Digitalisation is a force that creates winners and losers. Somewhat simplified, a business can either be "digitally hit" or raise with the digital wave.
Becoming a digital victim is not being aware in time of how digitalisation and webification can or quite inevitably will affect essential parts of one's business. A key question is: how to detect the digital transformation needs in time?
A map for digital transformation
My recommendation is that every reasonably large business develops a " Digital Transformation Map" which is regularly updated and discussed in management groups and by the board.
The map must contain
- Long-term trends for the services and goods you develop or sell.
- Long-term and expected technological development in our field.
- One or more target images of "where you want to be" in one, three, and five years.
- An idea of TIME. How fast must the transformation take place and what resources it may require.
- An analysis if one has the skills required for the digital transformation.
- Do the company's senior management and board have sufficient insight into what a digital transformation might mean? If not, how do you intend to achieve this?
How long is the digital transformation allowed to take?
Of course, it is not a one-off event like changing to right-hand traffic, but there are crucial steps. These look different for different businesses. Some examples: a few years ago, Google and then web coders changed to 'Mobile first'. The proportion of visitors from mobile devices exceeded the number of visitors from traditional computers on more and more sites. Today, more than 75% visit a car company's website before visiting a showroom and increasingly more people never visit a dealer showroom. Printed encyclopedias and more than a thousand daily newspapers have folded.
The digital transformation is one of many change processes in a business, and that means that the digital transformation will take some time. How long do you have to take decisive steps? It will take longer and face higher resistance than you think.
Pitfalls in the digital transformation
According to many studies, the probability of failure in large IT projects is higher than the likelihood of success. Improvements have been made by employing what is called in the IT industry "agile development " that is, you build a solution in parts and make iterative improvements.
Many decision-makers have a linguistic and technical disadvantage vis-à-vis representatives of the IT people. In the IT industry change is very fast, and new abbreviations are often coined. This makes it difficult, among other things, to argue for simplicity.
Paintings by the world-famous artist Lucio Fontana today cost millions of dollar. In many artists' development, you can see a clear evolution towards simplicity. In the design and fashion world, simplicity is highly valued, as is the case with, for example, Apple's former chief designer Jony Ive with Apple's iconically minimalistic products.
Amazon.com has grown into one of the world's largest IT giants and one of the factors that they have worked extremely hard with is to make it easy and smart for everyone to shop on their site. One of the biographies of the company and its founder is called "one-click". A marketer, Ken Segall, who for many years worked with and near Steve Jobs has written an excellent book called Insanely simple - the obsession that drives Apple's success. It contains several examples of how much creativity it takes and how difficult it is to find the right simplicity. And how many internal battles it may require.
A prevalent story in health care is that the IT systems have become so extensive - and complicated - that more and more medically knowledgeable people spend more and more time on different forms of registration (and for some contra-signatures) of data and search for data. We often hear stories about doctors and nurses who have left or are considering leaving care because they are forced to spend too much time on administration. Many have resigned when faced with all new systems and their opportunities to influence them.
In the public debate, it is often argued that more money is needed for healthcare, but less often and with less force than that a radical simplification of the IT systems is needed. This requires that many question the goals that politicians submit to their administration.
In Sweden, there are, according to statistics from Socialstyrelsen around 140 000 nurses and 44.000 doctors. Some years ago a very large IT-project was initiated that concerned close to half of all healthcare in Sweden. Since probably all doctors and nurses have daily and frequently (uncertain) screen work - working with/through the healthcare IT system, a reduction in screen time would have been of great value. No such criteria were in the specifications. The project also presents a list of risks, and to this, I would like to add that you cement a not optimal organisational form and working model through a very large, complicated and difficult-to-change IT system. However, the project has failed and is as far as I know now pursued by only two of the three largest regions.
A reduced screen time of say 20% would - theoretically - free up about 4,500 staff-years for the doctors and roughly 8,000 staff-years for the nurses to devote to patient-related activities. Achieving this goal requires a conscious pursuit of simplicity.
One may wonder to what extent measurable data reflects and leads to justice and, for example, fair treatment in health care? I argue that justice, in reality, will always be approximate - and that is enough. If you go too far in your justice and equality endeavors, a price is paid in the form of a superstructure of formal measurement systems. Justice then becomes, in a way, illusory.
The importance of learning from others
Before any significant digitalisation project, it should be mandatory to report what one has learned from others and what "effects" this is expected to have. More about learning from others.