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clrmoney
clrmoney
12/1/2017 10:27:09 AM
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Platinum
Digital Strategies
My take on it is that you should come up with better marketing and advertising to get people interested so that they will be interested in your product or service. Since digital is online you should always be on your A game and be on top of other competitors of the market to continue to be successful.

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JohnBarnes
JohnBarnes
12/4/2017 3:04:58 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Skeptical; I see no value added from this
It seems to me that if "digital strategy" or "digital transformation" means anything more than "tech companies selling more stuff sooner," that it's going to be a highly individualized process by industry and by organization within industry, and that the "steps" taken in one company in one industry may not have even so much as analogies in others.  I think that will be true even for areas where you can map out a path through bigger-faster-more connected gadgets and systems, like IT. But when it comes down to anything as broad as "culture," the idea that there is some necessary progression that will be the same for a system that ships shoes, a system that monitors water quality, and a system that manages collaborative online learning is simply silly.

The model here is not one of organizational efficacy, but of IT getting what it wants (which of course means "tech companies selling more stuff sooner").  IT would like to get new toys because learning them and deploying them is what they're there to do; other parts of the company have other functions and are not necessarily best served by accomodating the guys most likely to order more stuff.

Essentially this looks like a scheme to collect consulting fees for telling everyone else to give IT more toys and dedicate more time and effort to supporting those toys -- and then selling more toys.

(Perhaps my view is colored by having spent some early programmer/analyst years on the project of taking an inventory and sales tracking system from a manufacturing subsidiary of a large manufacturing company and applying that supposedly "universal" system to resource management in a highly regulated public utility; every organizational benchmark we had was essentially "are we treating federal regulations enough like spark plugs?"  ).

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Kishore Jethanandani
Kishore Jethanandani
12/4/2017 5:16:27 PM
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Author
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
Skeptical John: Not sure how you are reasoning this. First, the comments are only about telcos facing an onslaught of competition from web-scale companies. Second, the comments in the Q&A come against the backdrop of investments made by IT in new technology which did not come to fruition because the larger strategy was missing or the culture was absent. The rationale for strategy and culture transformation for succeeding in digital transformation is that you start by defining a problem before you invest in technology. So what am I missing?

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JohnBarnes
JohnBarnes
12/5/2017 2:28:28 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
Kishore,

What I'm seeing here is the reframing of a pretty normal situation -- IT wanting to consume sizable amounts of organizational budget and very often enormous amounts of other departments' time for an IT-oriented purpose -- being phrased as "strategy and culture failing to keep up" as opposed to the (very likely in my experience) "other departments not willing to take on added time, expense, and other burdens to give IT new toys." The creation of "scorecard" that Walker says usually shows IT as "ahead" and other departments as "lagging" seems to me, for reasons explained above, is intended to show that, to assist IT in the drive for more resources.

There's a need to stay up to date and a good IT department is expensive, but in general an outside vendor/consultant is going to favor their clients within the firm -- and in this case, it's a study methodology which is blatantly biased toward "more stuff for IT."  So it's not a research or evaluation tool; it's a sales tool for vendors.

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Kishore Jethanandani
Kishore Jethanandani
12/5/2017 2:48:26 PM
User Rank
Author
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
Skeptical John: Now I understand your reasoning but the conclusion is strange. All through the Q&A, Walker is saying IT-led projects end up is poor outcomes and high costs. He is calling for more CEO-led projects focussed on gaining competitive advantage from digital transformation. I am at a loss trying to understand how you came to the conclusion. 

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DHagar
DHagar
12/5/2017 5:17:03 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
@JohnBarnes, I do not know if I fully share the skepticism that all digital strategies are self-serving, however I fully agree that the "purchasing" mentality has driven IT for many years.   And that many of the investment returns have not been realized.

Clearly there is an unending capacity of technology purchasing one "could buy". 

What I think is missing is the clear link with values actually created through the addition of digital technologies and most importantly, information that is used by management and throughout the organizations to solve operational problems; not just "add" technology purchases.  That is a responsibility that I believe needs to be attached to technology purchasing going forward.

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JohnBarnes
JohnBarnes
12/6/2017 4:13:25 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
Kishore, 

Certainly the way out of IT projects that pan out badly is going to be via CEO leadership "focused on gaining competitive advantage" as you say.  What strikes me as likely to be bogus about the approach here is that the scorecard/checklist of steps to measure how "advanced" each category is will then be compared across areas.  IT comes in natural steps (study, evaluate, test, pilot, deployment, are some of them, though of course in the real world it's a more detailed business) which are to a great extent independent of the industry and the organization (going from net-linked multiple server-based  LANs to a single SDWAN is about the same procedure whether the data that will be passing through the network is going to be about people, peanuts, or purchase orders).  But checklists/scorecards for strategy and culture (if they are meaningful at all) are going to be highly dependent on the specifics of the organization and its role in its industry (or other field of action; the organization after all could be an army or a church). 

The IT list will tend to be a set of concrete successive implementable steps; the strategy and culture lists probably should not be.  But to use the lists to say "IT is a bit ahead, strategy and culture are lagging behind" (as Walker suggests here) they're going to have to be made comparable, and his examples at least suggest that the way this is done is to coerce the other categories into a structure that works best for IT.

Defining rules so that one player in the game has a natural advantage is a way of tilting the playing field toward that player.  And that's what I see happening here; it's a way to "objectify" the stock IT complaint that other departments are clinging to functionality that the latest IT solution may or may not deliver.

I don't have any standard answer for that problem, because I don't think a standard one is possible; in general I think there's a failure to carefully identify exactly what the legacy systems are really doing, which very often includes some  embedding and enforcement of organizational experience and knowledge, including vital but unacknowledged functions. 

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JohnBarnes
JohnBarnes
12/6/2017 4:21:29 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
DHagar,

Absolutely agreed. The trick is that some things just don't scale well together, or scale at all, and in our inherited culture, what isn't measurable tends to be treated as unimportant. For example, we mostly eliminated the acid rain problem of 30 years ago with a cap and trade setup because it was a straightforward profit incentive, which our markets knew how to respond to. But we've made very little progress on reducing coastal development and backing up from the estuaries, despite the large benefits that would clearly be there, because estuaries and coasts aren't single numbers or even specifiable vectors; they're more like dense matrices, mathematically, and markets don't process that kind of information at all efficiently. (Neither does much of anything else).  Getting tech choices made on a better basis is going to be a tough, generations-long process as we continue to discover what will work.  But one thing I'm pretty sure won't work is to just create a structured path of goals modeled after the structure of the most powerful player in the game.

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DHagar
DHagar
12/6/2017 6:02:29 PM
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
@JohnBarnes, very true - and great analysis - as always!

I believe that these points will drive us to recognize at some point that we need new economic indicators and measures so that it captures the values newly being created.  Don't you agree?

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Kishore Jethanandani
Kishore Jethanandani
12/6/2017 6:08:30 PM
User Rank
Author
Re: Skeptical; I see no value added from this
Master John: Now I know where you are going with this and hence the change in the way I addressed you. Kudos for a superb point. You are right that a detailed specification of the steps to be taken can end up being a will o' wisp of certainty. But it depends on how the ideas are written down. In large organizations, it is hard to steer the ship with too broad a specification of what you want to do. Different departments will see that as an opportunity to pursue their own agenda by defining the goals in their own terms regardless of its impact on strategy. The steps could simply be: What resources can be leveraged to afford a competitive advantage? The answer in telcos case, typically,  would be our relationships with customers. Then the next stage is how can we use the customer data to gain a competitive advantage? The answer would be typically we personalize services. Then the question would be how do we reshape the network to provide those services..... and then it would be how do we change our organizations and so on.

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