Throughout my career in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “First, develop a business strategy and then find the technology to support it.” My experience over the years, however, has led me to believe this maxim is misguided. Let me explain by asking several questions.
What came first digital commerce or the Internet? Mobile payments or wireless networks? Commercial airline travel or the airplane, knights in shiny armour being used as shock troops, or stirrups? Trivia answer: Stirrups! Technology has a long history of appearing first, and then strategies are formed later.
What we are learning is if our outdated business strategies are dictating the speed of our technology adoptions, then we are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and we must align the tempo of our business strategy evolution with the pace of technology innovations and our customer adoptions of those technologies. We need to invest in future oriented thinking and the exploration of how new technologies and trends will alter the manner in which we interact with customers and operate our businesses.
“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
Let’s now define the term “doctrine.” Doctrine is the fundamental principles by which an organization guides their actions to accomplish a mission.” It is a conceptual framework of knowledge and thought relevant to the environment and times. It provides a common vocabulary for us to use across our organizations. A useful doctrine reflects an aggregated understanding of six key areas:
- Who am I?
- What are my objectives?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What is the nature of my competition?
- How do I prepare to compete?
- What methods do I employ to win?
We have all witnessed companies that verbally commit to rapidly evolving and modernizing their organization, operations and processes, but then watch as every business unit and department uses different definitions, strategies and follows different paths.
Today I believe organizations need a unified Digital Transformation Doctrine (DTD). Without a DTD, organizations lack a consistent and clear understanding of how to use new technologies to compete successfully. A doctrine represents and codifies best practice, based on winning principles, history and validated lessons from experience and operations.
Digital technologies do not just enhance and extend existing processes and models, but they open doors to all kinds of new innovations, ecosystems, platforms, competitors, businesses processes, strategies and even new industries. An organization’s DTD must be capable of leading them successfully through these massive, chaotic 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 the need for a doctrine to lead them on this journey.
Here is an example DTD for reference: “Ensure competitive advantages in our defined marketplaces through information dominance and by delivering a superior customer experience, advanced data collection, analysis and information logistics systems, which provide us with full situational awareness, support data-driven decision-making, automated algorithms and enable the delivery of real-time and predictive contextually relevant insights and personalized digital user experiences.”
Partner | Futurist at TCS
***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.