Driving Digital by Isaac Sacolick – a book review

Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through TechnologyI just finished Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology by Isaac Sacolick. Note: I received a free copy of this book for review.

The short review:

Excellent…the best book I’ve read on the subject. Go buy it if you want/need to transform your business.

The long review:

I’ve read a number of books on digital transformation over the years. Many were very good, some weren’t.  Most were very theoretical who’s authors spend their time talking about the importance of digital transformation to a business but I can’t recall one single book (other than the one being reviewed) that provided an actual game-plan for driving digital transformation.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s lots of theory in this book about WHY companies need to transform their organization but just as importantly (or maybe more importantly) there is more discussion of HOW to drive this transformation.

If you don’t know Isaac, you should check out his linkedin profile and his website. He’s spent years doing exactly what he writes about in this book.  He’s learned the hard way about how to transform an organization by actually doing it rather than sitting in a consulting practice and talking to people that have done it.  Toward the beginning of the book, you can see just how well Isaac understands digital transformation with the following statement (from page 13):

Digital transformation is not just about technology and its implementation. It’s about looking at the business strategy through the lens of technical capabilities and how that changes how you are operating and generating revenues….Ultimately, digital transformation is about automating more of operations, generating revenue-leveraging digital capabilities, and bringing new convenience and value to customers.

I spent the majority of the time reading this book nodding my head and highlighting passages. My kindle notebook for this book has over 100 highlights, which is rare for me while reading these types of books.  Isaac has filled the pages of this book with quite a lot of practical knowledge worth more than the cost of the book.

One of the major aspects of this book that I really like is the very descriptive nature of HOW a CIO can begin driving digital using agile.  I’m a big fan of agile and I’m a fan of agility so seeing Isaac talk about agile practices makes me happy. He writes:

The first place to start is to develop the organizational model and practices that enable the executing of a digital agenda driven by customer and market feedback. You need the IT organization to learn agile practices and develop an agile culture.

A reader can read those lines and think “I just need to implement agile and we’ll be able to drive digital transformation!” — and they’ll be wrong. Agile is just part of it.  Thankfully, Isaac follows up with the following:

…agile is a practice, and it by itself isn’t going to make the IT team fully capable to solve transformational challenges.

Agile (or any method) isn’t the answer to anything other than how can we get this project completed. That said, agility within the organization (and within the IT group) is absolutely necessary for transformation of any kind, especially digital transformation and Isaac does a phenomenal job outlining how do drive digital transformation using agile practices in this book.  This book is both a descriptive and a prescriptive look at driving digital and should be at the top of your reading list. Go buy it.


What digital projects should you be chasing?

Chasing Digital ProjectsI was talking to a CMO today about their current and future plans for digital projects. We were talking about data analytics, customer experience, technology, social media and other topics when the CMO asked what the ‘next’ project or technology that she and her team should be chasing.

She asked:

We’ve talked about all data, social, digital transformation, the cloud and everything else…but what should I really be focused on? What projects should my team be chasing for the future?

I couldn’t give exact types of projects that her team should be focused on, but I did share my thoughts on the only area that I think make sense for marketing teams to focus on.

That’s right…just one area.  If you are going to chase digital, you should chase it in this one area.

The only area marketing teams should be focused on (and chasing) is in improving the experience for your customers. That might be SEO projects, data analytics or a new application, but by focusing on the customer experience, the marketing team is focused on one of the most important aspects of a business. Customer experience is the key to driving engagement and growth for a business and has been called ‘the next competitive battleground.’

If a project doesn’t touch the customer experience, there needs to be a very thorough discussion of whether that project is worth taking time and money away from your customer facing digital projects.  There are times when marketing teams need to take on non-customer facing projects, but you shouldn’t be out there looking for those projects or chasing those technologies. Let those technologies and projects come to you.

Chase the projects that are focused on improving the customer experience.

Whether that is engaging your clients better, improve customer service or eliminating a pain point for clients, those projects will improve your customer experience.

Beyond the customer experience, there are other projects that CMO’s can focus on and chase, but I’d argue that anytime you are working on these types of projects, you are not directly improving the customer experience.    There are always going to be knew digital projects and new technologies, but for the CMO and the marketing team, the customer experience should top of mind and a major filter for all new projects and technologies.

Finally, when a new technology or buzzword comes along, take a step back from all the buzz and ask yourself and your team(s) how that technology or approach will improve the customer experience and build competitive advantage for your organization. If that new tech or buzzword doesn’t drive customer experience, you probably shouldn’t chase it.

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