More than ever, the velocity of technological developments entails opportunities as well as uncertainties for companies these days. We can see that on the one hand, some companies are boldly surfing on the waves of technological developments, while others struggle to even get into their wetsuit or get surprised by one after the other wave (of technology). A lot of those “struggling” companies pretend to be great surfers, posting pictures on Instagram standing proudly next to their board: “yet another great day surfing”, while in reality, they don’t even know what the front or back-end of their board is. They all have one thing in common: they want to be a digital master, i.e. they want to rock the waves. So, what can you do to be a rock star on the waves?
Choose your digital strategic direction
Today, technology and data shape business strategy. Business strategy is becoming more and more synonymous for digital strategy: discovering the best possible ways to succeed in this digital world. Do you focus on digitizing your processes and products or are you striving for the full package of building a business based on digital platforms? In order to strategically choose a digital direction, organizations should investigate the level of intensity with regard to interaction with customers, and the level of complexity in the components of products and/or services. In whitepaper 7 we elaborate on this using a 2×2 matrix representing four positions for a digital strategy, each having very different characteristics. Taking my background as an organizational scientist into account, I love the upper right strategic position of the matrix, namely the ‘Multi-sided Ecosystem’. This position builds upon a deep interactive collaboration between customers, users, and business partners within an ecosystem. Each actor (node) delivers its’ own value to the ecosystem with their business activities and resources. I recommend reading the whitepaper and find out more about multi-sided ecosystems as well as the other three positions for a digital strategy. Bear in mind: one strategic position is no better predictor for success than the other. The alignment and execution are of high importance: the better you align your strategic direction with your organizational focus, governance, technology and partners, the better you will perform.
Define your multimodal business technology organization
The awareness of ambidextrous capabilities within organizations has increased over years. Balancing stability and agility in IT organizations, being bi-modal was introduced by Gartner (Aron and Schulte, 2015): organizations deliver value by balancing 2 modes: mode 1 (stability), focusing on price and performance, and mode 2 (Agility), focusing on business and revenue.
Bimodal IT still leans too much on the premise that IT should be organized as one central organization with the two different gears of stability and agility. The work of Cameron and Quinn (2006) about organizational cultures was crucial for Anderson Macgyver to develop and use the concept of organizing in a multimodal way. Whitepaper 6 explains how to organize your IT organization in a multimodal way by considering characteristics of (1) business domains and business activities, (2) subcultures and leadership and (3) IT services. We constructed models for these three topics to use as a guide towards defining your multimodal business technology organization. We also explain the interdependency between these topics and how to align them.
Find fit for purpose solutions and partners
You decided on your strategic position and are moving forward. Whether you are defining a sourcing strategy, developing an enterprise architecture and/or an IT governance, you must consider the characteristics of your business activities and your IT services first. Alignment and fit in order to excel is crucial here. Whitepaper 01 explains how to classify IT services in order to prevent your organizations from problems such as loosing your innovation power, mismatch of services with customer expectations, inadequate contract agreements, high transaction costs, mismatch with providers, et cetera.
Again, a 2×2 matrix is used to simplify and explain the classification of services. In a nutshell: the extent to which you (customer) or the supplier specifies the IT services is determined on the y-axes of the matrix. The x-axis shows whether a service focusses on cost optimization rather than on value in use. This results in four quadrants: commodity, capability, business solution and custom solution. All quadrants have their own characteristics: different pricing mechanisms, different contractual arrangements, governance and exit costs, et cetera. Thorough analysis and classification of your activities and services will serve as a vehicle of alignment between strategic position and execution of that strategy.
Transforming: get into the water
Well, now we know what’s important to become a great surfer, we need to take a look at transforming yourself into one. Of course, for the basics, you need to have a good board and know how to swim, and you start with a brief warming-up on the beach.
Some companies however stay on the beach forever. They might even have bought the most expensive wetsuit they could find, waiting for that magic moment that they are ‘ready’ or ‘the perfect wave’. But you are never really ready and I would definitively not advise you to wait for the perfect wave. We have to get into the water first to understand the rhythm of the waves, the wind and currents. Force yourself to train your flexibility: fail fast and learn fast.
For sure, you will fail a lot, get tired and there will be times you want to quit and get out of the water. You will get knocked down by waves many times and you will get jealous at the ones that make it look easy. It won’t be fun at the beginning, but here’s the thing: once you first experience getting up and standing on that board, riding your first wave for just a few seconds, you will start having fun. You will start to develop a sense of surfing, understand what is important, which waves to take and which ones to skip.
After a while you will make surfing look easy (and cool) and people will start asking you: how do you do that?