Monday, July 19, 2021

Speed and Transformational Leadership

It took Magellan’s crew three years sailing ships to circumnavigate the earth.  Today, at hypersonic speeds of 7,680 MPH, it takes just over three hours to circumnavigate the earth.  Data on the Internet, however, travels at 670 million mph, which means it only takes milliseconds to circumnavigate the earth.  In this age of digital businesses and digital interactions, companies must digitally transform to work effectively in a world where global business and information moves at these mind-blowing speeds.

It's not just IT systems that are impacted by the volume and speed of information.  The creators of business processes that were designed and developed in an analog area, simply never envisioned a business environment that would require these operational tempos.  Analog business processes were designed to have humans involved.  These dependencies were designed to slow down the process to ensure accuracy, compliance and accountability.  Today, however, operating at the slow speeds of an analog, human dependent business process, will doom your company.  Analog business processes must be quickly automated via robotic process automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning to effectively interact with impatient digital customers and B2B partners.

When analog business processes are replaced by hyper-speed digital processes, it is also the time to rethink business models.  Transforming into a digital business impacts how businesses operate and make money.   Everything from sales, marketing, branding, delivery and customer service will look different.  The model must change.

Most companies are dependent on an integrated ecosystem of suppliers, vendors and partners to function.  If your company digitally transforms and speeds up its operational tempo - your partners must follow or the system and business model breaks down.

Increasing the operational tempo of your business as a result of digital transformation, RPA and AI, impacts the humans in your business.  Roles and responsibilities must change as many tasks are automated, the pace of operations dramatically increases, and the skills required change.  In many cases this is the biggest challenge companies face when digitally transforming.

Leaders must also change the way they operate.  Instructions sent via Magellan's ships would have taken three years to arrive and longer to be implemented.  If information is received and decisions are required in real-time, then the pace of decision-making and meetings must change.  Five or three year business plans, must now be re-thought continuously based on non-stop streams of incoming data.

Your organization - your team, must have a culture that supports these speeds.  Your organization must understand and embrace the changes that will help it compete in a digital marketplace.  The following is a list of areas where speed must be increased as a result of digital competition:
  • Data collected
  • Data analyzed
  • Data-driven decisions made
  • IT systems, platforms, networks and APIs
  • Business process optimization with automation and AI
  • Business model transformation
  • Ecosystem operations
  • Optimizing how humans and automation work together
  • Leadership/decision-making 
  • Organizational and cultural response to change
  • Agility, scaling up and/or down
  • Customer alignment
  • Digital interactions
  • Personalization and context
  • Predictive analytics
Without increasing the operational tempo - the speed in which an organization can adapt, companies cannot survive in the digital age.  This list is not everything a company must do, but it provides a good place to start and focus.  All companies involved in digital transformation today should as part of their overall digital transformation plan, understand what speeds they are at today in each of these 12 areas, and have a plan for increasing it.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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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.