A new customer pattern has been gradually revealing itself over the last year or so.
I'm meeting with an IT leadership team. They want to do cloud, and analytics, and social, and mobile, and an app factory, and ... well, just about everything I've discussed around creating a digital business platform. Sooner than later.
Hmmm. The last time I met with these guys, almost none of that was on the agenda.
So I ask "what's changed?"
After a bit of probing, the truth is frequently revealed. They can point to one or two senior individuals brought in by the executive team to drive every one of those topics. Sooner than later.
Enter the digital business leader.
Their titles, formal roles and reporting structure may vary, but their intent is crystal clear: lead the business transformation to a digital business model, and fast.
And I think we all will be encountering this particular agent of change more frequently in the future.
Part Of The Landscape
In "The Next Transformation", I made my big-picture case to describe the transformation, its motivations and characteristics. In the "The Digital Business Platform", I outlined the key capabilities that I saw across all the instantiations I had come across so far.
In "The Digital Business Strategy", I did what I could to help guide people through a quick thinking exercise about what this might mean to their own organizations. One of the key actors in this drama -- the digital business architect -- plays a special role in the transformation.
But, as always, nothing meaningful ever gets done without strong leadership. Enter the digital business leader.
We all know people who "get it" -- the world is changing, technology is becoming ubiquitous, business processes and value propositions invented in the physical world have to be re-imagined in the digital one, etc. And there's plenty of perspectives out there around the components of a digital business model: social, mobile, analytics, content, etc. all running on a cloud of some sort.
That sort of big picture isn't hard to understand, if you spend a bit of time wrapping your head around it.
Do it in a way that the capabilities are integrated together as a business strategy, and not isolated projects? And do it in a way that doesn't blow up the legacy business entirely?
That -- in essence -- is the central challenge of any digital business leader: how do you reengineer the DNA of a company without killing the patient? But -- look closely -- you'll see it starting to happen everywhere.
Tracking Down The Prime Force
Since we at EMC mostly have IT discussions with IT people, getting to these business actors isn't the easiest. Besides, why would they want to talk to an IT vendor? But -- if anything -- I am persistent, and I've been doing my best to engage with these people to understand how they think.
First, you can't find them simply by searching for a familiar title. The label on the role varies widely: CMO, CTO, head of digital initiatives, some sort of strategy title, etc. There may be one or more people engaged, so doing a bit of homework is mandatory.
Second, they want to hear about ideas, strategies, experiences and processes first, cool technologies after that. Unless you bring game, they're not interested in what you have to say. Fortunately, I can hold my own enough to not be thrown out of the room after 15 seconds.
Third, they tend to be extremely pragmatic. They're driving a number of initiatives in multiple places in the organization, making progress where they can, being patient when they have to, and making a fuss when necessary. Curiously, they're reluctant to share their big picture with others, although it's plainly there for all to see.
Their Challenges Are Familiar
Above all, their biggest challenge seems to be that the rank and file of their organizations just don't get what all this is about, why it's important, how it's different, etc. I've come to call this syndrome "lack of digital business literacy", and it's worth a separate post in the near future.
Hard to drive significant change when no one can appreciate what you're really doing.
The second common challenge is that the key skills are -- predictably -- very hard to get. Data scientists. Mobile app developers. Social strategy experts. Killer content generators. Cloud architects. Process architects. And more.
Not the sort of skill set that wanders in your front door, is it?
The third challenge should sound familiar -- their IT organizations aren't nearly skilled nor agile enough to be of much help. Indeed -- listening to them speak freely -- they see their internal IT organizations as a blocker, let alone a potential enabler.
This last one bothers me greatly. Here, IT leadership, is your big chance. The executive team has finally realized that it's becoming a digital world, and brought in top-tier talent to re-invent the business in a new paradigm. And it looks like you're sitting on the sidelines, wondering what's happening. If anything, get in the game!
Can EMC Help?
Yes, but ...
As I look at the inventory of everything EMC does (or could do), certainly many of the ingredients are there.
I can tick through each and every aspect of building a digital business model, and clearly point to differentiated technology and practical expertise within this massively diverse organization. In particular, portions of EMC Consulting have done extremely cool work on various projects that have "digital business strategy" written all over them.
Social, mobile, analytics, app factory, content, governance, cloud -- it's all there in one form or another.
But -- here's the challenge -- we have yet to organize ourselves to bring the entire portfolio of our compelling capabilities to bear on these specific individuals, and their specific challenges.
There's work to do ...