Thursday, February 06, 2020

Digital Transformation Requires a Doctrine

Knights using Stirrups for Balance
In my 30+ years in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “Develop a business strategy first, and then find the technology to support it.” This teaching I have come to believe is wrong.

Let me support my argument by first asking a few questions.  What came first e-commerce or the Internet, mobile commerce or wireless networks, commercial airline travel or the airplane, knights in shiny armour being used as shock troops, or stirrups?  Answer: Stirrups of course!  Innovations and technology have a long history of appearing first, and then doctrines and strategies forming later.

What we are learning is if your outdated business doctrines and strategies are dictating the speed of your technology adoptions - you are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and organizations must now align the tempo of their business doctrine and strategy evolution with the pace of technology innovations and customer adoptions.
"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Digital transformation is defined as, “Changes across an organization associated with the application of digital technologies.” Change is happening all around us as a result of technology innovations and fast changing consumer behaviors.  These digital transformations, welcomed or not, force new and updated business doctrines and strategies if companies are to successfully compete.

Before we move on, let’s define the term doctrine as the fundamental principles by which an organization guides their actions to accomplish their mission.”  It is a conceptual framework of knowledge and thought relevant to the environment and times.  It provides a common vocabulary for use across organizations.  It reflects an aggregated understanding of six key areas:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What are my objectives?
  3. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What is the nature of my competition?
  5. How do I prepare to compete?
  6. What methods do I employ to win?

Today I believe organizations need their own unique Digital Transformation Doctrine (DTD).  Without a DTD, organizations will lack a unified understanding of why they are transforming, and the role transformation plays in helping them compete successfully.
Doctrine represents and codifies best practice, based on enduring principles, examples from history and validated lessons from experience and operations. An approved set of principles and methods, intended to provide organisations with a common outlook and a uniform basis for action. ~ Professor Richard Holmes, Army Doctrine Primer 
Digital technologies do not just enhance and extend existing processes and models, but they open doors to all kinds of new innovations, competitors, businesses processes, strategies and even new industries.  An organization’s DTD must be capable of leading them successfully through these massive and accelerating changes.  An organization’s DTD should influence all of their strategies, how they operate and the tactics they employ to compete.

Most companies are in the middle of digital transformation today, but few have a recognized doctrine to lead them on this journey.
DTD sample: "Ensure competitive advantages in your defined marketplaces through information dominance and by employing superior data collection, analysis and information logistics systems, which provide full situational awareness, support data-driven decision-making, automated algorithms and enable the delivery of real-time contextually relevant insights and personalized digital user experiences."

Kevin Benedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.