At times it seems I can’t make one more step or click one more website without coming across the terms “digitalization” and “digital transformation”. Obviously, this has become a serious topic. It’s an idea represented mostly by global manufacturers of ICT software and hardware. Why? Well, mostly with the intention and desire to close the gap between what technology today can do and what end user end up actually using in their daily life. If you mention digital transformation to IT guys, you can see the discomfort in their faces. Every transformation—including digital—will reveal potential shortcomings related to knowledge, implementation and even technology. Let’s not forget, even ego’s might get hurt.
The anecdotal thinking we tend to turn to when faced with a challenge can be summarized with these well-known sayings: “But that's how it’s always been” and “We used to do it this way …” Well, this kind of thinking is drawing to a close. It’s being replaced by a new approach, one that constantly demands fresh ideas and findings. In the business world, this translates to new strategies and decisions. I firmly believe that the greatest challenge with digital transformation lies in our minds. Let’s face it—it’s a painful challenge to collide the traditional way of thinking and new technologies and all the possibilities they bring with them.
I'm realizing that in the fast changing IT world, even the simplest analogies can be used to effectively describe its state. I often use one of such analogies to describe digital transformation. Today, most companies, even the ones in ICT, (still) function as typical farmers. They work in a familiar environment, farm their fields in a similar manner as they did years ago, and gather (low‑lying) fruits. Today, this is reality—a reality in which things aren’t working as they should. Farming fields are getting exhausted, while the number of more or less successful farmers is getting bigger by the minute.
Digital transformation is offering new and, primarily, limitless opportunities—not for farmers, but for hunters!
To succeed in the challenging and fast moving digital world, you have to become a hunter, and hunt pray. Sadly, most farmers will not be able to sustain their comfort zone for much longer. Actually, groups of hunters will have the greatest probability of making it out there. And by groups of hunters I mean the ones who are able to communicate and use different tools (“strategies”), and not rely on those old anecdotes saying they are dealing with well-known prey. They constantly have to adjust and align their strategies and improve their knowledge, gather accurate data (“real-time analysis”). They also need to know their terrain (“market”) and the challenges that come with it. Think about it— how would you go about transitioning from a rather content but increasingly more nervous farmer into a hunter who is ready for anything. As hunters, we already have the appropriate technology, we just need to accept it.
The truth about progress (and ego)
If we want what’s best for us and society, we have to ensure continuous progress. As we have learned through history, evolution can be occasionally slowed down, but you shouldn’t stop it—this would only make us (significantly) regress. Luckily, we are approaching digital transformation, which is, looking from the perspective of Darwinism, some sort of accelerated evolution. We are witnessing fast business and technological mutations. Of course, we have to strive for positive mutations, meaning how to become even better hunters, not farmers.
Progress is often limited by our egos, if we like to admit it or not.
Complacency and self-will need to step aside and give room for a new common goal. At the same time, individuals have to deal with their own egos, if they want to accept the transformation. To succeed in the digital world, the size of the farmer and his property are not important, it’s the size of your ego that makes all the difference. Just imagine, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the fate of the mouse seemed unimportant. But at the end, mice survived the dinosaurs.
Looking in the mirror
Today, the ICT industry sees a great business opportunity in digital transformation. And rightfully so! But the problem here are the people and the companies who have put themselves in the forefront of this transition without even really mastering or even tackling the challenges of the transformation process
Companies in the ICT sector often make the mistake of (still) handling each business challenge through “hard-core” technology views. Last year, when I took over management of NIL, I wanted to introduce the new paradigm to my colleagues. The business paradigm of offering our clients not only technology but advanced solutions and business perspectives enabled by technology. We need to work towards improving processes and business operations of our customers. We need to say goodbye to doing things for our own short-term (and in the past proven) interest, which can, at times, mean offering only short-term technical solutions to our clients.
First, we all had a long look in the mirror and answered for ourselves what we would like to see in the mirror some day (who we want to become). Now, we are trying to do business differently. We’re placing not only technical questions at the forefront, but business-related questions as well. We’re giving a lot of consideration to the strategic behavior of companies and, therefore, to achieving flexibility in our business operations with a high(er) added value.
I can also say that we hold these qualities: open communication between employees, accepting ideas, and encouraging curiosity and different ways of thinking. All these qualities are projected externally, to our customers, and are applied when seeking the best solution for tackling their business challenges. But at the same time, it goes without saying, we have kept our internal values, our “DNA” and business ethics. We are reliable and honest, i.e. a trustworthy partner accompanying you on the path toward digital transformation.
Who is NIL?
A few days ago I was faced with and interesting question that went something in the lines of: “How would you describe NIL as a person?” NIL is like an amateur sportsman who is satisfied with his physical shape but has decided to bring his physical fitness to a professional, athletic level.
He is not an egoist but a team player with extensive business knowledge. He is aware of his environment and its challenges. In short, he has all the qualities of becoming the best of hunters. Not just on paper, but in real life.
(Text represents a translation of the Blog post prepared by the author for the 2016 Microsoft NT Conference Blog)