Most people I’ve talked to over my career will point me to the mission or vision statements as proof that they have a strategy….but very few have been able to articulate the organizational strategy clearly.

Why is that?

Is it because consultants and senior leadership have turned Strategy into a something inaccessible to the common front-line worker?  Is it because an organization’s strategy isn’t well communicated?

Could be.  Both of those issues often have something to do with it..  But the biggest issue that I’ve found is that people just don’t know how to implement strategy.

Before I continue….let’s take a quick look at what strategy  is.  Oh…also…this is a rather long post so bear with me.

What is Strategy? defines strategy as:

Approach to future that involves (1) examination of the current and anticipated factors associated with customers and competitors (external environment) and the firm itself (internal environment), (2) envisioning a new or effective role for the firm in a creative manner, and (3) aligning policies, practices, and resources to realize that vision.

Not a bad definition.  Actually…it’s a pretty good one.  It covers the creation of a strategy and implementing it.

But like everything else in life, its easy to read a definition and think you ‘get it’ but much harder to actually ‘do it’.

So…we have a definition of strategy.  Now what?

Time to develop a strategy.

Strategy Creation

Developing a strategic plan isn’t easy….and I’m not about to claim that I’m an expert at it. That said, there are some basics approaches to strategy development.

First thing you have to do?  Step away from the burning fires and think. Think about where your organization needs to be in the future.  Then…think about where your organization wants to be in the future.  Lastly, think about your organizational capabilities.  Will they get you where you need to be?  How about where you want to be?

If where you want to be, or need to be, can’t be reached with your current organization’s people, skill sets and technology, its time to revisit your organization.

You can’t reach your strategic goal if your organizational alignment isn’t correct.  Seth Godin says that alignment is really nothing more than “getting your team in alignment (having their job match their tools match their mission).” I tend to agree with Seth on this one.

If you don’t have the ability to reach your strategic objective today but you are sure your goal is where you need to be…then you need to revisit your current organization.

Implementing Your Strategy

So…you know where you need to be.  You know where you want to be.  Now you have to build your plan to actually get there.

This is where most of us fail because it just isn’t that clear how to go about implementing implementing a strategy.

Some companies pay millions of dollars for a strategic plan to be developed…and then do very little with that plan. Some companies pay millions to a consulting company to have their strategic plan implemented. Some succeed and some don’t.

Strategy implementation is tough because sometimes implementation requires hard choices.  And

To do it right requires an organization to step back and look at their organizational abilities.  Can you reach your objectives with your current staffing?  If not, what needs to change?

What’s Your Strategy?

Let’s go back to the original premise of this article.  What is your strategy?  Can you answer that question clearly?

Is your strategy to “build your brand”?  If so, that isn’t a strategy.

Is your strategy to “be the #1 IT consulting company in the world”?  Might be a good vision but where’s the plan behind that vision?

To be honest…it really doesn’t matter what your strategy is.  If you don’t have a plan to reach the strategic goals, your strategic goals are nothing more than a bunch of words on paper.

THAT is the reason most people within an organization cannot clearly articulate your strategy.

Sure…they may understand all the ‘words’ but they don’t understand how they play a role in that strategic plan nor how the organization will ever reach the goals stated in said plan.

Example Time – You own an American Football Team

I’ve used this example before – see Competitive Advantage – The Human Capital approach.

You own an American Football Team.  Your goal is to be the next ‘dynasty’ and win 5 super bowls in the next 10 years…something very few football teams have done.

So…you develop a strategic plan to get you there.  What is your strategy?  Is it to ‘win 5 super bowls in 10 years’?

Better not be.  While that’s your goal, it isn’t your strategy.

What is your strategy? Wouldn’t it depending on what your team looks like today doesn’t it?

Do you have the right coach? Right quarterback?  How about your offensive line?  Is your defense the first in the league…or last?

The answers to these questions will help you build your strategy.

If you have a great offense but a piss-poor defense, wouldn’t it be worth focusing on building your defense up to be one of the best in the league?

So…your strategy for the next 2 years is to build the best defense in the league….but how?  Via the Draft?  Trades with other teams? Free agents?

Do you have the money to pay for the new talent you need to acquire to build the best defense in the league?  If not, what trade-offs do you have to make to get the best defense? Do you need to get rid of a few star offensive players?  If so, will that affect the offensive production of your team?

How do you communicate your new strategy? Do you tell one or two people about your goal? Or…do you sit down with everyone involved with the football team clearly communicate what the goal is, why its important and how they can help achieve that goal? I’ve found you get more from approach #2.

Building a strategy isn’t easy for a football team owner/manager.  Lots of moving parts.  Lots of strategic and tactical thinking involved.


Building a strategic plan for any business will be done in the same manner as the football team above. You’ve got to think about your strategy and the tactics to get you there by Minding the Gap.

You’ve got to identify what your main goal or goals are and then figure out how to get there.   Once you identify them, communicate the goals and the plan to reach them in a way that makes sense and makes people feel as though they can help reach those goals.

Be realistic about those goals too.  You won’t be the #1 IT Consulting company in the world if you only deliver services to clients Jackson Mississippi.    You can strive to be the #1 IT Consulting company in Jackson…but the world might be a bit too much for you to bite off.

Next time I ask someone on your team “what’s your strategy”…will they be able to answer?

Consultants and the CIO

This is a short one….lots going on this week.

I got a lot of great feedback on a post I wrote titled “Consultants – Do we need them?“.  In that post I argue that consultants are necessary…not a necessary evil mind-you…but a necessity for modern day IT organizations.

One of the lines of that struck a chord with most folks was:

That’s exactly what any good consultant should do….help the organization understand how to change to adapt to new realities.

What do I mean by that?

Modern day IT is not the same as IT from 20 years ago…or even IT from 5 years ago.  Every CIO has to adjust to the new reality of IT of today and the future.

I believe that 99.9% of CIO’s in this world cannot adapt to the new IT reality without some assistance from experts who understand the new IT realities. I don’t say the above to be hateful.  I think the majority of the CIO’s today are extremely bright and they ‘get’ their current reality but these same smart CIO’s are much too close to their current reality to fully understand what needs to occur to be prepared for the future.

Bringing in the right consultant is key for moving from today’s reality to tomorrow’s.  Find a consultant focused on delivering value to you (rather than selling a technology platform) and you’ll be golden.

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges. Join me next week for another article in the series.

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