Digitalization a mere project; an absolute no-go for any organization

Digital Change Management is crucial to long-term business success, here is why

Digital Change Management is crucial to long-term business success, here is why

Why would I continue to invest in digital? Oh, how often I have heard these words in the last few weeks. It can be frustrating to work with great traditional entrepreneurs and organizations sometimes.

I might have underestimated what it means to be on the other side of the table. In last ten years, I had become accustomed to working exclusively with people who firmly believe that the only way forward is digital. But after founding GANDT Ventures in 2015, my role changed.

Now it has become my job to convince and preach to others, who might not be as tech savvy as the colleagues I had worked with before, that digital calls for a new investment approach. A new way of thinking. It is a whole new ballpark and it has made me realize a couple of things that I thought I would share.

  1. Digitalization is done mostly within the core product and service scope of businesses
  2. Digital is referred to as project-work
  3. Very few companies are patient when it comes to digital and they expect instant results

It is funny really, none of these aspects seem to come up when working with an organization on their core business. There are plenty of budgets and plans that focus on supply chain optimization, streamlining of communication and creating more brand awareness around the companies.

However, when it comes to creating new business areas and digital sales channels – it is all about cost.

Digital short term project work

When a new project needs to be marketed, traditional organizations generally do not have a problem to hire a few sales guys and let them do on the ground market tests. Regardless of the cost and how “non-scalable” these activities are, this is a way of working that they seem to understand.

But, when it comes to digital developments, the general tendency is that: “the project needs to work within 12-24 months.”

Oh how many times I have heard the sentence: “We have invested hundreds of Euros in our website, but without any significant impact.”

My speech and preach has become more pronounced over the last few years. I need to continue to stress that “a great online product is a tool and not a solution.” But most organizations are so busy creating the perfect product, that they forget about regular market tests – pivoting the communication style or pricing models and doing regular digital field research.

There are so many great ideas out there, that deserve so much more than to die at the hands of a product manager.

One shot solutions are killing digital progress

When it comes to digital strategies, organizations still seem to think in one shot solutions. They come up with one good idea, an app, a website or an online service, that complements or supports the core business – invest in the product and that’s it.

Most of these solutions are customer facing assets. They don’t necessarily help the existing organization do its job better, or more efficient. The main goal always appears to be “new business”; because that’s all that online is good for.

It is somewhat depressing really. There is so much potential out there for us to grab. But I can understand that the knowledge base is simply not available in most organizations to take long term decisions on digital strategies.

The biggest problem: One shot, project driven digitalization strategies that do not involve the core daily business of an organization are hard to re-integrate in the company.

Technical solutions over customer solutions

Most projects focus on creating a technical solution first, and think about the customer later.

I had a great and open conversation with an innovations lead at one of Switzerland’s most innovative banks the other day. They have developed a good number of new business solutions in the last few years, including online sales tools, SaaS solutions for other banks and much more.

He said: “the other day I walked into one of our banking branches, and my colleague asked me – what is it you do all day? How’s your website project coming along?” He smiled and explained to him what it was that he is working on.

But the fact that his colleague didn’t understand that his work was part of the long term strategy of the company and aims to provided him with new tools that make his work easier, was striking.

The innovations lead explained that they had created a technical solution to sales problems and that these tools would be integrated in his work in the next couple of months and years.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this approach; I actually applaud the courage of the bank to invest in these projects. Yet, it is clear that the digitalization to them, is just a sales tool at this point and doesn’t necessarily solve any problems within the core business of the company.

There is a fear of change, cultural change within larger organizations to “mess with the core business.”

Digitalization needs to be more than that though. The main issue is that, digital competences are not build up from within the organization. If theses projects work, they will substitute the core business and if they don’t, then they don’t affect anyone really.

Education and customer focused solutions are key

I believe that we need to spend more time educating our workforce from within. Include more people in the organization to give their input and work out loud for all in the organization to see.

A movement can be started from within, but the organization needs to want to chang top down.

Digital cannot be seen as a side project – a pretty little website that one or two people are working on that might save a whole company in the long run.

We need everyone on board to make a difference and creat true cultural change within organizations.

We need to step up our game as a whole and get everyone involved.

I will continue to explain “the basics” to each and everyone I meet. And it was great to have met a few strong innovation managers in the last few weeks that want to make a difference.

Have a great day