How Hard Is This Digital Transformation Thing Going To Be?

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Thursday, 9.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom for […] First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover. – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

If you run a business what exactly does it mean to be more productive?

In the old days it was simple – if you produced more units today than you did yesterday you had become more productive.

Has productivity become harder to measure these days or is the world still largely a collection of assembly lines?

After all, what exactly is the difference between a doctor sitting in her office seeing patients one at a time and a worker on the pizza line throwing on extra cheese as each pizza goes past?

Apart from the money and surroundings, of course.

But in essence, both are on the line processing something – patients or pizza.

But if you search for productivity, especially when it comes to digital options a few things pop up pretty quickly.

Managing customer relationships is a good idea, so a CRM is top of the list.

Quickly after comes bookkeeping and accounts. After all, the spreadsheet is probably the most widely used business tool out there.

Then there is workflow, which basically comes down to managing a task list.

Don’t forget documents – the ability you have to share and edit in real time.

And last, but by no means least, is digital marketing – the ability to get your message across to more people or the right people – depending on your approach.

Now these are all good things.

Aren’t they?

Let’s start with documents.

Do you think that group editing of documents makes for a better end result?

On the one hand anything done by a committee is usually a compromise. As the saying goes a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

But then you have wikis where the quality of the end product is improved by the process of editing and revising by multiple authors.

But here’s the thing – nothing is evenly distributed and that’s what causes digital transformation projects to fail.

Yes it would be nice to have a CRM and have everyone fill in everything about every interaction they have.

But if you have 10 people on staff 2 will fill it in well because they want to. The others will need to be cajoled or threatened.

That’s not because they are bad people – it’s just that most situations follow a power law – where some people are doers and most are lurkers.

That’s just the way things are.

So you can put all the tools in but that’s no guarantee that people will use them.

And that’s the missing piece – understanding that real productivity comes from someone wanting to do something better – to do more in less time.

All too often a digital transformation can create more work than you had at the start – work spent filling out forms, getting approvals, logging everything and creating content no one reads.

The challenge for an organisation is figuring out where they are saving work and where they are adding work.

As Warren Buffett says “That which is not worth doing at all is not worth doing well.”

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

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