Construction company Kongo Gumi opened for business in 578 CE, making it the oldest continuously run business in the world. However, in 2006, the company could no longer keep up with the pace of change and was sold to a competitor.
It wasn’t alone. Many brands that became household names in the 20th century, such as Blockbuster and Kodak, have now vanished or have had to transform to survive in the 21st century, like IBM and Corning.
Most companies are not positioned well to respond to the accelerated pace of change. Some businesses still use outdated technology or manual paper-based processes that cannot be easily scaled. Meanwhile, piles of digital clutter from applications with duplicated functions or complex structures and data stymie other organisations whose digital transformation journey has resulted in self-imposed roadblocks of redundant, outdated, and even meaningless processes.
Conventional planning approaches fail these companies because they aim to solve specific problems and fulfil a strict set of business-defined requirements. However, these are incremental improvements, not evolutionary transformations. In other words, they’re only focusing on paving potholes, so they will never be able to build a superhighway.
Near the end of the 19th century, society badly needed a way to clean up the amount of waste left in cities by horses – the primary means of transportation and shipping at that time. When the best urban planning minds of the time met to discuss the issue in New York in 1898, they walked away without any answers. The innovators who brought us the automobile just a few years later weren’t trying to specifically solve the waste problem, so they were empowered to deliver a transformative technology.
In a sense, you can’t thoroughly plan for transformation, because it isn’t limited to solving the problems in front of you today. Instead, it extends to address opportunities that you’re not yet aware of. Consequently, to address immediate problems and ensure quick wins, the realisation of envisioned opportunities and long-term transformation, organisations must develop and implement an effective digital road map. When done correctly, this can help them to pave potholes and build a superhighway. It centres on people by balancing both the customer and employee perspectives. And it results in them creating a culture, processes and systems that empower their teams to develop transformative innovations.
Geoff Ables is an author and digital transformation thought leader at C5 Insight
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.